History Still Calling for Novak Djokovic...Just About
Ask any tennis fan about tennis in 2011 and they will tell you that last year was the season of Novak Djokovic’s life. He broke record after record and his 43-match win streak, coupled with three Grand Slam tournament wins and a further five Masters Series 1000 titles saw his ascendance right to the summit of the men’s game; so you would be forgiven for assuming that this year, he would be as dominant as he was last year.
He started the season just as strongly as he’d started last year with the successful defence of his Australian Open title – the third of his career – beating good friend and fierce rival Rafael Nadal in the final. Many believed that this would be the start of another incredible run, that he would once again be breaking the records. But it was not to be. Djokovic has only managed to retain one of his seven titles from the first half of last season and the French Open (currently in progress) has caused some problems.
The French Open is notoriously Rafael Nadal’s tournament. A record-equalling six time champion, the aptly named “King of Clay” is always the red-hot favourite for any clay court title, regardless of who stands opposing him. He has moved flawlessly through the tournament and produced one of the most dominant French Open performances ever seen with his 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 annihilation of very talented clay courter, Juan Monaco. Djokovic’s story, on the other hand, has taken a different route.
Djokovic is bidding to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1963 to win four consecutive majors, but it seemed like the pressure was really getting to him in this tournament.
After easing through the first three rounds, signs of the huge pressure on Djokovic’s shoulders showed as he ran into a stumbling block in the form of Italian Andreas Seppi. The 28 year-old came into the tournament at a career high ranking of 25 and has played some of the most inspired tennis of his life; neutralising one of the best – if not the best – two handed backhands in the game, dominating from the back of the court and unexpectedly taking a two set lead against the best player in the world.
But Djokovic proved that he was a deserving world number one. Showing great resilience, Djokovic stormed back to take the next three sets and eventually the match in five. It wasn’t his prettiest performance, having hit a whopping 77 unforced errors, but the important fact was that he came through.
His next opponent was an even tougher test. Jo Wilfried Tsonga, a Frenchman with home advantage, who is currently ranked at number 5 in the world. Beating him was a hard ask for anyone. Tsonga was supreme, hammering forehand after forehand and taking a two sets-to-one lead against Djokovic. Much like the game against Seppi, Djokovic was struggling. He struggled to contain Tsonga’s power but unlike Seppi, Tsonga was still dominating in set four and Novak found himself having to save four match points. But save them he did.
As strong as the Frenchman was, the world number one was even stronger. His willpower, his fighting spirit to ride out the Tsonga storm is the mark of a true champion. Djokovic took the fifth set 6-1 and booked himself a meeting the legend Roger Federer in the semi-finals.
But it is not this fact that is important. The most amazing aspect of these matches, even more so that then tale of the underdog getting onto the brink of victory against the world’s very best, is Djokovic’s mental strength. His confidence and self-belief is inspirational to anybody learning the trade. The game is about more than just hitting a ball, it’s about self-image. And how wonderfully Novak must see himself.
It takes a strong man to take on the challenge of coming back from behind, to win from seemingly losing positions. But Novak Djokovic is a champion. His mentality is a winning one. He’ll never back away from a challenge, it’s no longer written in his DNA. The events of 2011 have given him a confidence that players can only gain from winning, from getting to the top of the game.
The final of the French Open is on Sunday, and many have decided that Rafael Nadal will be there. As for Djokovic-Federer, it’s harder to predict. The idea of a Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal final is the most appealing situation to a lot of people, and it may seem the likeliest. Novak DJokovic may not be everyone’s favourite player; he may not be as popular as Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer but he has the heart of a champion and you can be sure of one fact: Novak Djokovic can never be written off.
May 21st, 2013 at 12:32am
May 7th, 2013 at 08:36pm
February 1st, 2013 at 04:38pm
January 24th, 2013 at 07:33pm
December 10th, 2012 at 06:41am