When the 'smell' of victory is near, Novak Djokovic's tennis becomes unstoppable

From the 4th round onwards, in the Slams, the Serb becomes practically unplayable, raising his level monstrously

by Lorenzo Ciotti
When the 'smell' of victory is near, Novak Djokovic's tennis becomes unstoppable
© Daniel Pockett / Stringer Getty Images Sport

When the smell of the title begins to approach, Novak Djokovic's performances rise to a monstrous level. Unplayable, practically. This is a constant in the career of the Serbian champion, who seems to have returned to being the hungry tennis player he always was.

Ask it to Adrian Mannarino, to whom Nole left only 3 games and scored two consecutive 6-0s, in the first two sets. His first two rounds at the Australian Open were extremely problematic, the third round recovering, the fourth round devastating.

Taylor Fritz will be in the quarter-finals: an opponent who will be cannibalized by Djokovic? His race towards his 11th title in Melbourne (and 25th Major of his career) is proceeding apace.

As mentioned, this is a constant in his career: when the smell of prey is close, Djokovic is like a condor, he approaches, attacks and doesn't even leave shreds to his rivals.

A recent example of my words? Watch the ATP Finals. Nole was defeated by Jannik Sinner (his possible opponent in the semifinal in Melbourne - ed.) in the round robin. He risked elimination, being saved by Sinner, who defeated Holger Rune and allowed the Serbian to qualify for the semi-finals.

What happened after? Simple: the smell of the title and the record was too strong. Djokovic first broke Carlitos in the semi-final, then destroyed Jannik in the final, winning the cup and obtaining a record 7 titles at the ATP Finals. And it often happens that in the first rounds of the Slams he shows shaky performances. He takes a risk, he sees defeat, he recovers, he staggers, but then he wins. Then comes the 4th round and the quarter-finals, and the transformation occurs.

Djokovic© Julian Finney / Staff Getty Images Sport

Djokovic robotically raises his level of play, his opponents can do nothing, they are helpless. He wins. As if, from the 4th round onwards he activated autopilot. The only exception was the incredible 2023 Wimbledon final lost in the 5th set against Alcaraz. However, with all the merits of Carlitos, I believe that if they replayed that final ten more times, Nole would always win it. At almost 37 years old, his tennis is dominant.

At Wimbledon he rediscovered himself as human: he was defeated perhaps because of himself, of the great pressure and too many expectations he had set for himself. Winning that match would have meant equaling Roger Federer's 8 Wimbledon titles. All that pressure must have been too much even for a robotic (but beautifully human-hearted) tennis player like him.

The beauty of these tournaments is seeing how many, in the initial rounds after unconvincing performances, give Nole up as a goner, and name other tennis players capable of winning the Slam. But ultimately it is an even rarer event than an astral conjunction.

When Novak Djokovic's tennis becomes unstoppable

The number one's next opponent will be, as mentioned, Taylor Fritz, who won the match against Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Serbian tennis player will start this second week as the favourite, as usual. His primary goal will be to win the 11th Australian Open.

"I love tennis, I'm passionate about competing and I go to every practice with a lot of energy. However, the distance from my family hurts me more and more, this is what weighs on me and I try to adapt my program. I think I've earned the right to choose which tournaments I play and obviously the Grand Slams are the priority. I still get excited when I have a break point for or against,” he analyzed.

Djokovic© Daniel Pockett / Stringer Getty Images Sport

The possibility of retirement, despite his advancing age, is still far from his plans, considering the level of tennis he is showing.

"I'm number one and I'm still at the top, I don't want to leave tennis in this position, I want to keep moving forward. When I feel that I am no longer able to compete at the highest level and that I am no longer a candidate to win Grand Slams, then I will consider retiring. However things can change, I am no longer a teenager, I am a father and a husband. In my private life there are many things that I like and that require my attention," explained Nole.

Tension is never lacking, but it is a component that has allowed him and still allows him today to be who he is. This is another fundamental piece of his portrait. That tension that never ends, which makes him even more hungry for victories.

"I thought that this year I would feel more relaxed or at least a little less tense, but that's not the case. You can see it today too, I had the match totally under control and as soon as I had a complicated game I argued with my box. I still have that inner fire that allowed me to achieve everything I achieved. I don't play for the money or points anymore, I just want to play because I love the competition," said the Serbian legend.

Novak Djokovic