Novak Djokovic has spent the better part of 2011 stealing the men's tennis headlines, but in recent weeks, his Serbian countryman Janko Tipsarevic has been trying to prove that he's not exactly chopped liver on the lucrative ATP circuit.
The 2001 Australian Open junior champion Tipsarevic has been playing professionally since 2002, but he had to wait until this year (nine years to be exact) to finally break through for his first-ever ATP title, which came four weeks ago in Kuala Lumpur.
"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride" can no longer be said of "Tipsy," who had gone winless in his first four career finals prior to last month.
The Belgrade native had been considered by many to be the best player on tour without a title. But he finally scratched a championship off his to-do list in Malaysia and then promptly captured yet another title last weekend in Moscow, where be beat good friend Viktor Troicki in the first-ever all-Serbian final...ATP or otherwise.
"This year Serbian tennis has been amazing and having an all-Serbian final just proves that Serbia as a nation has great tennis players," Tipsarevic said. "We don't just have (Novak) Djokovic, we also have other good players."
Tipsarevic topped his fellow Davis Cup teammate Troicki in straight sets in Moscow, where Troicki had been the reigning champion.
With the big win in Moscow, Tipsarevic improved to a solid 48-22 for the year and is a quality 9-3 since losing to the amazing Djokovic in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, which just so happened to mark the 27-year-old Tipsarevic's first-ever foray into a major quarter.
In addition to lacking that elusive first-ever title (before last month), Tipsarevic had also always failed to make noise at the Grand Slams (again, before last month).
His recent success now has him all the way up to a career-high No. 13 in the world, and you have to figure that he has designs on a top-10 spot in the very near future.
Note: Tipsarevic has played Davis Cup tennis every year since 2000, for the former Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Serbia. He was a hero last year by steering the Serbs into their historic first-ever Davis Cup final when he defeated Czech Radek Stepanek in straight sets to complete a 1-2 come-from- behind semifinal victory for his country.
The amiable Tipsarevic, who is also considered to be one of the funniest guys on the tour, has always been a tough customer on court and has plenty of pop for an ATP-er under the six-foot mark. So his climb up the charts should come as no surprise.
Tipsarevic has already appeared in no less than seven semifinals in 2011. He's quietly reached four finals this year (2-2), his best one ever on the circuit. And the 5-foot-11 Serb has two wins this season against current world No. 7 Tomas Berdych, including a victory over the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up in the third round at the U.S. Open, as a pair of highlights for his latest campaign.
Tipsy also owns an impressive 11 career victories against top-10 competition and has beaten four different former world No. 1s during his career (Carlos Moya, Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt, and Juan Carlos Ferrero).
Unfortunately for Janko, his most-memorable match to date wound up resulting in a loss, when he gave way to the great Roger Federer in a dramatic five- setter, which included an 18-game final stanza, in the third round at the 2008 Australian Open.
Obviously there was no shame in that setback.
Note: In his free time, Tipsarevic plays music as a DJ.
I'm not writing this piece to say that Tipsarevic is "ALL that," but it has become increasingly obvious that he now belongs in the world's top 20.
And if everything breaks right, he could wind up in the top 10 and make some more noise at the majors next year.
Tipsarevic is seeded second at this week's indoor event in St. Petersburg, Russia. Can he capture a pair of back-to-back Russian events in successive weeks? The top seed at the tournament, Gilles Simon, and third seed, Alexandr Dolgopolov, were already gone from the draw at the time of this particular article.