Commentary

Top 10 streaks in men's tennis

Updated: June 3, 2011, 5:00 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

Novak Djokovic cooled on the hottest day of the French Open.

Roger Federer beat Djokovic in the French Open's most sweltering day to end the Serb's impressive 43-match winning streak, playing some of the best tennis of his career. The days of Federer and Rafael Nadal meeting in Grand Slam finals aren't over yet.

In deference to Djokovic's amazing feat, we present the top 10 men's tennis streaks:

1. Roger and the semis

Records are meant to be broken, or so they say.

Well, this one probably won't be.

From Wimbledon 2004 through the Australian Open last year, Federer reached 23 straight major semifinals -- a stunning number, considering the quality of opposition. The previous Open era high was 10, set by Ivan Lendl.

Robin Soderling ended the run on a rainy, nasty day in the quarterfinals of the 2010 French Open.

"It was a great run," Federer said, jokingly adding, "Now I've got the quarterfinal streak going, I guess."

That he does. When Federer moved into the final eight in Paris this year, he made it 28 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals, surpassing Jimmy Connors for the top spot.

2. Roger at No. 1

Like his semifinal streak, Federer's string of 237 uninterrupted weeks at No. 1 speaks of his sustained brilliance. He took over in February 2004, when Andy Roddick was the pre-eminent player in men's tennis, and duly coasted past Connors' previous mark of 160.

The key to maintaining the streak, Federer suggested, was downing Roddick in the 2004 Wimbledon final.

"Looking back, that was the most important match for staying at No. 1," he said in 2007. "If he would have won that, I think he might have gotten it back."

Nadal overtook Federer in the rankings in August 2008, with the tallest player in tennis history, 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic, administering the knockout punch.

3. Rafa's dirt dominance

Many consider Federer to be the greatest player of all time. Similarly, more than a few think Nadal is the best clay-court player ever.

It's difficult to argue with that, based on this tally: From April 2005 to May 2007, Nadal won 81 straight matches, coasting past Vilas' number of 53.

His spell began after a defeat by Igor Andreev in Valencia, Spain, and ended in Hamburg, Germany, courtesy of Federer.

"I can't be sad that I lose one match to the world's best player," Nadal said at the time.

Nadal went on to beat Federer in the French Open final weeks later.

4. Djokovic's sizzling streak

Underachieving for the better part of three years, Djokovic got that winning mindset after leading Serbia to the Davis Cup title in December. He looked unstoppable, combining offense and defense. The serve got him so many free points.

Djokovic went 13-0 against top-10 players during the streak, so by no stretch did he have an easy path. Two of the victories came on clay against Nadal.

"I'm really not trying to think about the run that I have, not trying to think about when this run will end, because that will mean I'm thinking about losing," Djokovic said prior to the French Open. Federer was simply too good Friday.

5. Borg's triple-double

Nowadays, the differences in surfaces are as marginal as they've ever been. Wimbledon's grass is slow, and the French Open is fast. This year's edition in Paris was made faster by the balls.

In the late 1970s and early '80s, though, the grass was slick, tailor-made for serve-and-volleyers or those who ventured to the net.

It's why Bjorn Borg's French Open-Wimbledon double for three straight years -- 1978, '79 and '80 -- stands out. He tallied six French Open titles overall, five at Wimbledon.

"To so quickly go across the Channel from one difficult surface to another, it's a good argument for him being the greatest player of all time," legendary journalist and author Bud Collins said.

6. Ivan not so terrible in N.Y.

Borg reached six straight Wimbledon finals. Federer made it to six straight U.S. Open finals, and the Swiss appeared in seven consecutive Wimbledon finals until he was ousted last summer by Tomas Berdych.

Lendl, credited with taking fitness to new heights, trumps them all by landing in eight straight U.S. Open finals from 1982 to '89. He lived in Connecticut, so he was almost playing at home.

Far from being a Rafa-Roger-like duopoly, Lendl faced five players in those eight finals: Connors, John McEnroe, Miloslav Mecir, Mats Wilander and Boris Becker.

7. The Rocket's four straight

In 1969, three of the four majors were played on grass -- Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open -- so there are those who minimize Rod Laver's accomplishment of claiming all four in a calendar year.

But no matter the homogeneous surface or level of his foes, Laver's feat shouldn't be diminished. No men's player has replicated "the" Grand Slam since.

Laver defeated fellow Aussie Tony Roche in a rain-delayed final at the U.S. Open, rallying from a set down, to complete the job.

"There's always pressure when you are playing for something over nine months," Laver was quoted as saying in Randy Walker's book, "On This Day in Tennis History."

8. How Swede for Bjorn

Upsets in Davis Cup competition are more commonplace than those on the regular tour, given what's at stake and the highly charged atmosphere.

Borg ended his career in the competition, though, by winning 33 straight encounters, over the varied cast of Lendl, Ilie Nastase, Arthur Ashe, Vitas Gerulaitis, Manuel Orantes, Jose Higueras, Jan Kodes, Adriano Panatta and Alex Metreveli.

"If we beat Borg, that will just be icing on the cake," former U.S. Davis Cup captain Tony Trabert said before a series in Sweden in 1978. "Anybody we have is automatically the underdog against him."

The U.S. won the series -- but Ashe and Gerulaitis lost to the "Iceman" in singles.

9. Mac's 1984 start

Djokovic's loss against Federer on Friday ended his streak to start a season at 41. McEnroe captured 42 matches in succession in 1984.

"Now there is more competition, more athleticism, deeper fields and more depth in the sport, so his record is even more impressive than mine," McEnroe said at this year's French Open. Well, his almost record.

Few would argue with that assessment, yet McEnroe only conceded five sets and played a full doubles schedule with Peter Fleming.

The streak stopped in dramatic fashion, as McEnroe wasn't able to maintain a two-set lead against Lendl in the French Open final.

10. Guillermo's 46

Vilas won 46 matches in a row in 1977, an Open era men's record. And it might have been more had it not been for charismatic, contentious Nastase.

Here's how Collins described Vilas' sojourn: "His streak, begun after Wimbledon, was stopped at Aix-en-Provence [France] in September by Ilie Nastase, who used the controversial 'spaghetti' rackets that produced weird strokes and bounces. Vilas quit in disgust; such rackets were shortly banned."

Detractors will point out that clay was the lone surface Vilas played on.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.

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