x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Djokovic's hard road to becoming the No 1

Djokovic still needs two victories to break John McEnroe's record 42 consecutive wins to open a season, and cannot eclipse, before next week, Guillermo Vilas's mark for longest win streak, 46.

The runaway train that is Novak Djokovic could leave some lasting marks on his sport in the final stages of the French Open: longest winning streak to open a season and most precipitous climb to No 1 in the world. Both can be achieved if he wins two more matches at Roland Garros.

He got a bye to the last four when Fabio Fognini withdrew with an injury, and it does not count towards Djokovic's winning streak. Thus, he still needs two victories to break John McEnroe's record 42 consecutive wins to open a season, and cannot eclipse, before next week, Guillermo Vilas's mark for longest win streak, 46.

If Djokovic reaches the final he will be ranked No 1 for the first time, replacing Rafael Nadal at the top, which would have seemed a ludicrous concept a few short months ago when Nadal's lead was, roughly, 5,000 points and he was unbeaten against Djokovic on clay. But that was before the Serb turned invincible and won consecutive clay-court finals against Rafa.

If Djokovic wins the French he will be worthy of any accolades we can heap on him, given that he is likely to see Roger Federer in the semis and Nadal in the final. One of the great plot lines in tennis is the rise and fall of champions.

Watching Nadal slowly break down Federer's dominance was fascinating. Djokovic is going about this in a different manner, choosing the hard road. Unbeaten for five months, he aims to supplant Nadal as world No 1 by battering to bits the Spaniard's clay citadel.