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Friday, May 13, 2011

Going For The Record

We're nearing the end of the Italian Open Tennis Championship, and Novak Djokovic is, as we write this, in the quarterfinals, and his win streak for the year now stands at 34-0. Djokovic now trails only John McEnroe for having the best all-time start to a tennis year; McEnroe started the 1984 year with a 42-0 record. To overtake McEnroe's record, Djokovic will have to win this week's Italian Open, which probably means he'll have to play Nadal in the finals, and he'll have to make it to the quarterfinals of next week's biggie, The French Open. We're rooting for the very likable Djokovic; he spent all those years in the shadows of Federer and Nadal, so it's satisfying to see him finally break through and take the spotlight for himself, not to mention a possible #1 world ranking.

There's a little jinx danger, though, in comparing Djokovic to McEnroe's fabled year of 1984 and his run of 42 straight matches, primarily because of what happened in McEnroe's 43rd match of that year. McEnroe had never won the French Open, and in his 43rd match of the year, he found himself in the finals of the Grand Slam tournament, with a 2-0 sets lead over Ivan Lendl, who had yet to win his first Grand Slam tournament. It looked like a done deal, McEnroe would win the French, and combined with his later wins that year at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, would have given McEnroe one of the greatest years of all time in tennis. (He wouldn't have won the Grand Slam because he didn't compete that year in the Australian Open). But suddenly the wheels came off. Lendl came back from two sets down to steal the championship match away from McEnroe, dashing McEnroe's dreams of a French Open title, which no American man had won since 1955, and ended his win streak that year at 42 straight matches. After that French loss, McEnroe won his next 21 matches, which coupled with a win at the French, would have given him a stunning win streak of 64 matches, a record which probably never would have been broken.

UPDATE: Make that 35-0. Djokovic won his match today against Robin Soderling. Djokovic is now only seven matches away from tying McEnroe's record.

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