Come 2010, Novak Djokovic was about to enter the zenith of his tennis career. He had comfortably placed third on the ATP tour rankings for a time longer than he would have wanted to, but enjoyed the privilege of being a member of the “Big Four”. To the untrained tennis eye, Djokovic would appear as a deep baseliner who would wait for a faux pas on his opponent’s game and just keep putting the ball in. He is a defensive player, but knew when to step on the gas pedal. Critics generally asserted that Djokovic had a suffocating style of play, waiting meticulously for his opponent to make a mistake. This was true to a large extent until he decided to rework his game slightly. He had always shown the potential to be the crème de la crème, but fell short to his slightly better opponents.
Dr Ivo, who joined him for a brief period in between, worked with Djokovic and found the mysterious link to his game. It worked tremendously as he led Serbia to its first ever Davis Cup title in 2010. With minor adjustments to his game and on court movement, he was ready to make a giant leap. His game was being characterised by shots that started to have more sting, a perfectly elastic body movement that would run down almost any ball, a more improved fore court play, and an aggressive return of serves. All these meant a fully loaded arsenal, enough to make him a complete player, if he wasn’t one already. He was a human wall, a ping pong serving machine that would punch back balls into the court with ease and elegance. His on court presence was a delight to the eyes. Djokovic’s exciting style of never-say-die defence and crisp free swinging offense earned him a lot of Grand Slam titles. By the end of 2015, he had 9 Grand Slam titles to his name and the “only” player to hold all four slams at once. He was inarguably the G.O.A.T, except that he wasn’t crowned the G.O.A.T.
The year 2016 also started positively with him clinching both the Australian Open and the French Open. The downward spiral in his tennis career began with him losing in the fourth round of Wimbledon. He did manage to recover as he raked up a few more titles post this. An elbow surgery in mid-2017 dealt the most severe blow to his career. It made him increasingly conscious of his right arm which saw marked changes in his service action and restricted elbow movements. A repeated series of sacking and replacing coaches didn’t help his cause either. We were looking at a different player altogether who started looking for excuses, an increased urge to finish points quickly and an increased on-court frustration to unforced errors; we were clearly seeing a lack of that intense concentration and temperament that trademarked his gameplay.
This is the Djokovic we see today, plagued by inconsistency and shattering all hopes of his fans every time he shows promise of returning to his pristine best. He is giving it all he can at the moment. It doesn’t look like a flowery path to the top at the moment, but wouldn’t we all love to see a rise to the top by the stalwart again?