Novak Djokovic landmarks race by in Montreal: 250th Masters win, 50th win of 2015

Novak Djokovic is on a 28-match winning streak at Masters level dating back to Paris 2014

As the final eight men in Montreal prepare to battle it out for a place in the Rogers Cup semi-finals, nine of the last 10 winners of the most prestigious tournament in Canada are still in contention.

Defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who pulled off one of the best runs of his career to beat three-time champion Novak Djokovic, two-time champion Andy Murray and two-time champion Roger Federer in Toronto last year, will have to put together a similar run if he is to lift the trophy again. This time, the Frenchman takes on Murray first, then possibly three-time champion Rafael Nadal, and ultimately Djokovic.

It is the tallest of orders, and not only because of the silverware that this trio has accumulated in the past. The two top seeds and leaders in the Race to London, Djokovic and Murray, have also just notched up 50 wins apiece to reach the quarters—more than anyone else on the tour. So far ahead of the competition are these two that Djokovic has already qualified for London and Murray has only to beat Tsonga to confirm his place, too.

But while the rest of the tour continues to battle it out for the World Tour Finals, Djokovic continues his serene progress past growing numbers of milestones with the aura of a man who knows he currently has few consistent equals in the men’s game.

Certainly he lost out to Federer in the Dubai final, and he fell to an on-fire Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final, but aside from an early, though close, loss in the first week of the season to Ivo Karlovic—hardly surprising given his post-fatherhood, end-of-season surge through the Asian swing, Paris and London—Djokovic has not conceded another match: 50-3.

The speed with which he has closed the gap on records set by Federer and Nadal has taken even the most informed pundits aback. For example, it is no time at all since those two giants of the game vied with one another for the most Masters titles. In 2012, they won two Masters crowns apiece to both end the year with 21. Djokovic ended that year with 13.

Then Nadal opened clear water in 2013 only for Federer to edge closer again last year: 27 to 23. But since then, the mighty Serb has won every Masters tournament he has entered, beginning in Paris, ending in Rome, bypassing Madrid.

Now one ahead of Federer with 24, and with only hard-court Masters ahead, Djokovic could overtake what seemed an insurmountable Nadal tally by the end of the year.

It is, of course, a huge ask, yet even if Djokovic doesn’t manage it this season, he looks destined to overtake Nadal before next year’s clay swing. He has, lest we forget, done the Indian Wells/Miami double for the last two years.

In the meantime, though, he has notched up his 250th Masters match-win this week to keep the pressure on the only two men ahead of him: Federer has 321 and Nadal 294.

Djokovic, now on a 28-match winning streak at Masters level dating back to Paris 2014, is already favourite to extend his run to a record-equalling fifth Masters title of season (a record set by himself in 2011 and matched by Nadal in 2013).

Should he win Cincinnati next week—and he has been runner-up four times—he will set one unique and very special record that has warranted a new name in anticipation of his achievement: the Career Golden Masters. Djokovic would become the only man to have won all nine Masters.

But of course the ATP’s Masters series is only one measure of what Djokovic, who is just reaching his prime at the age of 28, has achieved thus far.

Last year, he finished 2014 at No1 for the third time in four years with a tour-leading seven titles from eight finals and this third consecutive World Tour Finals trophy.

This year already he has won six titles, including an Open-era record fifth Australian Open title and a third Wimbledon title, and not only that. He beat the nine-time champion and king of clay, Nadal, at Roland Garros and, a month later, the seven-time champion and king of grass, Federer, at the All England Club.

He is now in his 59th consecutive week at No1, has accumulated 159 weeks at the top—more than Nadal—and leads the rankings and the race by around 4,000 points.

Of course there remain some huge records and significant trophies that have thus far eluded Djokovic. He has ‘only’ nine Majors compared with 17 and 14 respectively for Federer and Nadal, though the Serb, even so, is eighth on the all-time list of winners.

He has been finalist three times at the French Open, semi-finalist a further four times in a decade of trying to win—but then Federer, too, took 10 years to finally fit the last piece in his Grand Slam puzzle.

And then there are the Olympics, with a bronze medal in the singles in 2008 as his best showing. With that other national title, the Davis Cup, already safely in the Djokovic bank, Rio could provide the icing on the cake for a player who promises to be the man to beat for a long while yet—and certainly beyond next summer.

Djokovic is the only remaining former champion in the top half of the Montreal draw, along with two unseeded players and the lowest remaining seed in the shape of No16 John Isner. He faces Ernests Gulbis in the quarters, Isner or Jeremy Chardy in the semis, and Murray, Nadal, Tsonga or Nishikori for the title.

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