World number two Novak Djokovic confirmed himself as the best hardcourt player in the world with a second successive win in a final over world number one Rafael Nadal last Sunday in the Miami 1000 Masters. Djokovic won a hard fought three set battle on Sunday which followed a similar success over Nadal at Indian Wells two weeks ago. The win extended Djokovic’s unbeaten run this year to 24 matches, it was his fourth title of the year so far, which includes the first Grand Slam, the Australian Open in January where he demolished Britain’s Andy Murray in the final. The last time anyone made such a successful start to the year was back in 1985 when Ivan Lendl went 26 matches unbeaten.
It is fair to say then that Djokovic and Nadal have moved their game ahead of the rest of the top players, including Roger Federer by some distance and are clearly deserving of their spots at numbers one and two in the world. It will be remembered that Nadal won on the hardcourt surface at last year’s final Grand Slam, the US Open where he defeated Djokovic in the final. That success came after his fifth win at the French Open and his second win at Wimbledon
Nadal undoubtedly has played ‘second fiddle’ to the ‘Serbinator’ so far this year but will undoubtedly redress the balance of power now that the Clay Court season has arrived. Nadal won all the Masters 1000 titles on Clay in 2010 before going on to win at Roland Garros and is a strong favourite to repeat the feat in 2011 too. Should that be the case then Djokovic will look set to remain at world number two at the end of the year, with Nadal the one man above him.
Djokovic will probably be more confident on the clay this year than ever before, particularly after his latest win in Miami. That was played on a very slow hardcourt, with the pace of the match not too different to what he will face on the clay. He has also won on a clay court in the past, taking the 2008 Rome Masters and has been runner up to Nadal in both the 2009 Monte Carlo Masters and the 2009 Rome Masters. As far as the French Open
is concerned he has never made a final with his best efforts coming in 2007 and 2008 when he reached the semi final.
As for the likes of Federer, Soderling and Murray, they might just have to take a back seat in 2011, Federer of course is not getting any younger and he finds himself once again without a Grand Slam title to his name. He has played well enough, but at the moment the standard being set by the top two is too much and his straight sets defeat in the semi final at Miami at the hands of Nadal was a very one sided affair.
Robin Soderling will certainly be respected during the clay court season having reached the final at Roland Garros for the last two years. It was the ‘Swede’ in fact, who became the first man to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros in 2009. He went on to lose to Federer in the final and had to settle for second best to Nadal 12 months ago after the Spaniard took his revenge and his fifth French Open title.
The form of Andy Murray since losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open final would appear to have seriously dented his confidence. His performances at Indian Wells and Miami were woeful, losing to qualifiers in the second round each time played on his favoured surface too. Now heading to his least favoured clay court surface it could be that Murray will continue to slide down the rankings from his position currently at number five.