After a full year of complete domination on the men’s side in which reigning king Novak Djokovic passed out more bagels than any player in recent memory, his quest to end the year with the modern best all time record was dealt a fatal blow this morning in Basel. After a dominant 1st set over rising Japanese pro Kei Nishikori (above, bottom), Djokovic began to look tired. He dropped a 2nd set breaker 7-4 that had been level at 4 and then seemed physically spent in the third, when he gave away all 3 of his service games and was unable to earn any opportunities on Nishikori’s serve. Really Djokovic, who returned flawlessly in the first set, did little in the return game at all after the first set, managing just 1 break on only 3 opportunities. A far cry from The US Open final when he broke Nadal at will. The win is by far the biggest yet in the career of Nishikori, his first ever win versus a number one, and becomes the 1st Japanese man to defeat a world number one. Nishikori is also the first man to dole out a bagel to Djokovic in a season in which he has served up 13 bagels to others, 4 alone on the way to his 1st US Open title.

The loss today makes Djokovic 64-3. With the Paris Indoors and YEC the only events remaining, making for a maximum of 11 matches, it has now become impossible for Djokovic to top John McEnroe’s 81-3 1984 season, though some would probably argue that of the 2 all time great years, Djokovic had the better one.

We couldn’t be more impressed with Djokovic this season but we can’t go that far. People should recall that John McEnroe also played a great deal of doubles that year and along with Peter Fleming, made up the best doubles team in the men’s game. McEnroe also played considerably more best of 5 set tennis, and did the done thing by top players at the time by not travelling to Australia for the AO.

One should note Roger Federer’s magical 81-4 season in which he lost his last match, the YEC final vs. David Nalbandian after leading 2 sets to love when he suffered a calf injury, enabling Nalbandian to come back and win in what would be the biggest tournament victory in the Argentine’s career. Like Djokovic this year, Federer’s had won 3 majors in 2005 and would have topped McEnroe’s 1984 winning percentage without the loss to Nalbandian in the final match of the season.

Djokovic has obviously proved as the year’s best fast courter, taking home the prize at both Wimbledon and Flushing. We do feel Basel is playing much faster than those majors and that guys had success hitting hard to Djokovic on the backhand side, where he didn’t have the time to double grip and whip guys and made far more errors than normal off the double wing. Nishikori, having a solid indoor season seemed much more at ease today with the speed of the court.
We wonder if the Basel organizers have been listening to Roger Federer’s complaints about the lack of true fast courts these days, even indoors. Federer made such comments frequently and went out of his way to praise the courts at the Paris Indoors last year after beating Djokovic for his 4th Basel title on a seemingly very slow, tacky red indoor surface which has since been changed to the blue, faster track.

Federer defeated Stan Wawrinka in straights earlier to reach his 6th straight final in his home tournament.
Federer will play Nishikori tomorrow as he looks for his second title on the year and 5th at the Basel Indoor.
We’d also like to mention how good it is to see Sam Querrey on the court again. Samurai Sam is recovered from wrist surgery and should be moving up from world # 116 after making the QF round in Valencia. Querrey also won his qualifying round match today in Paris.

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