Novak Chasing His Best Year Yet

As Novak Djokovic looks to complete a Career Golden Masters in Cincinnati this week, we compare his signature season of 2011 with that of 2015, which is unfolding as another epic campaign

Is Novak Djokovic’s 2015 season on track to eclipse his banner year of 2011?

This week at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, he has the opportunity to become the first singles player to claim a Career Golden Masters by completing a sweep of the nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. He missed his chance in 2013 (l. to Isner in quarter-finals) and in 2014 (l. to Robredo in third round). And later this month, Djokovic will likely start favourite at the US Open, where he will attempt to win a third Grand Slam title of the year.

Over the past eight months, the World No. 1 has certainly put together some impressive numbers: a 52-4 win-loss record, 18-3 versus Top 10, and six titles (as of 17 August). His ongoing streak of nine consecutive finals reached (topping the seven straight finals he made in 2011) includes victories in two of his three Grand Slam final appearances and four ATP World Tour Masters 1000s. His 25-match winning streak this year at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events came to an end Sunday at the hands of Andy Murray in the Rogers Cup final.

Four years ago, Djokovic became the first player other than Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal to finish as the year-end No. 1 since Andy Roddick in 2003. In a sensational 2011, he won his first 37 matches, captured a career-best 10 titles - three Grand Slams and five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns - en route to a 70-6 record. He went 21-4 against the Top 10, including 10-1 against Federer and Nadal. 

But Djokovic is playing his cards close to his chest, when asked to compare years. The 28 year old admitted in Montreal last week, "I don't like to compare years, honestly. I think every year is a different experience, a different challenge. You grow. You evolve as a person and as a player.

"I can't be the same player as I was in 2011 because my life has changed so much. You know, 2014, in terms of mostly life off the court, has been my favourite year, when I got married and became a father. And this year in terms of success on the court, I think it was the best so far next to that 2011."

The statistics, listed below, indicate that Djokovic has tightened up his game and is now playing with greater aggression than in 2011. This year he has been striking nearly two aces more per match (3.9 aces in 2011 to 5.8 aces in 2015) and he's winning four per cent (90 per cent) more service games than in 2011 (86 per cent). The improvements are all the hallmarks of Boris Becker, his head coach since December 2013, who took power hitting to a new level in the mid-1980s. Yet, despite being regarded as one of the best returners in tennis history, he is winning 32 per cent of his return games this year, as opposed to 39 per cent in 2011.

Only after the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November will we be able to compare those of other great seasons, such as Jimmy Connors' 1974; John McEnroe's 1984, Federer's 2004-2005-2006 or Nadal's 2010.

When asked as to Djokovic's place among all-time greats during Wimbledon, Federer admitted, "[He's] moving up. He's clearly making a big name for himself, having won as many times now as he has in these different Slams. But also his streak at World No. 3, 2 and 1, keeping it up; keeping it going, winning a lot of titles time and time again. Clearly he's going to be one of the top guys. Where? We'll still have to wait and see. I'm sure he still has many more great years ahead of him."

DJOKOVIC'S SEASONS OF SUCCESS (2015 stats as of 17 August)

2011
ATP MatchFacts
2015
70-6
Win-Loss Record
52-4
21-4
vs. Top 10
18-3
10
Titles
6
9-9
Tie-breaks Win-Loss Record
12-8
343 (3.9)
Aces (Avg. per match)
326 (5.8)
143 (1.8)
Double faults (Avg. per match)
87 (1.5)
65%
First Serve Percentage
67%
74%
First Serve Points Won
75%
61%
Second Serve Points Won
61%
86%
Service Games Won
90%
65%
Break Points Saved
70%
36%
First Serve Return Points Won
32%
58%
Second Serve Return Points Won
57%
39%
Break Points Won
41%
39%
Return Games Won
32%