It was the win that really makes the tennis world sit up and take notice. Novak Djokovic has been untouchable this year, but in beating Rafael Nadal in routine fashion at the final of the Rome Masters, the Serb elevated his reputation to another level.
The world number two has now won 39 consecutive matches, 37 coming this year, and is surely closing in on the top ranking. Nadal won both the French Open and Wimbledon last year and as amazing as it seems, he appears unlikely to defend those ranking points by retaining both titles. Djokovic is simply playing too well. Anyone looking at the 2011 French Open betting
must bear this in mind.
Djokovic has given notice of his supreme form for some time. He was struggling for much of 2010, but something seemed to click when he beat Roger Federer in the US open semi finals. Beating the same player en route to a second Australian Open title suggested he could push Nadal close for the rest of the year.
The wins not only kept coming, they kept coming against Nadal in finals. To beat the world number one on the hard courts of Miami and Indian Wells is one thing, but to vanquish Nadal in Madrid is another, although a caveat there being the altitude and resulting faster conditions.
There is no arguing with his Rome win. Nadal has won the title five times and loves playing the event as a natural precursor to Roland Garros success. Not anymore; he was hustled off court by a man playing some of the best tennis ever seen on the ATP tour. Those placing tennis bets
would be brave not to back him.
Djokovic must be feeling the strain of such a purple patch, but the confidence it has given him compensates for tiredness. His superior self-belief got him over the line against Andy Murray in their classic semi final, proving his ability to win tight matches which will stand him in good stead at slams.
Nadal knows he has a massive fight on his hands to win in Paris for the sixth time, as it is hard to envisage anything but another final between him and Djokovic. After enjoying one classic rivalry between Nadal and Federer, tennis fans are being spoilt with another.