by Kevin Craig
Juan Martin del Potro continued his impressive run at Wimbledon on Friday, knocking out the No. 4 seed and two-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-3, to enter the third round.
“I feel alive,” said del Potro after his impressive win.
Del Potro, the former world No. 4 and 2009 US Open champion, used a protected ranking to get into the main draw due to the various wrist injuries and procedures he has dealt with over the past few years.
Three separate left wrist operations left the Argentine out of the major tournaments for the past two years, but he has returned with a vengeance and looks like he is already reclaiming that status as a perennial threat to win major titles.
“It’s an amazing sensation for me. I was so happy on court,” said del Potro, who will take on the No. 32 seed Lucas Pouille of France in the third round.
Del Potro, currently ranked No. 165, got off to a shaky start, allowing Wawrinka to break in just his second service game of the match for a 3-1 lead. The first set was straightforward from there as both players looked to gain confidence throughout, especially del Potro, who was able to have a look at two break points when Wawrinka served for the set, but could not capitalize on them.
The 2009 US Open champion carried that momentum over into the second set, breaking Wawrinka at the same stage that the Suisse broke him in the first set, in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead. Wawrinka pressured del Potro late in the set, but the Argentine held his nerve to level the match at one-set all.
The third set saw an early exchange of breaks as del Potro broke first for a 2-1 lead but fell into a 0-40 hole in his next service game and was unable to battle back, getting broken at 15. Neither player had any chances on return as the set needed a tiebreak to be decided. From 2-2, del Potro reeled off four points in a row for a 6-2 lead and didn’t look back, putting himself just one win away from his biggest win since October of 2013 when he was ranked No. 5 and beat then No. 1 Rafael Nadal in Shanghai.
Each player had their chances in the fourth set, but del Potro was the one capitalizing on big points. After forcing Wawrinka to deuce in two of his first three service games of the set, del Potro earned a break point late and converted it to take a 5-3 lead. There were no issues for the Argentine in serving out the match as he held to 15 for the win.
“I’m enjoying tennis again. I don’t know if I can be in the top positions again, but if not, I will be happy just to be playing tennis again,” said an emotional del Potro.
Looking forward to his third round encounter with Pouille, del Potro said “I don’t know if I will be tired or not because I just finished my biggest match after my comeback, but I will try to be ready for that challenge.”
With the top two seeded players, Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem, out of their section of the draw, Pouille and del Potro will be looking to continue their journeys at Wimbledon and take advantage of an opened up portion of the draw.
by Kevin Craig
Andy Murray dethroned the defending French Open champion Stan Wawrinka on Friday with a 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 win.
Murray, who became the first player from Great Britain to reach the French Open in 79 years after Bunny Austin did so in 1937, played an almost perfect match as he reached his first French Open final and his 10th major final overall.
“I played one of my best matches here today,” said Murray in his post-match interview on court.
The No. 2 seed Murray, who had to battle from a two sets to love deficit in the first round against Radek Stepanek and a two sets to one deficit to a French wild card in the second round, has been able to gain confidence throughout his run to the final and return to the form that saw him win the title in Rome just before the French Open began.
That form from Murray was at peak levels on Friday against a player who reached his own peak levels of form in the French Open final in 2015 as Wawrinka put on a masterclass performance to snatch the title and the calendar grand slam from Novak Djokovic last year.
When Wawrinka, who was on a 12-match win streak at Roland Garros, held at love and forced Murray to take 11 minutes to hold his first service game, it looked like things may very well be in the favor of the Suisse in the early stages. This may not have been surprising at all to fans of Wawrinka as he had won his last three matches against Murray and had never lost a set to him on clay.
That feeling quickly changed though as Murray was able to save a break point before breaking Wawrinka in the next game, eventually leading 3-1.
The rest of the set was pretty straight forward until Murray served to close out the set as he was forced to fend off three break points before taking the one set lead.
It was all Murray in the second set as he broke Wawrinka at love for a 2-1 lead before breaking again two games later, eventually closing out the set 6-2, losing just three points on serve in the set that lasted only 27 minutes.
Murray continued to roll on serve in the third set, holding at love in his first three service games. The problem for the Brit was he was unable to convert the one break point he saw in the set, and Wawrinka was able to take advantage of the first poor service game Murray played since the beginning of the match, fighting back from 40-15 and winning four points in a row to break and win the set.
Wawrinka stealing the third set just delayed the inevitable as Murray’s roll went right over that minor speed bump as he was able to break in the first game of the fourth set. Murray had zero trouble on serve in the fourth set, losing just four points in four games, including a hold at love to close out the match and clinch his spot in the final.
“Stan has been unbelievable the last two years. I’ve played one of my best matches today…I’m just really proud. I never expected to reach the final here…Hopefully I can put up a good match in the final,” said Murray.
Murray’s impressive fitness level and ability to hit effective groundstrokes from anywhere on the court were on full display, as he looks like he can pose a very dangerous threat to Djokovic in this year’s final.
by Kevin Craig
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka survived a major scare on Monday at the French Open as he withstood a tremendous effort from Lukas Rosol and won in five sets, 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Rosol, the No. 59 player in the world from the Czech Republic, got off to a quick start in the first set as he broke Wawrinka for a 3-2 lead, but Wawrinka continued to battle despite going down a break as he took Rosol to deuce in two of his last three service games. The Czech stood strong and was able to close out the set, though, as he reminded tennis fans around the world that he is able to take out major champions, bringing back memories of his upset win over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012.
Rosol continued playing well early in the second set as his go-for-broke game plan was working out, but the two-time grand slam champion found something that clicked in the latter stages of the set and he forced Rosol into making a few more errors, earning himself two breaks and only losing two points in his last three service games to level the match at one set all.
After leveling the match, many would have thought Wawrinka would be able to cruise to victory, but Rosol did not go away and actually broke the No. 3 seed in his first service game of the third set. Just like in the first set, Rosol was able to keep his composure throughout and didn’t allow Wawrinka to earn a single break point as he regained a lead and was one set away from pulling off a major upset.
Despite dropping the third set, that is where Wawrinka believed the tides turned in his favor. “In the middle of the third set, I calmed down…I was trying to be really tough with him, and eventually that’s what made the difference,” said Wawrinka.
That difference was clearly felt in the fourth set as Wawrinka forced Rosol to play one bad service game at 3-4 that allowed Wawrinka to break at love and go on to serve out the set to force a decider.
Wawrinka was all business in the fifth set as he broke Rosol for a 2-1 lead and only lost six points on serve as he had no problems closing out the match and earning his spot in the second round, where he will take on Taro Daniel of Japan.
Wawrinka was in danger of becoming the first French Open men’s defending champion to lose in the first round, but he was able to fight off one of Rosol’s better performances of his career.
Another major champion in action on Monday did not have the same luck that Wawrinka did, as Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, lost in the first round to the No. 166 player in the world, Marco Trungelliti, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Trungelliti, a 26-year old from Argentina, got into the main draw after winning three qualifying matches, and earned his second win at a major after he also won a match at the Australian Open this year.
Cilic, the No. 10 seed in the event, went down a break early in the first set but appeared to work his way back to the match as he broke Trungelliti when the Argentine served for the first set. The lesser-experienced Trungelliti was surpringly able to keep his composure and saved three set points at 5-6 to force a tiebreak, which he was able to win 7-4 and stun Cilic.
Cilic went down a break early in the second set as he was broken in his first service game, but came back to break Trungelliti three times and looked like he had finally killed off the spirited upset bid from the Argentine.
That was far from the case, though, as Trungelliti continued to fight. Cilic went up a break late in the third set for a 4-2 lead, but was unable to consolidate as Trungelliti broke right back and ended up winning four games in a row to close out the set at 6-4, putting himself just one set away from what would be the biggest win of his career, by far.
Roles were reversed in the fourth set as Trungelliti looked like the major champion, breaking Cilic twice and not allowing the Croatian to see a single break point in the set, as not a single sign of nerves was shown. The Argentine closed out the four-set win emphatically with an ace, and booked a spot in the second round where he has a great opportunity to continue his run and make the third round, as he will take on Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.
Trungelliti, who has never won a title above the Futures level, increased his best win by ranking by 61 spots after beating the No. 11 player in the world in Cilic. His previous best win came over Leonardo Mayer when he was ranked No. 72 in the world.
by Kevin Craig
- Novak Djokovic earned his 700th career match win in Dubai, beating Jaziri in straight sets. He is now the third active player with 700 wins, behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
- The 28-point tiebreak in Dubai that was played between Stan Wawrinka and Marcos Baghdatis was the longest in an ATP final since Andy Roddick beat Mardy Fish in San Jose in 2004, also playing a 28-point tiebreak.
- Wawrinka’s title in Dubai extends his win streak in finals to nine after starting his career 4-9 in finals.
- There were four finals played last week that involved a player with a one-handed backhand and a player with a two-handed backhand. All four of the players with one-handed backhands prevailed, including Dominic Thiem over Bernard Tomic, Pablo Cuevas over Pablo Carreno Busta, Wawrinka over Baghdatis, and Carla Suarez Navarro over Jelena Ostapenko.
- Cuevas played seven left-handers in a row, including all five of his opponents that he beat en route to his title in Rio de Janeiro, becoming the first player to win a title playing only left-handers along the way. Cuevas played Facundo Bagnis twice, Thiago Monteiro twice, Federico Delbonis, Nadal, and Guido Pella.
- Nick Kyrgios held all 47 of his service games during his title run in Marseille before being broken in his first service game in Dubai.
- Baghdatis served up a bagel to Roberto Bautista Agut in Dubai. The last time he had won a set 6-0 was against Andy Murray at the French Open in 2010. Baghdatis has won four 6-0 sets against players in the Top 20, but only won two of the four matches that included bagels.
- Franko Skugor of Croatia won his first match on the ATP World Tour in six years in Dubai, beating Teymuraz Gabashvili in straight sets. His most recent win came in July of 2010 in Umag when he beat Filippo Volandri.
by Kevin Craig
Rafael Nadal is a man on a mission and he is taking no stops along the way. At the ATP World Tour Finals Wednesday, the Spaniard was able to easily dispatch the No. 2 ranked player in the world, Andy Murray. With many tennis fans around the world writing off Nadal and not expecting him to return to the top level of the game, he has been given extra motivation at the end of this year that he hopes will carry over into the 2016 season. For now, though, Nadal will be pleased with his current run of form and that he has advanced to the semifinal round of the World Tour Finals.
Nadal’s win over Murray came with a 6-4, 6-1 score line. The match started off very tight as Nadal and Murray exchanged breaks to begin the match, and went on to play six games in the first set that went at least six points, including one that lasted 11 points. Nadal was able to get a break in the 10th game of the set, though, to earn himself a one set advantage. It was no looking back from there as the 14-time grand slam champion didn’t have to face a break point in the second set and won two-thirds of all the points played. Nadal’s consistently high level of intensity was able to fluster the British star, as Murray struggled throughout the match with his serve, only making 43 percent of his first serves and winning less than half of his service points overall.
In the second singles match of the day, Stan Wawrinka was able to fight off a hot start from David Ferrer to win 7-5, 6-2. The first set looked like smooth sailing for David Ferrer as he went up an early break, but appeared to tighten up a bit in the latter stages, allowing the 2015 French Open champion to win five games in a row from being down 2-5. Wawrinka got off to a bit of a sloppy start, as he was unable to hit through Ferrer’s great defense, but as soon as the smallest glimpse of an opportunity opened up to the Suisse, he took advantage of it and turned the match around. Similarly to the Nadal-Murray match, it was smooth sailing in the second set as Wawrinka broke in the first game and grabbed another break a couple games later to boost his lead and cruise to the win. Ferrer’s struggles on serve continued over from his first match, something that he will hope to fix in his final match at the World Tour Finals before heading into 2016.
In the doubles, the team of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau were able to go to 2-0 in round robin play, setting themselves up in a great position heading into their final round robin match. Their win on Wednesday came over Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, 6-4, 7-6(3). Rojer and Tecau were able to get through the first set without much difficulty as they only lost three points on serve and didn’t have to face a break point. Needless to say, the second set was much more intense as the two teams exchanged breaks and ended up needing a tiebreaker to decide the set. The No. 2 team in the world were the better team on the day, though, as Rojer and Tecau were able to tough out the tiebreaker by a 7-3 score line.
The other doubles match saw Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut bounce back and give themselves a much better chance of advancing to the semifinal round by beating Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic, 5-7, 6-3, 10-8. The French duo were the steadier team throughout the match as they won at least 85 percent of their first serve points in every set, including going eight-for-eight in the super tiebreak.
Not only did Rafael Nadal clinch his spot in the semifinal round, he was also able to clinch the first place spot of the group. This means the second place spot will be decided by the match between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, which will surely be an exciting affair on Friday. As for the doubles, despite the loss on Wednesday, Matkowski and Zimonjic still see their semifinal hopes alive, as a win is needed over Dodig/Melo and Herbert/Mahut would have to lose to Rojer/Tecau in straights.
by Kevin Craig
Day two of the ATP World Tour Finals saw more of the same as day one, as the singles winners were able to win comfortably and the best match of the day came from the doubles event. Fans in the O2 Arena were able to witness everything from dominating performances to late match nerves, as the four of the eight best singles players and doubles teams began their journey towards winning the title.
The home favorite of the singles event, Andy Murray, took on David Ferrer in what was the most competitive match of the singles tournament so far. That isn’t saying much in itself, though, as Murray was able to dispatch the feisty Spaniard by a score of 6-4, 6-4. Ferrer struggled with his serve throughout the match, hitting eight double faults and only making 49 percent of his first serves. Murray was able to take advantage of this, having eight break points in the match and converting on three of them. The Brit was able to back up his service games as well, as he only dropped six points on his first serve. This was Murray’s fifth straight win over Ferrer.
The other Spaniard in the event was able to have much better fortune in his opening match as Rafael Nadal beat French Open champion Stan Wawrinka easily, 6-3, 6-2. After an entertaining first set, Wawrinka began to appear disinterested in the match after going down a break late in the first. This allowed Nadal to win half of his points on return throughout the match and earn himself 15 break points throughout the match. Wawrinka was able to save 11 of them, but the four that Nadal were able to win set him up to breeze through his first match in London. Nadal was able to turn around the recent run of form between these two, as Wawrinka had won three of their last four match-ups.
Likewise to day one of the tournament, the best match of the day came from the doubles event. On day two, it was the French Open champions Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo defeating the US Open champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, 3-6, 7-6(4), 10-7. The French pairing of Herbert/Mahut appeared to be well on their way to victory as they had a set and a break lead until the latter stages of the second set. When Herbert served for the match at 5-4, he double faulted on two match points in a row at 40-30 and on a deciding point to lose the break advantage. A team with the world number one doubles player will always take advantage of an opportunity like this, as Dodig/Melo took the momentum and were able to close out the match in a super tiebreak.
The other doubles match was much more straightforward as Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau breezed through their first match in just over an hour with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic. The veteran pairing of Matkowski/Zimonjic was unable to get it going as they only had one break point the entire match and struggled to barely win half of their own service points. The number two team in the world of Rojer/Tecau used the success in their service games to apply extra pressure on the return, earning themselves eight break points and four breaks throughout the match.
The wins of Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal saw the Big Four go 4-0 in their opening matches of the World Tour Finals, possibly setting themselves up for what would be a very interesting knockout round. Ferrer and Wawrinka can beat anyone they play on any given day, though, so this group is far from decided. The same is true for the doubles event as Herbert/Mahut and Matkowski/Zimonjic will be looking to avenge their losses in their last two round robin matches.
Stan Wawrinka is no stranger to the second week of the US Open, and the two will be reacquainted again this year after his 6–3, 7–6, 6–4 Saturday win over Ruben Bemelmans. Wawrinka advanced to the fourth round for the fourth straight year, and for the seventh time overall in 11 US Open appearances. His next foe is American Donald Young, who fought back from 0-2 to win in the fifth set for the second time in the tournament. “He’s a tough player,” Warinka says. “He’s improved a lot—especially his attitude on the court. He’s fighting way more, he’s always trying. He will try to get the crowd with him, so it’s going to be, for sure, a great match to play.”
Photo: Chris Nicholson, www.PhotographingTennis.com
The best players have dominated the French Open for years, but William Hill’s Lee Phelps is looking at the bigger odds to see if anyone is worth betting on for a shock.
The Slams are usually the realm of the favourites in tennis, but we saw Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic surprise the top order last year, so could the 2015 French Open go to a player a big price?
Rafael Nadal has dominated this tournament for a decade, with only Roger Federer winning the title in the last decade. In fact only two men outside the top four seeds have contested the final. Robin Soderling twice and in 2005 Mariano Puerto lost to Nadal when he won his first French Open trophy.
Let’s look at the men outside the top four in the betting though, just in case 2015 is a year we saw one from the pack upset the odds.
Federer has been a long time victim of Nadal’s at Roland Garros, but did win when Rafa was injured in 2009. The questions over his demise won’t go away, but to be fair neither will Fed.
A final appearance against Djokovic in Italy and his world ranking suggest that Federer will once again be a big player in Paris. He did pick up straight-sets wins against Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka too playing his best tennis on the dirt in quite some time.
He may not have the speed of his younger days, but the clay should benefit him. It’s just whether he can hold his own on the baseline.
Stan had a great 2014, but he’s finding it tougher going in 15 and his best at the French is a quarter final in 2013.
He has made people sit up and take notice by beating Nadal in Rome, but he is one of four to do that already this season including Fabio Fognini. That win was his first in 13 attempts against Rafa, but I still think it says more about the Spaniard.
Tennis odds makers know that the Spaniard is arguably the best players on the ATP circuit today never to have won a Grand Slam. Clay has historically been his best surface, and in 2013 he did all he could before facing Nadal in the tournament final – he did what everyone else has done and promptly lost.
I don’t see that famed fitness lasting out for another final appearance here. It quarter finals and out for Ferrer, but he will make life hard for one of the top seeds before saying Au Revoir.
Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
The two home hopes will be talked about as usual in Paris, but it’s hard to see them going all the way. Monfils best is the semi-final in 2008 and Tsonga went to the last four stage in 2013.
Despite the clamour among the media and hopeful Parisian fans, I don’t see either player having the game or the consistency to make it to the last four. Tsonga is on a 5 and 4 run on clay this season and his compatriot is 7 and 3.
In truth I don’t see any of these outsiders troubling the big guns. But if I was taking one to creep into the final with my tennis picks it would be Roger Federer, just because of his pedigree and with a fortuitous draw he could find some out-of-form and less than fresh players. My pick for the final is Novak Djokovic versus Kei Nishikori, with Djokovic (-125 favorite on the French Open odds board) winning.
Roland Garros Roundup takes you through the Slam’s hot stories of the day, both on and off the court.
Shot of the Day: Fans who couldn’t make it out to Roland Garros still got their taste of tennis in front of the Hôtel de Ville in the center of Paris, where participants could try out the red clay or catch the action on the big screen.
Mikhail Youzhny loses it: Many tennis fans were likely experiencing a bout of déjà vu when Russian Mikhail Youzhny absolutely obliterated his racket after falling down a set and 3-0 to Tommy Haas in their fourth round match. This was not the first time the fiery Russian has exhibited such anger on the court, as Nick Zaccardi of Sports Illustrated points out. In 2008, in a match against Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, Youzhny banged his racket against his head several times and in the process drew blood. Both videos can be seen in Zaccardi’s article.
Week one French Open takeaways: The first half of the French Open has come and gone but not without an abundance of drama and questions. Jonathan Overend of the BBC discusses some of the biggest storylines surrounding Roland Garros including Rafa’s form, the restoration of single-handed backhands, Laura Robson’s struggles and more.
Li Na’s press conference raises questions: Sports Illustrated reports that after her second round exit to Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Li Na has been heavily criticized for comments she made to the Chinese media. Asked if she had an explanation for her loss Li replied, “Do I need to explain?” She carried on saying, “It’s strange. I lost a game and that’s it. Do I need to get on my knees and kowtow to them? Apologize to them.” Chinese Journalists Zhang Rongfeng believes this response is indicative of Li Na’s lack of professionalism.
Dominic Inglot grateful for professional career: Dominic Inglot, as Simon Briggs of The Telegraph points out, was the final player hailing from the United Kingdom to be playing in the 2013 French Open. Inglot, along with college teammate and current doubles partner, Treat Huey, crashed out to Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut in the third round of the doubles competition. In his conversation with Briggs, Inglot talks about how he made it into professional tennis and how lucky he is to be able to make a living on tour.
“I get to play tennis for a living—that is the ultimate dream. When I was a little kid I remember cutting the cake on my birthday and blowing the candles out and saying every single time, ‘I want to be a professional tennis player.’”
Road to Roland Garros- Bethanie Mattek-Sands: In this edition of Road to Roland Garros, Bethanie Mattek-Sands reveals her inspiration in tennis, talks about her perpetual lateness, and how her diet is her biggest sacrifice.
Novak Djokovic playing for Jelena Gencic: Novak Djokovic advanced to the quarterfinals of the French Open after a four set win over German Philipp Kohlschreiber. Djokovic, as Reem Abulleil of Sport360 reports, is hoping to claim his first Roland Garros title in memory of his childhood coach, Jelena Gencic, who passed away Saturday.
“She’s one of the most incredible people I ever knew. So it’s quite emotional. I feel even more responsible now to go all the way in this tournament. Now I feel in her honor that I need to go all the way,”
27 pictures of Rafael Nadal on his 27th birthday: In his first three matches, Rafael Nadal looked like a shadow of himself and was consequentially tested by Daniel Brands, Martin Klizan, and Fabio Fognini, three players Nadal probably expected to dispose of quicker than he did. In his fourth round match with Kei Nishikori, Nadal quickly erased the memories of his lackluster play in the opening three rounds. Nadal’s 27th birthday was today and he definitely made sure he had enough time to celebrate crushing Nishikori 6-4 6-1 6-3. DNA India takes a look back at Nadal’s career in 27 pictures.
Victoria Azarenka prepares for Maria Kirilenko: 2013 Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is set to square off against longtime doubles partner, Maria Kirilenko, after beating Francesca Schiavone in a match that she said was her “most composed and most consistent match thus far.” As Chris Wright of Yahoo Sports points out, “Azarenka is 3-2 against Kirilenko but has not lost to the Russian since 2007.” Azrenka said in regards to Kirilenko “She’s definitely improved a lot over the last couple years since she’s a very motivated player (and a) good friend of mine.”
Stanislas Wawrinka topples Richard Gasquet: Coming back from two sets to love down, Stanislas Wawrinka defeated French hopeful Richard Gasquet in a five set match that featured some of the most jaw-dropping infusions of pace, exquisite shot making, and masterful racket work of the entire tournament. The ATP called the match a “vintage display of shotmaking with 149 winners struck during the match.” Wawrinka’s play was so exemplary that the Swiss went as far as to say, “I played the best level I ever played at.” One of the comments on the ATP article even offered a new nickname for Stan—“WOWrinka.”
by James A. Crabtree
Novak Djokovic is the spoiler of many parties. He has captured almost everything the game has to offer. He has won when he shouldn’t have, caused Roger Federer to smash a racquet, caused Rafa even more OCD’s, won over partisan crowds and nudged his way to the top of the tennis word.
But Novak wasn’t always this way. He was very soft for what seemed like a long time. He looked like the sort of guy who gets beaten up by meanies wearing skeleton costumes at a High School party.
Should we bring up the past? Novak used to be a quitter on an incredible scale. In 2006, Djokovic retired when two sets down in the French Open quarter-final against Rafael Nadal. In 2007 he quit during his Wimbledon semi-final, yes SEMI-FINAL AT WIMBLEDON again against Nadal, blaming a blister on his toe that had even the commentators querying his toughness. In 2008 he won a slam, then he started tinkering with his serve and everyone but his mother said he was finished. Then 2011 happened and we tried to find the reason why he started dominating. We couldn’t figure it out. Surely blatant hard work couldn’t be the only answer? Perhaps a combination of Zen, yoga, stretching and gluten free all rolled into one?
The question is what happened? Yes Novak was always pretty good. He always had the skill set but appeared to lack the mental toughness. He had won that early slam but what he continues to achieve since and keeps achieving is ridiculous. Since June 2006, Djokovic has been coached by Marián Vajda, a former Slovakian professional tennis player. What links Marián with Mr. Myagi is unknown but speculation abounds that he has asked Novak to wash his car and paint his fence.
These days nobody can work out an attack against Novak. Russian cold war scientists and probably Matt Damon from his Goodwill days have been employed using the finest oversized computers to work out a mathematical code to take down the Serb. In truth, nobody knows what to do. To play him is worse than a headache, it is a flipping migraine.
Like so many of the greats before he finds a way to win when he should have already lost. Just ask Stan the Man Wawrinka who almost reached the upper echelons at the Aussie Open only for Novak to refuse to give up. Ask Andy Murray who really could have had him in that second set in the Aussie Open final. The guy atop is a vexatious unrelenting baseliner, a bothersome retriever, a troublesome and tiresome returner. The most stubborn player currently with a racquet. And I mean that in a good way. I mean he has refused to lose. He slides, he attacks, he skids, he does the splits then he has the audacity to speak to the home crowd in any language going.
Okay, so Novak hasn’t been unbeatable this year, he has lost to Del Potro and Haas but on the big occasions when it has mattered he has simply gotten the job done.
Think back to Monte Carlo recently. Before the tournament began there were questions whether Novak would even play because of a dodgy ankle. Before you know it he struggled through a tough first rounder with Mikhail-Youzhny and tough second rounder with Juan Monaco. After that Novak battled on and snatched away what has come to be known as the invitational Rafa Nadal Monte Carlo Closed.
Yes, Rafa did play pretty bad in the final and Novak even admitted to the fact. But it was a Samson moment, the locks had been cut. Rafa was all but unbeatable on clay and more invincible at Monte Carlo. Will the Rafa locks regrow in time for the French Open? Unless Novak gets a career threatening blister he is a lock in to unify the grand slam belts…right?
All that remains is a montage…