Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gunning For No. 1

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To put it plain and simple: Tennis great and World No. 2 Novak Djokovic is NO JOKE!

So far in 2011, the Serbian superstar is 18-0, 3 tournaments entered, 3 tournaments won. He is 3-0 against No. 3 Roger Federer and 1-0 against No. 1 Rafael Nadal. If he continues on this torrid pace he will give Rafa a run for his money for the No. 1 ranking come Wimbledon. All Djokovic needs is a strong showing at the French Open and a win at Wimbledon and if anything he would be within inches of the No. 1 ranking.

Of course, Rafa is going to be the overwhelming favorite to win the French Open because, with all due respect to the legendary Bjorn Borg, he is the greatest clay court player of all time. I mean, Rafa when fully healthy is just a wizard on clay, the closest thing to perfection I've ever seen. So Djokovic will have a mountain to climb to overtake Rafa there. But Wimbledon is definitely doable for him.

Djokovic is fresh off a win over Rafa in the Pacific Life Open final at Indian Wells, which is considered the biggest non-Grand Slam event of the year. It was his first-ever win over Rafa in the finals of any tournament. At Indian Wells he also defeated Roger Federer in the semifinals to officially seal the undisputed No. 2 ranking. He has now defeated Federer the last 4 times they've met in a semifinal or final, including the 2010 U.S. Open semis and the 2011 Australian Open semis.

It's safe to say the great Federer doesn't have an answer for the Serbian anymore.

The results of the Pacific Life Open read like this:

Semifinals:

(1) Rafael Nadal d. Juan Martin del Potro, 6-4, 6-4
(3) Novak Djokovic d. (2) Roger Federer, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2

Final:

(3) Novak Djokovic d. (1) Rafael Nadal, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

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What's also interesting about the Pacific Life results is the "unfamiliar" name on the list. That's right, Juan Martin del Potro. The forehand-specialist from Argentina is right back where he belongs after a long absence due to a devastating wrist injury. Prior to the injury, being in the final four with Nadal, Federer and Djokovic was a commonplace for him. This was his 4th consecutive semifinals appearance after getting off to a frustrating slow-start in his comeback. His recent successful run includes his first tournament win (at Delray Beach Florida) since capturing the 2009 U.S. Open title. In the last 3 months he has moved from No. 251 all the way to No. 51 and quickly climbing. So it's just a matter of time before he's back to his familiar No. 4 ranking and challenging for more. Who knows, the No. 1 ranking may be in his future too. Of course, if his right wrist holds up.

But right now Djokovic is the man to keep an eye on. What a year he's having!

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