Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A fresh new Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has always played under the shadow of Nadal and Federer, two of the greatest players in the Open Era. Little did he know that 2011 would turn his fortunes. The “Hand of God” is upon him and the Djoker has laughed his way to two Slams, the Australian Open and the Wimbledon. He has been in sublime form this year; forehands kissing the touchlines, backhands played at angles with a surgeon’s precision and aces at crucial points, hallmarks of a legend in the making. Here are some views of mine on how Djokovic has turned the tables on his opponents.

(1)Djokovic has always been someone who plays on flatter trajectories and likes hitting the ball at a ferocious pace but this year he has managed to hit the ball a lot deeper allowing him to put his opponents on the backfoot and take charge of the point. This is also the reason why the points are shorter with smaller rallies.

(2)There was an interesting stat in the Wimbledon Final which showed that Djokovic won 70% of the points on Nadal’s second serve. A direct corollary of this statistic is that once the point begins clearly Djokovic is the favourite to win it. Another pointer towards a better all round game.

(3)Fitness levels of Djokovic have improved considerably in 2011. There was a time when he had to pull out of matches sighting fatigue as the reason, (happened in Australian Open against Murray). He is more athletic now, anticipation levels have risen and you won’t be surprised to see him pull out some amazing points. The point against Nadal where Djokovic was on the baseline and reacted to Nadal’s drop with a cheetah like sprint and after reaching an impossible drop, he still managed to pass Nadal who was left watching like a policeman in the middle of the road.

(4)I have always noticed a direct correlation between a player’s backhand and the kind of form he is in. You would notice how Federer always messes the backhand, sometimes they end up in the crowd, on those rare occasions when he is out of touch. Nadal’s two fisted backhands which look like a frontfoot drive in cricket end up going long when things are not going his way. Djokovic has his own unique backhand, two fisted like nadal but with less spin imparted to the ball, which allows him to carve out angles and crosscourt winners. This aspect of Djokovic has been a delight to watch.

(5)Since Andre Agassi left the game, I believe there has been no better returner of serves than Djokovic. His closest competitor would be Murray with those long arms streched to meet any ball. Federer is lazy in chasing serves as he knows that once the ball is in play he would be the better player. Nadal puts the effort in reaching balls but the returns are on the slower side as they invariably have a lot of sidespin and topspin. The trademark of a great returner is the positioning on the baseline and the fleeting sideways movement which allows you to reach balls down the T and on the corners. Djokovic possesses both these skills and combined with his attitude, it adds up to a lethal combination.

We can continue to expect more chest thumping action from the Serbian in 2011 and he would do well to add to his titles given the form which he is in because “All good things must come to an end”.

No comments:

Post a Comment