As 2011 draws to a close and we begin to look back at the last 12 month on the ATP tour, it becomes apparent that a review of the year is more a review about Novak Djokovic, who dominated the tour from the beginning to almost the very end.
The Serb won three Grand Slams, a record breaking five ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, plus a couple of ATP 500 events. He won an incredible 70 singles matches with only six losses and ends the year the clear number one player in the world.
A nagging shoulder injury cost Djokovic a sixth ATP 1000 title in Cincinnati, from which he had to withdraw during the final against Andy Murray but he bounced back to win the US Open. It was only after his victory at Flushing Meadows that the exertions of the season began to take their toll and whilst there were to be no more wins after the final Grand Slam, the 24 year old had already done enough to establish himself as the best player in the world.
The man Djokovic replaced at the top of the World Tennis Rankings
, Rafael Nadal, suffered the most at the hands of the Serb in 2011. Nadal was beaten six times in the six matches the two played, including the Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon and US Open. Even more worryingly however for Nadal was that Djokovic also beat him in both the Madrid and Rome Masters 1000 Finals on Nadal’s favoured clay court surface.
Nadal did manage to hang on to his French Open title on the clay at Roland Garros, which gave him a tenth Grand Slam win of his career. However, cynics would say that he only managed to do that courtesy of the draw which saw Djokovic drawn in the opposing half. Nadal had a reasonably easy passage through to the final, but Djokovic came up against a determined Roger Federer in the semi final and was beaten in four sets; the first singles defeat of the season. Nadal once again proved too strong for Federer on clay, winning in four sets thus claiming a record equalling sixth French Open title.
At the end of the US Open Final in September, in which Nadal was completely outplayed by Djokovic, the Spaniard admitted that he no longer had the game that could hurt Djokovic. Nadal was effectively conceding that Djokovic was the best around and that he, Nadal, needed to go back to the drawing board to begin a redevelopment of his game if he was to challenge for the number one spot again in 2012 but he will have his work cut out as Djokovic is sure to dominate the tennis betting
for every event he plays in and will be favourite to win all four majors.
Typically, it was Roger Federer who was the one player from the top four in the world who remained serene throughout the year. Federer also been on the receiving end of the Djokovic game, losing four from their five encounters played during the year. The first of those defeats came in the semi final of the Australian Open but he gained some revenge by reversing that result at the French Open at the same stage. However, he then lost to Djokovic again, this time in that epic five set semi final at the US Open, where critically he failed to convert two match points, thus handing victory to the Serb.
It was a defeat that would have broken the hearts of most player’s but not Federer. Yes he was disappointed, of course he was, but he was soon back to winning ways. Federer in fact finished off the year as the form player, with three tournament wins; including a first ever win in the ATP Paris 1000 Masters and a record breaking sixth win in the ATP World Tour Finals in London last month. These wins hoisted him above Murray and back up to third place in the world rankings.
Murray of course finished the year still waiting for his first Grand Slam title. However, the Scot did reach the final in Australia, albeit losing badly to Djokovic in three sets before reaching the semi final stage of the other three Grand Slam events, where he found Nadal too good for him each time and fans asking does he have the ability to overcome his fellow top rivals on the biggest stage. He ended the season with two ATP 1000 Masters Titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai and also won ATP 500’s in Tokyo and Thailand and also won on the grass at Queens.
The 2012 ATP tour promises to be equally as exciting as the past 12 months but there is no sign that things are going to change in the mens game and the Djokovic domination can be expected to continue with the challenges from Nadal and Federer threatening to cause occasional upset.