If No. 1 Novak Djokovic manages to win his first US Open on Sunday, he will leave New York with a 64-2 match record, his third Grand Slam title of the year and his 10th 2011 crown overall.
It will put him in position to potentially have the greatest season since 1969, when Rod Laver won all four majors.
But in order to even be put in the running for the best-season-ever accolade, Djokovic will have to go through the fall season without so much as missing a beat, potentially only losing another match or two.
In 1984, John McEnroe came into the US Open in a similar position to that of the Serbian, having only lost two matches during the year, and coincidentally, both their losses came at the French Open (Mac admittedly choked to Ivan Lendl in the final up two sets to none, and Djokovic fell to Roger Federer in a four-set semifinal this year), and the other losses came in their last warm-ups to the US Open in Cincinnati: McEnroe lost to Vijay Amritraj in the opening round, and Djokovic retired in the final against Murray.)
McEnroe was the same age as Djokovic is now, 24, but in 1984 when the gates opened in Flushing Meadows, the left-hander had already won three US Open titles.
In the past four years, Djokovic has reached two finals and two semifinals in New York. Last year, he shocked five-time champion Roger Federer by fighting off two match points against the Swiss in the semifinals but fell to Rafael Nadal in the final.
McEnroe did not have a simple run in 1984 to the US crown, as he had to overcome Jimmy Connors in five sets in the semifinals, but he did smoke Ivan Lendl for the title.
He finished the year with an 82-3 record (his final loss was a stunner to Swede Henrik Sundstrom in the Davis Cup final), which is still the best mark in the history of the Open Era, but he chose not to play the Australian Open that year, a move he recently remarked was one he would like to have back. Consequently, the New Yorker only ended the year with two Slam crowns. Djokovic has already won Australia and Wimbledon. However, McEnroe did win the year-end Masters that year and ended the season with 14 titles.
Djokovic still has a lot of work to do before he can be called the King of New York, as he has to face his friend and Davis Cup teammate Janko Tipsarevic in the next round, who is by no means intimidated by him, as they have practiced together so many times. But even though Djokovic was in his wedding, like most other players on tour, he is in awe of his fellow player's accomplishments.
“It's really a joke. I cannot believe that somebody lost how many, two matches this year?” Tipsarevic said. ”You see guys on tour, and I'm telling you this from a psychological point of view: They win a couple of matches in a row, and you could feel in their body language on court that they feel a little bit satisfied. You really need to be big, big champion in order to really do what you say in press conference because you guys probably heard it a million times. I'm going to focus and give 100 percent in my next match. But that's not the case every time. Bottom line is that's great, but the goal is not to be overwhelmed by that. I'm playing against a good opponent and know that I need to play aggressive and good in order to win.
"If I feel unbelievable and excited and just feel overwhelmed because I'm first time in the quarters and I might play Novak and I'm going out there to do my best, that's not gonna happen. Because if you have an idea that you are going to win, the opportunities on the court, which are going to be given to you, you're going to use them. If you go there with the idea to do your best and have fun on court, you're gonna be happy if you lose 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, and that's not good.”
Djokovic's current streak also must be put in context of what his two primary rivals -- Nadal and Roger Federer -- have done.
In 2010, the Spaniard won three majors in succession: Roland Garros, Wimbledon and his first US Open, and won seven titles overall, including three Masters Series. Nadal finished with a 71-10 match record.
Federer put together four incredible seasons from 2004-07, all which could be compared to Djokovic's current run.
In 2004, he won 11 titles in as many finals, including three Grand Slams (with the exception of Roland Garros) and three Masters Series titles. In 2005, he compiled the best match winning percentage in a season (.953, 81-4) since McEnroe (.965, 82-3) in 1984, won 11 overall titles again but only won two majors. His record unbeaten streak in finals of 24 was halted in a five-set loss to David Nalbandian in the year-end Tennis Masters Cup final. In 2006, he won 12 titles, including three Grand Slams (he was unable to win the French again, as Nadal reigned supreme). And in 2007, while he only won eight titles, he still managed to win the three non-French Grand Slams.
So for Djokovic to put his record against his two primary rivals, he not only will have to win the US Open but also finish the season in strong fashion. If he does not win the US Open and finishes with just two Slam crowns, to even be considered in the same category as McEnroe's 1984, he is more or less going to have to go undefeated the rest of the fall. And it's not just those three who have had outstanding years of note -- legends Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, Lendl and Pete Sampras are also in the mix.
But first things first, before we revisit the historical archives after the Open closes it doors -- Djokovic has to best Tipsarevic on Wednesday, possibly Federer in the semis and maybe Nadal or Murray in the final.
He's aware that, on a great day, the quirky yet talented Tipsarevic could stun him, as friends usually don't fear friends.
“It's strange feeling,” Djokovic said. “We are professionals. Certainly we both want to win the match when we play against each other. So you kind of forget about friendship. You put that aside. We never played Grand Slam. We never played best-of-five against each other, so it's going to be a first-time experience for both of us. He's playing the best tennis of his life. He's very confident. But there is certainly this mentally strange feeling when you're playing somebody that is one of your best friends in the private life. So you got to handle that, as well.”