Yesterday, Djokovic played Nadal in The Final at the Madrid Open in Spain and for the third time this year (and first time on clay) ousted the top-ranked Nadal in a tournament final. Djokovic is now an impressive 32-0 in 2011 with 6 tournaments entered, 6 tournaments won. He is 3-0 against Nadal and 3-0 against No. 3 Roger Federer. So there's no question he is making his case in a big way.
But the win over Nadal (on clay) was mammoth for his psyche and his quest to take over the No. 1 ranking as Djokovic now believes, without a shadow of a doubt, it can be done.
And with his torrid run thus far in 2011, it could happen as early as this week at the Italian Open. As it stands, Nadal has 12,470 ranking points to Djokovic's 10,665 and in Italy they are on a collision course to (again) meet in the final. If Djokovic wins the title in Italy and Nadal fails to make the semi-finals then Djokovic will be the new World No. 1. If Rafa reaches the semis (which chances are he will) and Djokovic goes on to win the tournament, he will be within a whisker of becoming the first top-ranked player NOT named Nadal or Federer since 2004. And something tells me he wants it and wants it badly.
1. John McEnroe: 42-0 in 1984
2. Novak Djokovic: 32-0 and counting in 2011
3. Bjorn Borg: 31-0 in 1980
4. Ivan Lendl: 29-0 in 1986
The good news for Djokovic is that at some point this year he (most likely) will become the No. 1 player AND the bad news is-- he is building a truck-load of ranking points which he will be forced to defend come 2012. That's the bad part of having a monster year because to remain on top you have to equal the prior year's performance and that's no walk in the park. Just ask Rafa.