Novak Djokovic has been 2011's best tennis player. And now, he's downed the sport's most dominant player, Rafael Nadal, on his favored surface in his home country.
Djokovic topped Nadal, 7-5, 6-4, at the Madrid Open on Sunday, running his record in 2011 to a pristine 32-0 and collecting his sixth tournament title this season. But this win is impressive mostly because of opponent, surface, and locale, as tennis reporter Matt Cronin tweeted.
Djokovic so great this year so much but I'm most impressed by 7-5, 6-4 title win over Nadal in Madrid. Beat RN on his surface in his country
Now, Djokovic has the inside track to Nadal's world No. 1 ranking — Nadal has many titles and points to defend in the summer months, while Djokovic has ample opportunity to catch up — and may be the man who can dethrone a healthy Nadal at the French Open, having diminished the tireless defender's fear factor with a resilient victory in Madrid.
If Djokovic were going to wilt against Nadal, he had his chances on Sunday. After storming out to a 4-0 lead in the first set, he conceded a break to Nadal, and was serving at 4-2, but parried Nadal's run with a love game. Then, at 5-5 in the first set, Djokovic clicked off another love game, and put away the set with a break.
He only trailed once, at 1-0 in the second set, and not for long. On this day, Djokovic was clearly the better player.
Now, Djokovic appears poised to improve upon a disappointing history at Roland Garros: the Serbian has never made a final in the French Open, and hasn't been to a semifinal since 2008. And if he can claim his first title there, likely by downing Nadal at some point, it will be hard to consider Djokovic anything other than the world's finest tennis player.