The Rundown

The greatest seasons in sports history

The Rundown

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Novak Djokovic's US Open final victory against Rafael Nadal
cemented his place as the world's top tennis player and capped off one of the
most remarkable years in sports history.

The Serbian's win over
Nadal - his sixth this year in finals against the Spaniard - took his season
match record to 64 wins and only two defeats. Those losses were to Roger
Federer in the French Open semis, and to Andy Murray in Cincinnati, a match in
which he retired hurt.

Otherwise, it has been
wall-to-wall success, including three Grand Slams,  10 titles and over $10 million in prize
money. And with the season-ending ATP Tour World Finals to follow, it could get
even better.

But how does he stack up
against some other magical sporting seasons?

Arsenal -
The Invincibles (2003-2004)

It seems an awfully long
time ago that Arsenal were an unstoppable winning machine, but only seven years
ago that the Gunners became the first side in the modern era to go an entire
season unbeaten in the Premier League. In the 2003-4 season the Highbury side
won 26 and drew 12 of their 38 league games, romping to the title by 11 points
with star striker Thierry Henry scoring 30 goals. When they finally lost on
October 25, 2004 - a 2-0 defeat at Manchester United - it brought to an end a
streak of 49 league games without defeat, still an English top-flight record

Miami Dolphins - The Perfect Season (1972)

The Miami Dolphins,
beaten in the 1971 Super Bowl by Dallas, regrouped to put together a 16-game
unbeaten run in 1972 and take the title - the first and only time in the
history of the sport that a team has managed a perfect season. Quarterback Bob
Griese said: "If another team is good enough to go undefeated, more power
to them." The New England Patriots, who went through the 2007-8 regular
season undefeated, don't need telling. Their 18-0 streak that season came to an
abrupt end in the Super Bowl, losing to the New York Giants in a huge upset.

Ben Hogan - The Hogan Slam (1953)

The great Ben Hogan didn't travel much after a near-fatal car
accident in 1949, but four years later he finally decided to come over to
compete in The Open for the first time. 27,000 people watched as the most
famous name in the game at the time win the tournament at Carnoustie by four
shots. That was perhaps the highlight of an amazing season.  Hogan only
entered six events that year and won five of them, including the first three
Majors. He may very well have won the Grand Slam that year too - but he was
unable to enter the US PGA Championship as it overlapped with the Open. It was
also an event he tended to ignore, as the US PGA required several days of 36
holes per day competition, and after his 1949 auto accident, Hogan struggled to
manage more than 18 holes a day. The fact that he was carrying all those
injuries makes his achievements all the more remarkable and puts it just ahead
of Tiger Woods' great  2000 season on our list.

Steffi Graf - The Golden Slam (1988)

To win a Grand Slam is a rare enough feat in tennis but
Steffi Graf went one better in 1988 when she added Olympic gold to the four
Majors to complete a "Golden Slam" which has never been achieved by
any other male or female player. Graf was dominant all year: she won the
Australian Open without losing a set; the French Open by beating Natasha Zvereva 6-0 6-0 in a
32-minute final (the first double bagel in a Grand Slam final since 1911);
Wimbledon by coming from 7-5 2-0 down to beat Martina Navratilova
5-7 6-2 6-1; before then beating Gabriela Sabatini in both the US Open
and Olympic finals. She ended up losing only three matches all season.

Stephen Roche - The Triple Crown (1987)

Irish cyclist Stephen Roche produced a simply astonishing
season in 1987 when he won the "Triple Crown" of Giro d'Italia, Tour
de France and World Championship to secure arguably the three most famous
jerseys in the sport (pink, yellow and rainbow). His Tour de France victory
over Pedro Delgado will be remembered by most but it was the other two that
really came against the odds. At the Giro he basically had the help of only one
team-mate (his domestique Eddy Schepers)
because the rest of his Carrera team were annoyed that he took the pink jersey
off team-leader Roberto Visentini,
while at the World Championship he was riding for Irish team-mate Sean Kelly,
but ended attacking himself from a leading group he was trying to spoil, when the
peloton containing Kelly could not reel in the leaders.

Michael Schumacher - 12 wins in 13 races (2004)

Michael Schumacher had many dominant seasons but none more
so than in 2004 when he and his Ferrari team romped home to Drivers
Championship title. Schumacher amazingly managed to win 12 of the first 13
races but he actually secured the title with a second place finish in race
number 14 in Belgium. He won one more race before the end of the season - the
Japanese GP - to make it 13 victories from the season - still a record to this
day. Schumacher's car was obviously superb, but he also managed to win five
races when not starting from pole position to prove that he was a level above
the rest.

England rugby team - More than just World Cup winners
(2003)

Who can every forget Johnny Wilkinson's amazing drop goal to
win the rugby World Cup in 2003? However, what is oft forgotten is everything
else the English rugby team achieved in 2003. Their World Cup campaign was
flawless, as after topping a group that contained South Africa, they then went
on to beat Wales and France before disposing of Australia in the final.
However, they also won the Grand Slam in the Six Nations that summer, and
one-off summer Test matches in both New Zealand and Australia. Their only
defeat during the year was a 17-16 World Cup defeat to France in Marseilles, a
result that they avenged with 45-14 hammering at Twickenham just a week later.

Emil Zatopek - Marathon Man (1952)

The 1952 Olympics in Helsinki witnessed what has to be the
greatest individual achievement in athletics history when Czech long-distance
legend Emil Zatopek managed to win the 5000m, 10000m and marathon gold at the
same Games. The more you learn about the triple though the more you are amazed
at Zatopek's achievement. He won the marathon gold after his successes in the
other two races but only after deciding to run at the last minute...oh and it
also just so happened to be the first marathon he EVER ran in his life. He won
all three races in an Olympic record time and if you thought he just turned it
on at the Olympics, Zatopek also went on to break 25km and 30km world records
that season too.

Warwickshire - The Lara-led treble (1994)

Wisden Cricketer's Almanack is not a
publication prone to hyperbole, so when they describe Warwickshire's treble as "the
most remarkable season by
any side in the history of county cricket"
you know it was something special. They scooped the County Championship, Sunday
League and Benson and Hedges Cup, but missed out a staggering quadruple when
they lost the NatWest Trophy final. The star attraction was Brian Lara - the West
Indies legend at the height of his powers, who scored over 2,000 County
Championship runs, including a 501 not out that is still a world record in
first-class cricket. Behind his runs was a well-drilled team coached by Bob Woolmer
and captained by Dermot Reeve - with the unsung heroes including Kiwi batsman Roger
Twose and fast bowler Tim Munton.

Chicago Bulls - Jordan at the height of his powers
(1995-1996)

Of Michael
Jordan's six NBA Championship-winning teams, this vintage is considered the
best of all. In his first full season after returning from a sabbatical in
minor league baseball, Jordan was unstoppable, scooping the fourth of his five
MVP awards and leading the team to a 72-10 regular season record - the best of
all-time. The run included an unbeaten January in which they won all 14 games.
The Bulls breezed through the play-offs with just three more defeats and Jordan
averaging over 30 points per game. Ably assisted by household names including
Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc, and coached by the legendary Phil
Jackson, the Bulls' dominance in 1995-96 may never be repeated.

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