On the eve of the start of the US Open, when Novak Djokovic mentioned that he’d been dealing with “personal issues” in the press conference it had been widely speculated that these issues related to marital problems.
Now, after yet another interview, a completely different possibility has emerged about the nature of those personal issues – a lack of motivational clarity, after having won the French Open. Djokovic, who’d announced his withdrawal from the China Open earlier last week, where he was expected to defend his title, told the press, “I psychologically felt huge pressure, and now I'm no longer thinking about the number of titles.
If they come, super, I will accept them. After all, tennis is not the only thing in the world.” Not only did these remarks reflect an indifferent attitude, but they also gave an indication that men’s tennis could see some changes at the top, just as it seemed that Djokovic would extend his continuity there.
And from talking about him potentially equalling and even breaking Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s Grand Slam records, Djokovic’s comments have made all prognostications uncertain than they usually are. Djokovic’s honest assessment about the way he’s feeling about the two aspects that are essential for professional tennis players thus put in perspective the achievements and continuous need to push for more, from the same players, whose records were in the horizon – Federer and Nadal.
When Federer won the French Open in 2009 and then Wimbledon, thus crossing Pete Sampras’ long-held record of 14 Majors, the point arose as to what would he be vying for more? In the seven years since his completion of the Grand Slam, Federer has won two more Majors – at the 2010 Australian Open and 2012 Wimbledon – and has reached three finals: at Wimbledon in 2014-15 and at the US Open in 2015.
When he’s not reached the finals, he’s been able to make it to the semi-finals including in this truncated season of his, at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Likewise, he’s also managed to win more than 1000 career matches, win over 80 career titles and win a silver medal at the Olympics.
The last, coming in at the 2012 London Games, after having wrested a semi-final win against Juan Martin del Potro. It’s been a far upheaving scenario for Nadal, who’s Sampras’ record. The Spaniard has had to deal with injuries before completing milestones or has had his season disrupted and interfered by injuries.
As it happened this year, when his wrist injury forced him to pull out from the French Open after having played three rounds, before ending his grass court season even before it could start. There was also the worry that he would have had to miss out playing at the Rio Games.
But thankfully, not only did he play, he also won the men’s doubles with Marc Lopez and put up a tremendous fight in the semi-final, against del Potro in what was a unique déjà vu. But despite still recuperating from his wrist injury, Nadal still has aspirations of being able to do well, with certain goals established.
For the tournaments that remain this season and for the upcoming 2017 season, where he wants to start afresh; for perhaps the umpteenth time. It’s somewhat of a similar situation for Federer, who decided to end his season early with a view to give his injured knee more rehabilitation time and give himself better preparedness to try and have a season far different than the present one.
And, unlike these two players who want to do all these things regardless of their previous highs, Djokovic seems tentative of what he wants and needs to do hereafter. Honesty and comparisons aside, Djokovic has a lot of analysing to do.
Not only in terms of evaluating and coming up with a newer focal point for his career. But doing so without there being a contrasting shift to what he’s come to represent, once again. This time, detrimentally and negatively.
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