It’s often said that men’s tennis is deeper and more competitive than it has ever been. And it’s true; the sport has never been played at a higher level. But over the last five years, it hasn’t been the excellence of the ATP as a whole that’s been most impressive. It has been the dominance of the top players despite that depth. Since 2006, we’ve seen three players—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic—put together seasons that rank among the most gloriously accomplished of the Open era.

Now that the third and perhaps finest of those seasons, Djokovic’s remarkable 2011, is complete, it seems like a good time to look back at where it—as well as Federer’s and Nadal’s best years—fits among the greatest single seasons of the Open era. There’s no right answer, and that’s what makes this parlor game so much fun. Here we present our countdown of the 10 best men’s seasons since the Open era began in 1968.

No. 4: John McEnroe, 1984

It took John McEnroe a couple of years to recover from the retirement of his original rival, Björn Borg—for a while, nothing else could match the excitement of their battles. But when Mac got his head straight, his life and game in order, and a new, midsize graphite racquet in his hand, he roared back with a record-setting vengeance. He won the first 42 matches he played in ’84; in the 43rd, the French Open final against Ivan Lendl, he was up two sets to love, and was up a break in the fourth set, before suffering the most painful defeat of his career. But McEnroe was simply too good that year to be brought down by one loss, even that loss. He went on to level Jimmy Connors in the Wimbledon final, in what many considered the finest performance ever seen on a tennis court, and to avenge his defeat to Lendl by straight-setting him in the U.S. Open final. Those wins aside, what sets McEnroe’s 1984 apart was his relentless consistency. His 82-3 (a 96.5 winning percentage) mark still stands as the best single-season men’s record of the Open era.

Check each day for the next season on the list.

Originally published in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of TENNIS.