WORLD No1 Novak Djokovic’s landmark season, which scaled new heights on Monday night when he added the US Open to his Wimbledon and Australian Open titles, has been hailed as the greatest ever in the history of the game.
The Serb’s victory over closest rival Rafael Nadal in a captivating final at Flushing Meadows took his tally to a jaw-dropping 10 titles from 12 tournaments in 2011 – more than the rest of the top five combined.
It also saw Djokovic become only the sixth man to win three grand slams in a single year, while his win percentage of 96.97 is on course to beat the previous high-watermark – 96.47 per cent, by John McEnroe in 1984.
“This guy is doing unbelievable things so congratulations Novak and your team for everything,” said Nadal, following the most recent of his six final defeats to Djokovic since January alone.
“What you did this year is probably impossible to repeat. I try my best in every moment, these kind of matches are very difficult, it brings your body to the limit. I tried to play great but he always makes a fantastic comeback.”
McEnroe, who has also previously declared the standard to be higher than during his playing days, added: “He has had the greatest year in the history of our sport.”
Djokovic’s statistics are freakish: he has won 64 matches out of 66 contested this year, while one of his defeats – against Britain’s Andy Murray at last month’s Cincinnati Masters – was a retirement.
But he has also amassed his glut of honours in style. The 24-year-old’s is a dashing brand of tennis that relies on wit and technique more than, say, the brute force of former world No1 Nadal.
Perhaps most impressive of all is that he has ascended to utter domination at a time when the men’s game is almost universally recognised to be enjoying a golden era.
Roger Federer, winner of a record 16 grand slams, may be fading but is still a formidable opponent – as his defeat of Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals attests – while it is only months ago that Nadal was the player being talked about as the best of all time.
Djokovic’s season could yet get even better still. His beloved Serbia is counting on him to help retain the Davis Cup he won them last year, while there are Masters events in Shanghai and Paris to come before next month’s ATP Tour Finals in London, where he will surely start as hot favourite.