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Top Achievements Of 2012 - Nos. 5-3

Top Achievements

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal won a record-breaking seventh Roland Garros trophy.

Today continues to count down the Top 10 achievements of 2012. In some instances, the achievements are based solely on performances this year, while others reflect a body of work over several seasons that culminated in a significant milestone in 2012. Be sure to join the discussion about our list by leaving your feedback in the Facebook commenting tool at the bottom of the page. 

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5. Nadal Breaks Borg’s Roland Garros Titles Record
Entering Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal was once again the clear-cut favourite to win the title. With an extremely successful clay-court season that saw him lift trophies in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, all eyes were on the Spaniard in Paris as he aimed to put himself into the record books.

Nadal advanced to the final with relative ease, winning all 18 sets he played and notching commanding victories against Juan Monaco, Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer. The last man standing in his way was Novak Djokovic, who was looking to cement his own piece of history.

The final was played over two days, with Nadal leading two sets to one when play resumed in a rare Monday finish. While Djokovic had secured his first set in 11 attempts against Nadal and was up a break in the fourth set, the two-time defending champion immediately broke back and then clinched the match when Djokovic double-faulted on championship point. In capturing his seventh title, Nadal broke a tie with Bjorn Borg for the most trophies in tournament history.

"For me it is a real honour. Borg is one of the greatest in history, one of the most charismatic players in history," Nadal said in a post-match interview with John McEnroe. "The comparison with the great Bjorn is fantastic. He's always been very nice to me, so I have to say thanks.

“The important thing is to win Roland Garros even if it's the first, second, third, or seventh [time]. That's what makes me very happy. [I'm] very happy [with] the way that I played today, because I played much more aggressive.”

4. Back-To-Back No. 1 Finishes For Djokovic
DjokovicAfter an unbelievable 2011 season, which saw Novak Djokovic win three major titles, a record five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns, and become World No. 1, it was hard to imagine how the Serbian would follow up his efforts in 2012.

While he didn’t bring home as many trophies, Djokovic put together a remarkably consistent season in 2012, despite heavy competition gunning for him. Early season highlights included his third title at the Australian Open, where he edged Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal in consecutive blockbuster thrillers, a successful title defence in Miami and reaching his first final at Roland Garros.

After falling in the semi-finals to Roger Federer at Wimbledon, Djokovic relinquished World No. 1 to the Swiss, but the 25 year old didn’t let it deflate him. He advanced to five consecutive finals, retaining his Rogers Cup title in Toronto, finishing runner-up in Cincinnati and the US Open, defending his crown in Beijing and topping Murray in a pulsating final to triumph in Shanghai.

His tear of results enabled him to reclaim the top spot from Federer and guarantee the year-end South African Airways ATP No. 1 Ranking for the second year in a row. Djokovic capped off his season in style by winning the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. He became the first player to finish as the year-end No. 1 in back-to-back seasons since Federer achieved the feat four straight times from 2004-2007.

“It's been a very long year, a very long two years, but a very successful two years,” says Djokovic. “I didn't really know how I will follow up after an incredible 2011, but I believed that I have to use the time where I'm playing the best tennis of my life and I'm winning Grand Slams and finally realise what I need to do to win the major tournaments.”

3. Djokovic & Nadal Contest Four Straight Major Finals
Laver, Nadal, DjokovicNever before had the same two players squared off in four straight Grand Slam finals, until Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal came along.

Beginning at Wimbledon in 2011, Djokovic and Nadal began a run of four consecutive major tournaments with the same final match-up, unprecedented in men’s tennis. Djokovic won both Wimbledon and the US Open in 2011 in a year where he usurped Nadal as World No. 1 and crafted one of the most memorable seasons in history.

The rivalry carried through to 2012 and once again, the two found themselves trading blow for blow, this time with the Australian Open title on the line. In the longest Grand Slam final in history and perhaps the greatest, Djokovic outlasted Nadal in five hours and 53 minutes at 1:37 a.m. Monday morning in Melbourne to defeat the Spaniard in a final for the seventh straight time.

At Roland Garros, the stakes were higher than ever for the Top 2-ranked players. Djokovic had the opportunity to become the first man in 43 years to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously, while Nadal was seeking to break the record for most tournament titles with seven. 

Both did their jobs to get through to the final, but took different roads. Nadal sailed through without dropping a set to reach his fifth straight major final, but Djokovic was nearly eliminated twice, rallying past Andreas Seppi and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in impressive comeback wins before beating Roger Federer in the semi-finals to move through to his fourth consecutive Grand Slam title match.

With the winner set to make history, Nadal solved the Djokovic Grand Slam riddle, overcoming his rival in a final spanning two days. Nadal ended a three-match losing streak to the Serb in major finals and denied Djokovic’s chance to win a ‘Nole Slam.’

“I had lost three Grand Slam finals in a row to him,” Nadal said. “That's why it was important for me to win, and this is why I was a bit more nervous and there were a lot of emotions.”

Read: Top 10 Achievements of 2012: Nos. 10-6

Coming Thursday: The Top 2 Achievements.

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