Novak Djokovic has looked in fine form in his first two straight-sets wins at the Cincinnati Masters in New York this week. His second-round win against Tennys Sandgren marked his 20th straight win; the Serb has been unbeaten since the start of 2020.
At his press conference yesterday, the World No. 1 spoke about his season, the chances of going unbeaten throughout the year, and playing in front of empty stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Look, anything is possible," Djokovic said when asked about his chances of an unbeaten season. "I don’t want to count that out, especially because we don’t know how the post-US tour season is going to look like, whether we are going to play, whether there is going to be another lockdown in Europe. It’s not my goal, actually, to go unbeaten, but I wouldn’t complain if I do."
The win over Sandgren is just the latest in a series of dominant performances by Djokovic this year. The Sern started 2020 by winning the ATP Cup, the Australian Open and the Dubai Open; that is the second-best start to a men's season since 1990.
Incidentally, both the first (41 wins in 2011) and the third (17 wins in 2013) slots in that list are also occupied by Novak Djokovic.
If Novak Djokovic does actually manage to go the rest of the year without losing, it will mark a totally unprecedented feat in the sport. The best winning rate ever seen in the men's game is 82-3 by John McEnroe in 1984; nobody else has even come close to winning all their matches in a year.
That said, the obvious mitigating factor of COVID-19 would also have to be taken into account. Djokovic will likely play much fewer matches in 2020 than he would have in a regular, pandemic-free year.
The US Open is the tournament arguably with the best energy: Novak Djokovic
The 17-time Grand Slam champion also spoke about the unnerving experience of playing without fans at Flushing Meadows, as part of the 'bubble' created by the USTA for the Cincinnati Masters and the US Open.
"I have seen a little glimpse from the central area of Flushing Meadows tennis center, and it’s a ghost town," the Serb said. "Not many people around. We’re not used to seeing it that way."
Novak Djokovic has been fairly vocal about his displeasure spectator-less stands at Flushing Meadows. While acknowledging that the public health emergency necessitates the step, he also believes the lack of fans takes something out of the sport.
The US Open, according to various players and Djokovic himself, is the loudest and most energetic tournament on the ATP tour. The Serb expressed hope that things will improve soon, so that tennis can go back to full stadiums.
"The U.S. Open is arguably the tournament that has the best energy. The people just get involved so much. It’s going to be missed. It’s missed already. We can’t sit here and pretend like we are OK even without a crowd. We have to accept it, but I personally definitely hope that this is a temporary thing," asserted Novak Djokovic.Published 26 Aug 2020, 16:21 IST