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Rafael Nadal and Beyond: The Unrelenting Quest for Novak Djokovic´s Parisian Conquest!

Rafael Nadal and Beyond: The Unrelenting Quest for Novak Djokovic´s Parisian Conquest!

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by Ronnie Rear

Significant as Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from this year’s French Open has been, an equally important theme that has emerged in parallel – as a consequence – has been about how easy it would now be for Novak Djokovic to win his first title in Paris.

The sentiment seems borrowed from a somewhat similar rhetoric of last year, when Djokovic defeated the then-defending champion Nadal in the quarter-finals, commandingly in straight sets. Easy as it sounds to say so, the actuality of it could be just the opposite for the three-time former finalist.

For, while he may not have had to play the eponymous Spaniard, there’s no change in the number of opponents he has to play – and win – before coming out as the eventual champion. Then, there’s also one more aspect to his run up to his probable French Open victory this year.

Unlike last year though, where Djokovic had an uninterrupted run right up to the final – before encountering an inspired Stan Wawrinka – this year, it’s been a different story. Not that he’s not been convincing in his wins, far from it.

But where previously, he wasn’t pushed in any of the earlier rounds, this year, he’s been troubled on two fronts. Not only by his opponents, who have been able to penetrate his game and keep him on the back-foot, but also by the inclement weather conditions that made it necessary for him to play on consecutive days.

In a way, these two factors have gone onto create an untimely and unexpected vicious cycle for the Serbian, on whom the pressure seems to have started telling. Mentally, if not physically.
And this was quite palpable in his quarter-final match against Tomas Berdych, where he missed being defaulted for unruly behaviour by the proverbial whisker when his flung racquet thankfully hit a wall instead of the linesman standing right next to it at the start of the final set, on the Philippe-Chartrier.

As the days to the second Sunday draw closer, such outbursts and outcomes – however inadvertent – could be the unexpected roadblocks for Djokovic completing the career Slam. Just like Stan Wawrinka proved to be the one hurdle he couldn’t breach, in 2015.

Regardless of whether he completes the Grand Slam quartet or not, positives however continue – and will continue – to emerge for the 29-year old. Advancing to the semi-final on Thursday had ensured Djokovic’s qualification to the year-end finals, in London, where he’ll return to defend his title for the fifth straight year.

And by beating Dominic Thiem in the semi-final – which, by the way was a straightforward and no-fuss affair – he put reached his sixth straight Grand Slam final, third in the list of most finals reached in the Open Era.

It will indeed be a welcome respite, for him and his fans, from having to go through the same gamut of expectations if he gets to his 12th Grand Slam title this weekend. But, if it does happen that Novak Djokovic falls short of accomplishing the French Open glory yet again, it still won’t be the end of it.

For Djokovic’s own words, “If it doesn’t happen, there is always another year. I don’t have any intention of slowing down yet,” summarises the connotation of both sides of the French Open paradigm for him, irrespective of how the onlookers and remainder of tennisdom may feel about it.
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