Tramlines

Djokovic’s finest hour – but now streak ends

Tramlines

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Novak
Djokovic is doing the extraordinary - turning a good run of form into a great
one, and then, with victory in Madrid, into an epic one.

In an era when we have witnessed the feats of
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and begun to wonder how anyone could ever
compete with them, Djokovic's arrival at the top table has been all the more
spectacular.

A Grand
Slam title in Melbourne in January pointed the way, but who then would have
dared suggest that now, with the French Open less than a fortnight away, the
Serbian would still not have tasted defeat in 2011?

The
reserves of strength he found to beat Nadal on successive weekends in Indian
Wells and Miami were remarkable, but come the return to Europe, people
suspected, the real test would begin.

Not very
long ago we asked whether Djokovic playing Nadal every Sunday of a big tournament
was going
a bit stale
.

But what
was not to enjoy when the pair brought such remarkable runs to the table,
knowing that one streak would inevitably end in Madrid's Caja Magica?

On one side
of the net was world number one Nadal, unbeaten in 37 matches on clay. On the
other was world number two Djokovic, yet to taste defeat in 31 matches in 2011.
Something had to give.

And despite
the backing of a fervent home crowd, as well as a surface which Nadal has owned
since 2005, Djokovic called the shots and pulled out a 7-5 6-4 victory.

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Nadal was
belligerent as ever, even playing a lob shot through his legs which must go down as the shot of the season, but Djokovic weathered those storms and produced answers. And the contention, "Yes,
but can he do it on clay?" was put to bed.

It was in
many ways the finest victory of Djokovic's year - and there have been some fine
ones already in those 32 wins.

But, as far
as Tramlines can see, this is where the run peaks.

Two weeks
ago we dedicated this corner of the internet to the incredible
numbers that 24-year-old Nadal has amassed on clay
.

And despite
his record on the surface slipping to a mere 190 wins and 7 defeats, you can
expect normal service to be resumed this week in Rome.

For some
reason, Nadal has not quite dominated in Madrid like he has elsewhere. Since
the tournament was switched to clay for 2009, he has reached all three finals,
only to lose two of them. The fact that this is his weakest stop on the clay
circuit, incidentally, speaks volumes.

By
contrast, the Spaniard has won 27 matches in the Italian capital, losing just
one - when compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero took advantage of Nadal's foot injury
to beat him in straight sets. He's won the title five times in six appearances.

Of course,
should Djokovic find a way to win in Rome and again at Roland Garros, then all
bets are off and the record books will have to be rewritten.

But despite
coming through another test, the Serb must know that no run can last forever.

How long will Djokovic stay unbeaten? Will the
King of Clay Nadal reassert his authority in Rome? Let Tramlines know by
leaving a comment below!

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New Top 10 entry of the week

Welcome to
the elite club, Petra Kvitova. The 21-year-old Czech has been attracting more
and more attention as she climbs up the rankings, and her eight-place jump to
10th after winning the Madrid Open injects a dash of excitement into the women's
game at a time where the big names feel somewhat absent at the moment. Speaking
of which...

'Proof the American game is on the slide' of
the week

Serena
Williams's continued absence from the tour saw her lose further ranking points
and slip from 10th place down to 17th. While not especially significant in
itself, her fall means that for the first time since the ranking system was
created back in 1973 there is not a single man or woman in their respective top 10s.

"This shows how low tennis has fallen,"
said Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is 38th in the world rankings and sitting
behind Serena and Venus Williams (19) in the women's game.

"In America some have things too easy."

Celebrity tennis fan
of the week

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Real Madrid footballer and lothario
Cristiano Ronaldo stopped by at his local tournament to watch the Djokovic-Nadal
match with his model girlfriend Irina Shayk. After scoring four goals at the weekend,
it looks like C-Ron has finally laid to rest the disappointment of losing out
to Barcelona in La Liga and the Champions League.

Caption competition

Congratulations to Lucaellul who stormed to victory in last week's competition with a
gem of a caption for this image of Nadal with football stars Cristiano Ronaldo
and Raul:

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Raul: ''Rafa I really think you're the best tennis player
ever!''
Rafa: ''No Federer is still the best his record speaks for itself!''
Ronaldo: ''I'm the best!''

The
challenge for this week is to find some words for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as he
reacts during a match in Madrid. Just imagine he
can actually get some words out between mouthfuls of ball...

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