Every great athlete has a period in their career when they feel invincible...when they are at their absolute best. During such a period, each aspect of their game is at the optimum level, be it in terms of physicality or mentality.
They go on to break records, set benchmarks and are head and shoulders above their competition. Novak Djokovic is one of those rare athletes, across sports, who has experienced such a golden phase twice in his career.
It cannot be overstated just how dominant Djokovic was in 2011 and 2015. In those two seasons, the current World No 1 showcased an astonishing level of consistency that booked his place among the all-time greats of tennis.
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Here’s a look at those two seasons:
Djokovic started the year as world No 3, more than 6,000 points behind the top-ranked Rafael Nadal. He had been performing well at the big events for a few years, having won his first and only Major at the 2008 Australian Open, but was yet to find his way to the top. By the end of that season, though, he had an iron grip on the No 1 ranking and was more than 4,000 points ahead of Nadal.
The Serb had a jaw-dropping start to the 2011 season, winning 41 matches in a row (31 of those in straight sets). Only John McEnroe (42-0 in 1984) has experienced a better start to a season in the Open Era. Djokovic won 10 titles that year, including three Grand Slams – Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open – and became the first player to win five ATP Masters 1,000 tournaments in a season.
Djokovic ended the season with a 70-6 win-loss record, which included a 21-4 record against top ten players and a 10-1 record against his two greatest rivals – Nadal and Roger Federer (the only defeat came against Federer at the French Open semi-finals and marked an end to a 41-match winning streak). He also set a record for the most prize money earned by a player in one season – $12 million.
One of the highlights of that season for Djokovic was winning six straight matches against Nadal, all of which came in finals. He remained undefeated through the season against the Spaniard, notching up victories on all three surfaces.
“It was quite a year for Djokovic,” 14-time Major winner Pete Sampras had said. “Incredible what he was able to do. It’s one of the best achievements in all of sports.” Another American tennis great, Andre Agassi, was also in awe of Djokovic’s performance that year. “Really one of the great years of all-time in our sport,” the eight-time Grand Slam champion had said.
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As if the 2011 season wasn’t sensational enough, Djokovic went a step ahead in 2015. He had won just one Grand Slam the year before that and was struggling to find consistency. But he turned it all around in dramatic fashion in 2015 by once again winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open in the same year.
Djokovic had 82 wins and just six losses in 2015. He beat top ten players 31 times in that season, which included a total of 15 victories against Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray. He broke his own record to win six ATP Masters 1,000 events and 11 titles in total.
The Serb reached the finals of all four Majors that year and also brought up a single-season record of 15 straight tournament finals, which was the most since Federer got to 17 consecutive finals in 2005-’06. That season, he also became the first player to win the year-end ATP Tour Finals for the fourth time in a row.
“It’s the greatest year of my life,” Djokovic had told Independent at the end of the 2015 season. “No question. Of course, Wimbledon 2011 was perhaps the happiest day in my professional career but I feel I’m at my peak now, both physically and mentally. I have the experience now from so many matches, so many moments, and the patience that I perhaps lacked in the past. I guess I just feel more complete in terms of my ability to handle the emotions on the court, not having so many ups and downs in the tough matches.”
Here are two videos that show just how sensational Novak Djokovic was in those two calendar years: