Just about all the way in which till the final match, Novak Djokovic was set to realize the Calendar Slam, which has not been gained since 1988 (when Steffi Graf accomplished a Golden Slam). The murmurs, the drama, the build-up that started submit Wimbledon about him successful the Golden Slam—after which the Calendar Slam after his exit on the Olympics—is one thing tennis has not skilled in so a few years. It’s one of the crucial astonishing issues on the market, as a result of it’s so uncommon, males or girls. Serena Williams was shut and Novak himself has been shut earlier than, however not as shut as this.
Whenever you watch Novak these days, you anticipate him to be dialed in, to play as near perfection as it will probably get. Take among the previous champions: Roger Federer was by no means the all-out favorite on clay though he was among the finest. Return additional to the period of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and even these guys had a couple of dangerous matches a 12 months. Novak doesn’t appear to be he’s going to lose a match, and on all surfaces. The type of aura that he carried in 2021 is, for me, one thing that tennis has by no means seen earlier than. Certain, Roger had it, however another way.
I used to be speaking to some of the present professionals on the Tour, and the factor that makes Novak so good in comparison with among the different greats is his potential to harm you from any a part of the court docket. You possibly can go on the market and hit an important first serve, and he can in all probability get it again to a place the place he can both damage you or damage you within the subsequent shot. A number of the different guys had apparent patterns. With Novak, you possibly can’t actually assault sure components of the court docket due to his agility, flexibility and skill to hit in an open stance sliding on each side and but keep in stability. It’s additionally futile to attend and defend, as a result of, effectively, you merely can’t out-rally him and he additionally has the power to assault from each side. After which because the man grows in confidence, the choices open up, like his drop pictures on the backhand aspect the place the texture is superb. Considered one of his most underrated weapons is his serve. All these items make it potential for him to play big-time tennis when it issues most, and persistently.
I performed him as soon as on the Tour in 2013 in Miami. Even again then, he was actually good. I felt like round that point, although, he did have one or two losses that have been very not like what you see at present. The narrative has shifted to a stage now the place if Novak is feeling it, you’re not going to win. That’s one of the crucial devastating emotions as a tennis participant.
Nonetheless, I bear in mind Novak from a little bit bit additional again. That is 2009, a time after I was coaching with Andy Roddick. His head-to-head is 5-4 in opposition to Novak, and he had an excellent report in opposition to him early in his profession. This was a interval Novak had these respiration points, would retire typically and get drained fairly a bit taking part in five-setters. I bear in mind Andy mentioning these items after we have been coaching collectively. They confronted one another on a extremely, actually scorching day within the Australian Open quarter-finals. I recollect Andy being joyful that they have been taking part in throughout the day, as a result of I knew the type of coaching classes that we had within the 2009 pre-season. Because the match wore on, it progressively drifted in direction of being a bodily battle. Andy misplaced the primary set in a tie-breaker, gained the subsequent two 6-4, 6-2, after which Novak known as a coach. Quickly sufficient, he retired.
At the moment, he was 21. What’s loopy is that at 34, the man is a lot fitter. That tells you in regards to the stage of dedication he has in direction of his occupation. Folks used to make enjoyable of his gluten-free weight-reduction plan and also you’d learn all kinds of loopy issues he does together with his sleeping patterns and what he’s attempting to do with oxygen and stuff like that. However as a participant and as a peer—I do know the Serbian guys effectively and I’ve spent a while with Novak as effectively—I do know he leaves no stone unturned in looking for each little edge. If that signifies that he feels he’s going to get higher by having this weight-reduction plan, by sleeping presently, by having these folks round him, by doing these workout routines and drills, he’s going to do it. And the proof lies within the pudding, actually.
All through his profession, he has had a number of facets of his sport that individuals would have thought of a weak spot. What stands out probably the most about Novak is his potential to show his weak spot into power. Rewind a decade, and the three issues that you may say are potential weaknesses of Novak have been his serve, health and his psychological potential to stick with it and never lose focus. For the complete tennis world, it’s simple to see now that every of these items is his power. Not simply power; for me, his psychological toughness is without doubt one of the biggest weapons that our sport has ever seen.
Issues just like the Sampras serve, the Agassi return, the Rafa Nadal forehand and struggle, the Roger aptitude are very simple to note. With Novak, now we have seen him evolve over time into a greater participant and a good higher participant and nonetheless proceed to enhance. From the skin it could appear to be a easy journey, however I’m positive the man has gone from hell and again a couple of instances, most not too long ago in 2017 with the elbow harm.
The type of report that he began off with in opposition to Rafa and Roger—particularly within the large matches—was not the most effective. Now, he has dominant numbers over each. Thoughts you, it’s in all probability not simple being the least preferred amongst the largest world stars within the sport. I’m not saying that he’s not preferred, however amongst Rafa and Roger and Novak, he’s in all probability the least preferred. However he has accepted it, overcome it, and turned it right into a optimistic. To have that potential may be very inspiring. You possibly can examine it in philosophy books and discuss to folks about it, however all you’ll want to do is see Novak.
Is there any restrict to the Djokovic juggernaut? I don’t need to be silly and say that he’s going to cease any time quickly. Should you had requested me 10 years in the past, I wouldn’t have thought that he’s going to be fitter at 34 than at 24. From his interviews and realizing the person a little bit bit myself, I really feel like in his thoughts it appears clear that he’s on the market for the historical past books. Proper now, he’s caught at 20 Grand Slams with Rafa and Roger. I consider when it’s all stated and executed, he can have probably the most Grand Slams and can in all probability be thought of the best participant to have ever performed the sport. I feel that’s his purpose. And he’s effectively on his option to reaching it.
Somdev Devvarman, Novak Djokovic’s up to date, is India’s former No. 1 tennis participant. He spoke with Rutvick Mehta.