We are in the midst of one of the greatest runs in sports history and nobody knows about it. With his victory earlier this afternoon against Rafael Nadal in the final of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Novak Djokovic has currently won a whopping 26 straight matches. He has won four straight tournaments to start this season, including one Grand Slam and two Masters 1000 level (the level immediately below that of a Slam) titles. He led Serbia to the Davis Cup title in 2010 by winning two matches in the final against France.
Now, winning 26 matches in a row is always an incredible feat. However, in the perspective of history, it still does not crack the list of greatest runs ever. Just last year, Rafael Nadal won 24 in a row en route to winning the three Masters 1000 tournaments on clay and the French Open. In 2008 he won 32 in a row. Roger Federer, while closing out the 2006 season and opening 2007 with two tournament wins, won 41 in a row. The record for most consecutive match wins is 46, by Guillarmo Vilas in 1977.
Still, we cannot ignore that there is something to be said for such a great start in and of itself. Roger Federer never won more than his first 16 matches of a season. Pete Sampras got his first 17 in 1997. Now, Djokovic will most likely never catch John McEnroe’s record of 39 straight match wins to start a season-he would most likely have to beat Nadal three times on clay to do that-but that does not mean that we cannot respect and enjoy watching the greatness that Djokovic is currently producing.
It’s not only that Djokovic is winning matches and that he is playing great when necessary. He is playing amazing tennis almost every single point. He is playing great defense and making even great players like Federer and Nadal hit extra shots to win points. He is hitting shots with pinpoint accuracy and once he takes control of the point with a big forehand or a great angle he rarely relinquishes it. The other thing is that Djokovic is beating quality players to do this. 8 of his 24 wins have been against top 10 players. He has beaten Federer three times (twice in straight sets) and Nadal twice. He has only played one player outside the top 100 during this streak, and that was against former #4-ranked James Blake. Only five of his 24 opponents this year were ranked outside the top 40 (and only three outside the top 42).
To put into perspective just what Djokovic’s run means in the course of a season, he has earned 4725 points after the first three months. Based on the final rankings from the past few years, he would not finish the year ranked worse than #6 even if he would not play another tournament for the next nine months. He is still a long way off from being #1 in the world-Nadal will still have a 3000-point lead when the rankings update tomorrow-but with Nadal having 7000 points to defend over the next three months and with the way Novak has been playing recently, nothing seems out of reach for the 23-year-old Serb.
What To Watch this week:
When the ATP World Tour rankings update tomorrow, it will only be the third time since the rankings started in 1973 that there will be no American in the top 10. Mardy Fish will be #11 and if he can win this week’s 250 level tournament in Houston (the only clay-court tournament in the Unites States), he will move into the top 10, passing #10 Gael Monfils by 6 points.