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2015: The year of the Djoker

2015: The year of the Djoker
There comes a time in life when you are a fan of a sport and think you have seen whatever the sport has to offer. You have witnessed each and every moment that makes the sport what it is. But sometimes, once in a generation comes a player who completely changes the game as you know it by achieving feats that you thought were impossible. Then after that you think you have seen everything that the player has to offer, he comes back and does the same thing again, only this time, his current performance eclipses his last record breaking performance. In modern tennis, that player goes by the name of Novak Djokovic.

But it hasn’t been all a cakewalk for the world number one. From being a player with suspect fitness, Djokovic has become arguably the greatest athlete in world tennis, combining stamina and strength with extraordinary speed and flexibility. He became world No 1 in 2011 and has stayed there ever since, apart from a spell in the second half of 2012, when Roger Federer relegated him to No 2.

Subsequent blood tests in 2010 had revealed that Djokovic was strongly intolerant to wheat and dairy products and mildly sensitive to tomatoes. After trying a new gluten-free diet for two weeks Djokovic’s career got a fresh lease of life. He felt lighter and more energetic than ever.

After switching permanently to the diet, he reaped the benefits. Within 12 months, Djokovic was 11pounds lighter and felt stronger and healthier. After that, there was no stopping the Djoker. The year 2011 which was considered to be his greatest ever season until 2015’s revelation, Djokovic won ten tournaments holding Grand Slam tournament victories at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. He also captured a record-breaking five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles and set a new record for the most prize money won in a single season on the ATP World Tour ($12 million). Sadly, his performance level dropped at season's end because of a back injury and he ended with a poor showing at the ATP World Tour Finals. He finished the season with a 70–6 record and a year-end ranking of world No 1. He was lauded for such a ground-breaking year by the all time greats. Pete Sampras declared Djokovic's 2011 season as the best he has ever seen in his lifetime, calling it “one of the best achievements in all of sports. Boris Becker called it “one of the very best years in tennis of all time,” adding that it “may not be the best statistically, but he’s beaten Federer, he’s beaten Nadal, he's beaten everybody that came around to challenge him in the biggest tournaments in the world.” He also earned the respect of his peers along the way. Rafael Nadal, who lost to Djokovic in six finals on three different surfaces, described Djokovic’s performances as “probably the highest level of tennis that I ever saw.” Djokovic was named 2011 ITF World Champion. He also received the Golden Bagel Award by winning 13 sets with the result of 6–0 during the season. In the semi-finals of the 2011 Davis Cup, Djokovic played a crucial rubber match for Serbia against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, where he retired while trailing, after re-aggravating a back injury which was sustained during the US Open tournament marking just his third loss in the entire season.

If you thought that was impressive, prepare to get your mind blown. In 2015, Djokovic improved on his already stellar 2011 performance when he won three Majors and six masters. He began the season at the Qatar Open in Doha, where he won his first two rounds for the loss of just 6 games, however, lost in the quarterfinals against Ivo Karlovic in three tight sets. He rebounded from this defeat well at the Australian Open, where he made it through the first five rounds without dropping a set. In the semifinals, he faced defending champion Stan Wawrinka, the man who beat him in 2014. He twice lost a set lead but came back with all guns blazing in the fifth to take it to love, and set up a third final against Andy Murray. After splitting the first two sets in tiebreakers, Djokovic suddenly found his form after dropping his serve at the start of the third set, going on to win 12 of the last 13 games to record a four-set victory over the Scot, and win an Open Era record-breaking fifth title in Melbourne, overtaking Roger Federer and Andre Agassi. Additionally he moved into equal eighth on the all-time list of men with the most Major titles, tying Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall and Fred Perry. 

He next competed at the Dubai Tennis Championships and lost to Roger Federer in the final. After 2 weeks, Djokovic defeated John Isner and Andy Murray en route to his 21st Masters 1000 title, beating Federer in three sets in Indian Wells. In Miami, he defeated David Ferrer and John Isner en route to winning his fifth title by defeating Andy Murray in three sets. With his 22nd Masters title, Djokovic became the first player to complete the Indian Wells – Miami title sweep three times. In April, Djokovic clinched his second Monte-Carlo Masters by beating Tomas Berdych in the final. He won the title for the fourth time at the Rome Masters, making it 4 out of four titles in Masters 1,000 events in 2015.

He continued his blazing form on clay at the French Open, by reaching the final without dropping a set in the first five rounds, including a quarterfinal clash with Nadal and a five-set semifinal victory over No 3 seed Andy Murray. He also became only the second man to have won against Nadal at the French Open. However, he lost the next match and the tournament to No. 8 seed Stan Wawrinka in four sets. 

Five weeks later, he rebounded again from a tough loss in Paris, just like 2014, coming from two sets down to beat Kevin Anderson in the fourth round, and then going on to claim his third Wimbledon title in his fourth final with a four-set win over Roger Federer. Prior to the final Grand Slam event of the year, Djokovic had the chance to become the first man in history to complete the full set of Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati, and reached the final for the fifth time, however he was once again beaten by Federer, making it a fifth straight defeat in a Cincinnati final. At the 2015 US Open, Djokovic reached the final for the sixth time in his career, achieving the feat of reaching all four grand slam finals in a single calendar year. 

In the final of the tournament, he faced Federer once again, defeating him in four sets to win his third grand slam title of the year, his second title at Flushing Meadows, and his tenth career grand slam singles title, becoming the fifth man in the Open Era to win ten or more Grand Slam singles titles, as well as only the third man to reach all four Major finals in a calendar year. He returned to Beijing in October, winning the title for the 6th time, defeating Nadal in straight sets in the final to bring his overall record at the tournament to 29-0. Djokovic then reached the final of the Paris Masters, where he defeated Murray in straight sets, taking his fourth title there and a record sixth ATP Masters 1000 tournament in one year. After losing to Federer in the round-robin stage of the 2015 ATP World Tour Finals, he took on the third seed again in the final. He beat Federer in straight sets winning his fifth World Tour Finals title and he became the first player to win four consecutive end-of-year finals tournaments. It’s funny what a change in diet can do for you.
Sayak Dutta

Sayak Dutta

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