27 wins and counting for Novak Djokovic. His indoor winning streak continues to show no sign of stopping as he brushed aside US Open champion Marin Cilic 6-1 6-1 on Monday night, in a victory that was as dominant as the scoreline suggests.
Djokovic is a supreme indoor player and the extremely slow courts of the O2 gave a significant advantage to him and his superior movement over a player rather reliant on a big serve.
His start was shaky to say the least, with a few unforced errors (and another missed overhead) in his opening service game, but from there on in this was one way traffic and played predictably to form given the 10-0 head to head advantage he held before the match started.
Djokovic has a reputation as perhaps the greatest returner of all time and his returns on second serve found the back of the court time after time, whilst he got the ball back into play on the majority of Cilic’s first serves. The highlights of the night were a few superb cross court forehand winners from Djokovic and there was only one blip all night, when he was broken to love early in the second set after some loose errors.
Nonetheless, he was in control throughout, only allowing Cilic to hold serve once and bossing the rallies from the baseline as Cilic proved unable to hit winners from the back of the court.
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Chances in the ATP World Tour Finals
Moving forward in this tournament, it would seem most probable that Roger Federer is the only man likely to come close to Djokovic in this mood in these conditions, although Wawrinka has the power to hit through the slow court and cause some damage.
A win in London would crown Djokovic as the year-ending world number one again and deservedly so, given his remarkably consistent play that has seen him win Wimbledon, in addition to four masters wins on a variety of surfaces.
Yet Djokovic is now at a stage where slams are the only currency that counts as he chases history, and his year overall has been frustrating as it marks the third year in a row with only one slam being won. The US Open was a huge missed opportunity and it certainly infuriates fans that since the magical year of 2011; he has saved some of his worst performances for the biggest matches.
Rivalry with Nadal
The quest for the holy grail that is the French Open goes on, after a dire performance in this year’s final having secured the first set, and one has to wonder if perhaps his best chance to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros has been and gone in 2012, with that disastrous overhead.
However, Djokovic has a very even head to head matchup with Nadal and has shown enough times that he has the game to beat Nadal on clay with wins in Madrid, Rome and Monte Carlo and a 4-7 head to head record over three set clay matches.
Nevertheless, Nadal has had the better of him six times at Roland Garros and it will require an almost perfect performance to get over this final hurdle, not just physically but mentally as well, an aspect that Djokovic has appeared to struggle with in the slams over the last few years.
A 7-7 record in slam finals and just the three slams in the past three years is a disappointing return for a man of Djokovic’s talents, who is up there with the best of all time when it comes to return of serve, defence, movement around the court and percentage of points won on second serve.
In any event, seven slams is an outstanding achievement, and surpassing Bjorn Borg’s total of eleven in the open era to move fourth all time is eminently achievable as at 27, Djokovic has a good few years left where the slam window is open.
However, having shown he is the equal of arguably the two greatest players of all time in Nadal and Federer and proved adept on all surfaces, it could be argued it will be a career unfulfilled if he does not manage to capture the French Open title; a tournament he has so publicly lusted after.
When you have had the success he has, and you are chasing history, these are the standards you get measured against.
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