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King Djokovic reigns supreme

With three Grand Slam titles, five Masters, a 70-6 winning year and a record cash haul of 12.6 million dollars, Novak Djokovic was the king of 2011.

sports Updated: Dec 15, 2011 08:09 IST
Paris,Grand Slam,Novak Djokovic

With three Grand Slam titles, five Masters, a 70-6 winning year and a record cash haul of 12.6 million dollars, Novak Djokovic was the king of 2011.

Spurred on by leading Serbia to a maiden Davis Cup title at the back end of 2010, the 24-year-old put together a 43-match winning run in the first half of 2011.

It was a surge which brought him the Australian Open title in January and was only ended by a rejuvenated Roger Federer in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

As well as claiming a second title in Melbourne, Djokovic won all the season's opening four Masters at Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome, defeating Rafael Nadal in the finals of all of them.

The Serb then defeated Nadal to win Wimbledon -- taking the Spaniard's world number one spot in the process -- before clinching the US Open.

Again Nadal was the vanquished opponent in the final after Djokovic had defeated Federer from two sets, and two match points down, in a breathtaking semi-final.

Djokovic's landmark season eventually took its toll with a combination of back and shoulder trouble comdemning him to four defeats in the year's closing stages.

"I had an unbelievable year. Nothing can really ruin that. I will always remember this year as the best of my life," he said.

Even John McEnroe, whose season winning record of 82 wins against just three defeats, set in 1984, was briefly within the Serb's sights after his US Open victory when he was at 64 wins against two losses, was in awe.

"He has had the greatest year in the history of our sport," said the American.

Djokovic probably played one of the shots of the year on match point against Federer at Flushing Meadows when he unleashed an all-or-nothing forehand service return which left the great Swiss rooted to the spot.

Federer double-faulted on the second match point and Djokovic was on his way again.

The figures back up Djokovic's year of dominance. He beat Nadal six times out of six, Federer four out of five and world number four Andy Murray, two in three, with the Briton's win coming courtesy of an injury retirement in the final in Cincinnati.

The world's leading three men have now won 29 of the last 32 Grand Slam crowns.

Since the start of 2004, only Gaston Gaudio (2004 French Open), Marat Safin (2005 Australian Open) and Juan Martin del Potro (2009 US Open) have broken their stranglehold.

Nadal took his majors collection to 10 in 2011 with a sixth French Open title to equal Bjorn Borg's record Paris haul.

The Spaniard lost his number one spot to Djokovic and cut a jaded, frustrated figure as the year closed, complaining about player burn-out and scheduling at the US Open.

But claiming the winning point for a fifth Davis Cup triumph against Argentina in Seville in December at least breathed new life into the Spaniard.

Nadal will skip the Davis Cup in 2012, preferring to conserve his energy for his Olympic title defence and a new assault on Djokovic.

He is also wary of the drawbacks of constant action on the court -- in 2011, Nadal played 84 matches, more than any of the top four.

"I know the one way to change the situation is to work more, think more about tennis, do everything in the right shape, do everything good inside the court, everything good outside the court," said the Spaniard.

Nadal finished the year with three titles, the last of which was the French Open in June.

Federer, meanwhile, defied those who believe that having celebrated his 30th birthday in 2011, his best was behind him.

The Swiss won his first title in Doha in January before picking up three more in the home straight in Basel, Paris and a sixth World Tour finals trophy.

In between, he had suffered his first ever Grand Slam loss after being two sets up when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga stunned him in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

He had previously boasted a 178-0 Grand Slam win-loss record when winning the first two sets. That proud record was further blemished by Djokovic at the US Open.

But his World Tour Finals win in London means Federer, who finished the season without a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002, will go into the new campaign on the back of a 17-match winning run.

"For me, it was the strongest finish I've ever had in my career. I'm looking forward to next year," he said.

First Published: Dec 15, 2011 08:07 IST