Novak Djokovic has won 20 matches in a row to start 2011. James Blake has won 20 matches in total since November, 2009. Djokovic is hitting his prime. Blake is nearing the end.
Their match on Sunday night in Key Biscayne ended exactly as you would have expected then; with the world's hottest player crushing the over-matched American, 6-2, 6-0 in their third-round match at the Sony Ericsson Open.
Djokovic is in total control of his game right now. He's locked in. In his past eight matches, the world No. 2 has won 12 of his 16 sets by a score of 6-0, 6-1 or 6-2. He's not content to take it easy on his opponent's serve and then turn it on late in the set to get a break (like Pete Sampras used to do), he's going full-throttle from the opening game and not letting up until the match is over. On Sunday night, that took all of 52 minutes.
On the other hand, Blake is painful to watch. His ranking has plummeted -- from No. 10 in January, 2009 to No. 44 one year later to No. 173 today. Except for a four-month dip in 2005 brought on by his back injury, Blake hadn't been that low since early 2001. Watching him get run around the court by Djokovic, you'd never have thought you were watching a former top-10 player.
It's only the third time in 30 years that a player has started the season with a longer winning streak. In 1984, John McEnroe went 39-0 to start the year. Two years later, Ivan Lendl began 1986 with a 25-0 mark.
Up next for Djokovic is his friend and fellow Serbian Viktor Troicki. In his last eight matches against Troicki, Djokovic is a perfect 8-0. They played two weeks ago at Indian Wells, with Djokovic winning 6-0, 6-1. Expect the the Nole train to continue barreling down the track.