Novak Djokovic had become the third best player on the Tour behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in 2007 and he worked on his game on regular basis in order to catch the mentioned giants and start competing for big titles.
Once he found the way to overcome the physical issues he has had earlier in a career, Novak has transformed himself into a machine that was the dominant figure on the Tour for over half a decade, and it all started at the end of 2010 when he helped Serbia to claim the first Davis Cup crown. Carried by this momentum, Novak was ready to prove his ultimate class in 2011, rattling off 41 wins since the start of the season and writing new chapters of tennis history that would certainly take some beating.
Djokovic lost just one set en route to his second Australian Open title and he was the player to beat in Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Belgrade, Madrid and Rome, toppling world number 1 Rafael Nadal in the final of all four Masters 1000 events he has entered.
The big question was if Novak was capable to go all the way in Paris as well, targeting his first Roland Garros crown and entering the semi-final when Fabio Fognini had to withdraw before their quarter-final match. On June 3, Novak faced Roger Federer in the battle for the place in the final and the Swiss finally found the way to stop the mighty Serb, scoring a 7-6 6-3 3-6 7-6 triumph in three hours and 39 minutes to advance into his fifth French Open final in the last five seasons! This was their 23rd meeting and the14th win for Roger who fired 18 aces and saved nine out of 13 break points to keep the pressure on Novak.
The Serb gave his best to avoid a setback and continue his perfect run, saving 21 out of 25 break points, but it wasn't enough in the end as he failed to conquer the fourth set tie break and set up a decider. We could only guess what would have happened if he had reached the final against Rafael Nadal or would he be able to defeat Rafa at his kingdom but Novak certainly left this match behind him, winning his first Wimbledon a few weeks later followed by a triumph in New York as well for one of the most successful seasons in the Open era.
Novak had the advantage in the longer rallies, hitting in full power from both wings, but Roger earned his win in the shortest points, making a huge damage with his serve and an initial forehand that kept the quickest points on his racquet.
The Swiss opened the match with a break when Novak missed a forehand but Novak got it back in the very next game after a forehand mistake from Roger. Djokovic fends off four break points in game three to evade another setback and he repelled another one in game five to stay in touch.
Federer wasted too many opportunities on the return and he was punished in game six when Novak broke for a 4-2 lead, only to drop serve in the following game to keep Roger in contention. Federer saved two set points on serve in game 10 and he grabbed the tie break 7-5 after a forehand error from Novak, 70 minutes since the start of the match.
Djokovic sprayed another forehand error in the fourth game of the second set and Roger hit a service winner in the following game to confirm it and move 4-1 ahead. Novak saved more break points in game six to avoid a double break deficit and he fends off five set points at 2-5 to prolong the set and extend his chances.
Serving for the set in game nine, Roger delivered a nice hod and he was two sets to love up in just under two hours, looking good to perform a big surprise. Novak had to raise his level as soon as possible and opened the third set with a break in game two, holding at 30 after a backhand error from Roger to move 3-0 ahead.
Serving for the set at 5-3, Djokovic held at love and he closed the set with an ace down the T line, ready to leave everything on the court in order to claim another win of the season. Roger was on a mission in the opening four service games in set number four, dropping one point to keep the pressure on the other side of the net but he faced a break point in game nine that could change the course of the match completely.
He blasted a service winner to fend it off but Novak earned another one, converting it after a forehand error from Federer to serve for the set in the following game. Keeping his focus on a high note, Roger broke back with a forehand down the line winner but his serve was a little bit shaky in those moments, offering more break points to Novak in game 11.
The Swiss saved both with a service winner and he fired another one to close the game and force Novak to serve for staying in the match. The Serb held after a deuce and they closed to each other until 3-3 in the tie break when Novak made a huge forehand error to hand Roger a mini-break.
Two service winners sent Federer 6-3 up and he landed an ace at 6-5 to celebrate one of his biggest wins ever considering the circumstances (Roger didn't play well in the previous events on clay that spring) and he fought well against Nadal in the title match before falling in four sets.