2011: descriptive summary

Only 11 days left to the end of the regular season, thus I thought it’s a time to begin a recap of the year 2011 🙂 I want to do this in three parts, today “descriptive summary”, after Paris I will post “statistical summary”, after London I’d like to post “events”, which will include dates of the most important occurrences of the year, in style characteristic for my e-book. After the Davis Cup final I will add these three parts to the ’11-season page with all necessary corrections…

King & Mental Giant:
Novak Djokovic

After four years of being an eternal number 3 #, Novak Djokovic won the Davis Cup 2010 (with considerable help of his teammates) and it elevated him onto a new level of self-confidence. Djokovic started the 2011 in a great style in Australia and maintained his extraordinary form throughout the season, capturing the No. 1 spot and producing one of the best winning streaks in the Open era. His awesome 2011 season is comparable only with a couple other magnificent seasons of the biggest legends of the modern game. Below comparison of the five most successful  years (in my opinion) in the Open era:

1969: Rod Laver… 62-9 record (.873)… 10 titles, including all Grand Slam titles, 21-match winning streak (26 in Grand Slams) *
1978: Bjorn Borg, 77-7 record (.916)… 8 titles, including Roland Garros & Wimbledon, 49-match winning streak (20 in Grand Slams)
1984: John McEnroe, 82-3 record (.964)… 13 titles, including Wimbledon, US Open & Masters, 42-match winning streak (14 in Grand Slams)
2006: Roger Federer, 92-5 record (.948)… 11 titles, including Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open & Masters, 29-match winning streak (14 in Grand Slams) **
2011: Novak Djokovic, 65-3 record (.955)… 10 titles, including Australian Open, Wimbledon & US Open, 43-match winning streak (14 in Grand Slams)
# Top 4 in the years 2007-2011:
2007: 1 – Federer, 2 – Nadal, 3 – Djokovic, 4 – Davydenko
2008: 1 – Nadal, 2 – Federer, 3 – Djokovic, 4 – Murray
2009: 1 – Federer, 2 – Nadal, 3 – Djokovic, 4 – Murray
2010: 1 – Nadal, 2 – Federer, 3 – Djokovic, 4 – Murray
2011: 1 – Djokovic, 2 – Nadal, 3 – Murray, 4 – Federer
* The stats has been made comparing ATP & ITF sites
** Federer’s streak extended to 41 matches won in a row in years 2006-07

Djokovic deserves also a title of the mental giant. He has beaten in 2011 all the biggest rivals in dramatic matches, he was two points away from losing to both, Rafael Nadal & Andy Murray, and fought off a double match point on return in the 5th set at the US Open against Roger Federer! Moreover he won the longest tie-break of the season (against Alexandr Dolgopolov).

Comeback player: Juan Martin del Potro

The 23-year-old Argentinian made one of the most impressive jumps in the ATP ranking within a season. He had suffered a severe right wrist injury almost throughout the entire 2010 year and dropped in the ranking from No. 4 (11.01.2010) to No. 485 (31.01.2011) – since then he began a permanent improvement of his ranking and finished this season as No. 11, capturing two titles and helping his country in advancement to the Davis Cup final.


In some sense it was a year of veterans. As many as 22 players, who turned 30 years in 2011 or earlier, finished the season in the Top 100 (R.Federer, F.Lopez, JI.Chela, R.Stepanek, I.Ljubicic, J.Melzer, X.Malisse, M.Llodra, I.Karlovic, J.Benneteau, A.Montanes, N.Davydenko, P.Starace, JC.Ferrero, J.Blake, O.Rochus, I.Kunitsyn, J.Nieminen, E.Prodon, M.Russell, S.Robert, M.Berrer); nine more than last year, twelve more than two years ago. Lopez and Chela equaled their best Grand Slam achievements, Melzer entered the Top 10 for the first time in career. Below number of 30-year-olds in the Top 100 at the end of the last four seasons:

13 – 2008; 10 – 2009; 13 – 2010; 22 – 2011


2011 is the first year in which players born in the 90’s appeared in the Top 100. It is a breakthrough year for this generation because five players of this age managed to do this. It is a breakthrough season also for two a bit older guys – Young and Nishikori – who notched first valuable wins as teenagers (Nishikori even got his first title three years ago) but could not maintain the composure in the following years until they turned 22 (to be precise Nishikori is 21.10). Below the youngest Top 100’s, their birthdays and comparison of their rankings at the end of the last two seasons.

127 – 43, Donald Young (23.07.1989)
98 – 32, Kei Nishikori (29.12.1989)
375 – 99, Cedric-Marcel Stebe (09.10.1990)
156 – 27, Milos Raonic (27.12.1990)
106 – 71, Grigor Dimitrov (16.05.1991)
173 – 75, Ryan Harrison (07.05.1992)
208 – 42, Bernard Tomic (21.10.1992)

All these guys should finish their careers as players connected with the 2010-19 decade. Is there a future number one among them? I have my doubts because two best guys born in 1987 (Andy Murray & Novak Djokovic) and two best born in 1988 (Juan Martin del Potro & Marin Cilic – the youngest titelist in the previous two seasons) may play almost the whole decade on high level. I do not expect that Nadal can keep his great form in the second half of the decade because he is been playing on the highest level since 2004 (three years longer than Murray and Djokovic) and his slight decline due to tiredness in the next 2-3 years is very probable. If I had to choose a potential No. 1 or at least Grand Slam champion among these seven guys, I would pick Tomic. He needs to adapt to the European clay to improve his ranking visibly, which he should do next year, because of his patient baseline game. If he manages to do that, he will be an all-around player. Milos Raonic – the first man born in the 90’s to win an ATP tournament – with his fantastic serve should be a serious threat in the next couple of years on the fastest surfaces, but his mechanic baseline game is distinctively limited thus at the moment I do not believe he would be a serious contender in the “best of 5” matches competing against guys like Djokovic, Murray or Del Potro.


Basically the generation of players born in the early 80’s is finished, but on three different levels: I. One of the greatest players in history of the sport, Roger Federer (b. 1981) still plays on a very high level but it wasn’t enough to compete for leadership at the top with much more younger Nadal and Djokovic. Federer didn’t win in 2011 a Grand Slam event for the first time since 2003, he had a 10-month break between grabbing titles this season, the longest span since the time he won his 1st and 2nd title! II. Nikolay Davydenko (b. 1981) admittedly dropped outside Top 10 already last year, after being five straight years inside, but this year his decline exacerbated. The Russian for the first time in seven years didn’t reach last 16 in majors, for the first time in eight years didn’t reach quarter-finals in “Masters 1000′. Andy Roddick (b. 1982) dropped outside Top 10 for the first time since 2002 losing abilities to compete with the best guys (was trashed by Murray – twice, once by Nadal and Federer). III. The other former No. 1 – Lleyton Hewitt (b. 1981) – almost disappeared this season struggling with injuries. “Rusty” suffered the worst season since his first year among professionals 14 years ago! Similar thing happened to Fernando Gonzalez (b. 1980) – the worst season in 12 years. Their problems share Robby Ginepri and Jose Acasuso (b. 1982), all these guys played only a few tournaments in 2011, in a consequence Hewitt dropped outside Top 100, Acasuso outside Top 200, “G’s” outside 300! Other notable player in the previous decade, Paul-Henri Mathieu didn’t play at all this year and currently is ranked outside Top 500 (No. 12 three years ago)…

New power: Serbia

The Serbian team won the Davis Cup in December 2010, which meant an amazing boost of confidence for players, who created the biggest success in history of the Serbian sport. Obviously 2011 it was Novak Djokovic’s year, the Belgrade boy dethroned the 7-year hegemony of ‘Fedal’, but his two compatriots, Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki playing “one level under Djokovic” made the best personal seasons as well. Tipsy won his first tournament, both guys achieved their best “Masters 1000′ and ‘Grand Slam’ results. Additionally it was a year of the first all-Serbian Grand Slam quarterfinal (Djokovic vs. Tipsarevic at US Open) and first ATP final (Tipsarevic vs. Troicki in Moscow). Below comparison of rankings at the end of the last two seasons of the three best Serbs:

3 – 1, Novak Djokovic
49 – 13, Janko Tipsarevic
28 – 17, Viktor Troicki

Choker: Viktor Troicki

The Serbian had the best season in career marked by his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal and first Grand Slam fourth round, but established himself as the biggest specialist in the tennis elite considering dramatic defeats. He has an awful ‘m.p. encounters’ record: 1-9 #. Below his 2011 chokes:

Madrid: F.Mayer 6-4, 5-7, 4-6… triple mini-match point at 5:5 in the 2nd set, 3:2 with a break in the decider
Roland Garros: A.Murray 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 5-7… led 3:2 with a break in the 3rd set, 5:2 in the 5th set, 5:3 (30-0) on serve
Montreal: G.Monfils 6-3, 6-7(0), 6-7(5)… three match points at 6:5* in the 2nd set, *5:3 in the 3rd set
US Open: A.Falla 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 5-7, 5-7… three match points at 5:4* in the 4th set
Basel: M.Baghdatis 6-4, 6-7(8), 2-6… one match point at 8:7* in the tie-break
Troicki’s “mental” stats in 2011:
5-setters: 1-2
Tie-breaks: 9-12
TB’s in deciding set: 1-1
MP matches: 0-3 (wasted 7 match points in total)

Match point Wasters: John Isner &  Feliciano Lopez

Admittedly both “all serve guys” lost more m.p.-matches than Troicki (both suffered 5 defeats of this kind), but given their style of play, they are more prone to be involved in tight matches, which depend on luck or lack of it (one good/bad stroke here or there), than vast majority of tennis players. So, both Lopez and Isner lost more tight matches than Troicki this year, but they won more tight matches than the Serbian as well. On top of that, the Serb lost four matches in 2011 having a good position to win two losing sets (Lopez lost 3 matches ot this type, Isner 2). Below their m.p.-defeats:

Delray Beach: T.Gabashvili 4-6, 7-5, 6-7(13) – 4 mp
Houston: I.Karlovic 6-7(2), 7-6(2), 6-7(9) – 2 mp
Atlanta: M.Fish 6-3, 6-7(6), 2-6 – 2 mp
Washington: G.Monfils 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(6) – 1 mp
Valencia: V.Pospisil 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(9) – 1 mp 
Sydney: JM.Del Potro 7-6(5), 6-7(9), 6-7(3) – 1 mp
Johannesburg: F.Dancevic 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-7(8) – 1 mp
Davis Cup: S.Darcis 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 6-7(3) – 1 mp
Madrid: R.Federer 6-7(13), 7-6(1), 6-7(7) – 1 mp
Beijing: M.Youzhny 7-6(5), 2-6, 5-7 – 1 mp

Five defeats within a season despite holding a match point it’s the most since 2002 when Ivan Ljubicic was defeated in match point-up encounters six times. It is interesting that Lopez each time squandered only one match point, and each time it happened on his return.

Loser: Andrey Golubev

The Kazakh suffered a humiliating 18-match losing streak, being defeated on hardcourts, clay & grass during the nightmarish streak. Only two players before, had notched worse losing streaks at the main level. Golubev finished the season with an abysmal 6-26 record (.187). His record is even worse if we count his participation at Hopman Cup (6-29).

Three longest losing streaks:
21 – Vincent Spadea (1999-00)
20 – Gary Donnelly (1986-87)
18 – Andrey Golubev (2011)

Cameos: Goran Ivanisevic & Dutch duo

Ivanisevic played a doubles match in Zagreb, it was his first professional match since 2004. A cameo delivered also the best Dutch doubles team in history, Jacco Eltingh & Paul Haarhuis in Rotterdam (they first match together since 1998).


Seven notable players retired in 2011. To be precise we can say that Nicolas Kiefer finished his career in 2010, but in the 2011 season, because the German player announced his retirement on 30 December 2010, it was a day when started an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi… Afterwards, their retirements announced Nicolas Lapentti, Mario Ancic and Gaston Gaudio, players who like Kiefer, didn’t play a match neither singles nor doubles in 2011. It was the last season in career of Stefan Koubek too. His fellow Austrian, Thomas Muster retired for the second time in career (previously in 1999!), the same thing had done a few months before Joachim Johansson. Below birthdays and biggest Grand Slam achievements of players, who retired in the 2011 season.

30 December 2010: Nicolas Kiefer (05.07.1977… Australian Open semifinalist)
February: Nicolas Lapentti (13.08.1976… Australian Open semifinalist)
March: Mario Ancic (30.03.1984… Wimbledon semifinalist)
March: Joachim Johansson (01.07.1982… US Open semifinalist)
August: Stefan Koubek (02.01.1977… Australian Open quarterfinalist)
August: Gaston Gaudio (09.12.1978… Roland Garros champion)
October: Thomas Muster (02.10.1967… Roland Garros champion)
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7 Responses to 2011: descriptive summary

  1. Wanaro Evernden says:

    I remember this nice year…
    Polasek, make a nice blind shot in the Ivanisevic double !
    Match point Roddick vs Raonic !
    I completely agree with you for Tomic and i think he won Wimbledon in 2012 !
    Del Potro, n°35 (08.11.2010) falling up n°259 (15.11.2010) !

  2. Wanaro Evernden says:

    RIP Robert Haillet (french player and conceptor of the Adidas Stan Smith Shoes)

  3. St-Denis says:

    Thank you Wanaro for your words!
    A thought for Robert Haillet the former champion of Monte Carlo 1958 & 1959, and 3 times champion of France (the french championship called “Le National”) 1955, 1956 and 1958… He made the most incredible come back in tennis history during the Roland Garros 1958 in Qf vs Budge Patty (seed #4) in the 5th set, Haillet was lead 5/0 and 40/0 with 3 matchpoints against him! And … He won this match with again 2 matchpoints against him at 5/3!! Finally, he won 7 games at the row and he achieved to reach the Sf with the score of 5/7 7/5 10/8 4/6 7/5
    Incredible match! 🙂

  4. St-Denis says:

    Voo de Mar, I’m sorry for my bad english, so I write in french… Je voulais dire que Robert Haillet était mené 5 jeux à 0, et 40/0 au 5ème set par Budge Patty (tête de série n°4) très proche de gagner le match et de se qualifier en Df! C’était un retour inespéré et incroyable pour ce Qf de titan à Roland Garros… I don’t know what do you think? For me, it’s the most incredible come back in tennis…. 🙂 C’est le plus grand comeback de l’histoire du tennis notamment dans un tournoi du Grand Chelem!
    Merci pour ta remarque Voo de Mar, mon anglais manque de pratique! 🙂

    Wanaro merci pour ton message! 🙂 En fait St-Denis est mon nom de famille et aussi l’endroit où j’ai eu mon DUT à l’IUT St-Denis, j’aime beaucoup cette ville du 93! 🙂
    Oui, au sujet de la page wikipedia de Robert Haillet, j’ai des infos supplémentaires sur “Le National”, le grand championnat français des années 50 jusqu’au début des années 90 à propos le palmarès du tournoi compte aussi dans son palmarès Noah, Forget, Tulasne, Benhabiles, Leconte, Jauffret, Winogradsky…
    un tournoi qui n’existe plus aujourd’hui… Voici des infos supplémentaires sur le grand joueur Robert Haillet dans le championnat de France qui consacrait alors le numéro 1 français et champion de France:

    Championnat de France “Le National” – palmarès Robert Haillet
    Simple messieurs :
    Vainqueur en 1955 (à Paris-Roland Garros le 17-22 juillet en dehors du tournoi du Grand Chelem), 1956 (à Bordeaux) et 1958 (à Nice).
    Finaliste en 1952 (à Alger), 1953 (à La Baule), 1954 (à Casablanca), 1957 (à Marseille) & 1959 (Bordeaux).

    Double messieurs :
    Vainqueur en double en 1958 (/ Pierre Darmon) à Nice
    Finaliste en double en 1954 (/ Paul Jalabert) à Casablanca, 1956 (/ Henri Pelizza) à Bordeaux, 1957 (/ Paul Jalabert) à Marseille & 1959 (/ Pierre Darmon) à Bordeaux.

    Thnaks for your blog Voo de Mar, it’s the best blog about tennis! 🙂
    Good week-end gentlemen!

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