Champions Corner: Novak Djokovic - French Open Aftermath

Discussion in 'Pro Tennis (Mens)' started by britbox, Jun 7, 2016.

  1. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    Novak Djokovic's four set win over Andy Murray was his fourth major title in a row. Perhaps more importantly, the world number one now holds all four pieces of the grand slam amulet at the same time and is the first man to do so since Rod Laver in 1969. Only one other man has achieved such a feat, Don Budge way back in 1938.

    Yet, over a weekend where the sports headlines were dominated by the passing of the great Muhammad Ali and the NBA playoffs (at least in the United States), the making of this piece of history has flown slightly under the radar for the casual sports fan, even if the significance of the achievement is not lost on hardcore followers of tennis.

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    Richard Beese/Flickr

    Djokovic is a national hero in his native Serbia but popularity around the globe has been harder to establish. During the 2015 US Open Final against Roger Federer, the raucous New York crowd were so firmly behind the Swiss veteran you could have been mistaken for thinking it was an FC Basel football match in Federer's hometown. The other party in the troika of record breaking players inhabiting the current era is Rafael Nadal, who enjoys a level of popularity approaching Federer.

    Success breeds popularity and it may have been to the detriment of Novak that Federer and Nadal enjoyed success and a level of dominance before the Serb managed to shake off the "Third Man" mantle and gatecrash the silverware party on his own terms.

    Sunday's victory in Paris gave the Serb a Career Grand Slam (winning all four of the majors - Australia, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open) and in doing so, he joins Federer and Nadal as the only active players to have accomplished it. The win also increased his major tally to twelve, a figure that ties him at fourth of all time behind Federer (17), Sampras (14), Nadal (14).

    The highest absolute level of tennis ever?

    Novak Djokovic might be playing at the highest absolute level of tennis ever seen according to some. Gustavo Kuerten, a three time Roland Garros champion who appeared in a recent commercial with Djokovic was unequivocal in his praise of the Serb's level: “One of the highest ever and most impossible in tennis."

    However, absolute levels are hard to quantify and the casual fan may still look at relative achievements and as it stands, Novak is still behind Federer and Nadal in the silverware stakes.

    The Landscape

    A lot can change in tennis very quickly. Nobody would have entertained the thought that John McEnroe would never win another singles major following his dominant 1984 season. Likewise, Mats Wilander won three majors in 1988 and never won another.

    However, McEnroe and Wilander had a tumultuous time outside the sport despite their success in it. McEnroe's highly volatile relationship with Tatum O'Neal is well documented and Wilander would later test positive for using recreational drugs. Djokovic has much stronger support base to work from with a rock solid loyal coaching team and a contented home life.

    Of his rivals, Nadal has just turned 30 years old and Federer will be 35 in August. Both players have struggled with injuries this year. Nadal has been troubled for a number of years and struggled to return to the elite levels that saw him winning major titles. The young crop of talented next generation players are still maturing, a fact emphasised by Novak's brutal elimination of Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals at Roland Garros. Andy Murray has proven time over again that his best can't match the best of Djokovic in the biggest matches, particularly without Ivan Lendl at his side.

    As it stands, the landscape is ripe for Novak Djokovic to continue winning and carving out a place in history that may even surpass the legacies of both Federer and Nadal.

    The Calendar Year Grand Slam and the Olympic Games

    The Calendar Year Grand Slam (winning all four major titles in the same calendar year) is and has always been the Holy Grail of Tennis. Laver and Budge are the only men to achieved the feat in the history of the sport. Djokovic has two of the four in the bag and will enter Wimbledon and New York as the defending champion and favourite. Winning a Calendar Year Grand Slam would propel the Serb to the top of the ladder in comparison to his peers in terms of the biggest single achievement of all.

    With the Rio Olympics on the landscape, an opportunity is also presented to complete a "Golden Slam" - all four majors and an Olympic games gold medal in the same calendar year. Only the great Steffi Graf has achieved this feat and it's something that has never been accomplished in the men's game. It presents another opportunity for Novak Djokovic to rewrite the history books and provide separation from his decorated peers with unique achievements of his own.

    If that happens, you can be sure he will get his dues then and likely transcend the sport.
     
    #1 britbox, Jun 7, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2016
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  2. Twisted

    Twisted Major Winner

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    Good article. The guy deserves his dues already and has for awhile. He has now carved his own special place in history and it is likely to only get higher up for him.
     
  3. EdbergsGhost

    EdbergsGhost Masters Champion

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    :good:
    I enjoyed that.
     
  4. Moxie

    Moxie Multiple Major Winner

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    It really does feel like we're as close to a Men's Calendar Year Slam as we've been since Laver. While I'm not the biggest fan of Djokovic, I'm a fan of tennis, and that would be amazing. If not Djokovic, I'm not sure how long we'll continue to wait to see it, but it seems another long while. And this would be the year. As you say, the landscape could change by next year. It's rather a shame that this is an Olympic year, because it adds another stressor, but if anyone could pull the whole thing off, this year Djokovic is The Man.
     
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  5. Billie

    Billie Nole fan
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    BB, this is your own article? I loved it, definite stamp of approval from one of his fiercest fans.:good:

    It wasn't always easy being a passionate Nole fan on some of these forums, with overwhelming support for Fedal. Even media wasn't always fair, but I kept believing in him and thinking: just win Nole...that will force them to give you proper respect.

    I don't know if he'll win the other 2 majors this year, it is hard to win one. A lot will depend on draws, weather, schedule, previous tournaments, health. It is never a straight forward thing, even with him being a favourite everywhere. We'll see, it should be very interesting.
     
  6. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    Good times for Novak fans. Yes, I wrote it, glad you liked.
     
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  7. teddytennisfan

    teddytennisfan Multiple Major Winner

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    GREAT summation of the FO season and tennis year thus far!!
     
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  8. teddytennisfan

    teddytennisfan Multiple Major Winner

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    the sports, tennis - historic highs NOVAK has deservedly earned we all already know.

    the OTHER side of him is how he has weathered all the years of almost ''reluctant" or even at times downright hostile ''acceptance" by much of the tennis world's ''arbiters of taste and propriety"...as to whether he ''deserved" to even be challenging ''during the golden age of federer/nadal" .

    to ME , personally, because over the years since i first noted his presence in some smaller title (which he won) , and personally also received flak in websites for saying he'd be one of the greats one day ...

    it has all been almost like a personal vindication....of when i told people in at least 2 websites that banned me for defending or arguing his case (against catcalls about his being ''cheater", "THAT serb", '"THAT presumptious eastern SLAV" , ''he'll NEVER be anywhere like roger" etc) --

    of my patient warning to them since 2004:

    "you'll see..,you'll all eat your words one day, NOVAK is not only one of the talented ones already -- he's also going to be one of the MOST DIGNIFIED of all the champions in the history of tennis..while he just swallows all the negativity towards him, his family , and his people........just you wait"..

    SO i might be forgiven for saying:

    "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA".

    AND i am not even serbian,

    but KNEW -- from seeing him just walk between points in those early years...just the way he carried himself...i INSTANTLY told myself, having already followed the likes of Pete Sampras from the very beginnings of their careers --

    "this young man from this small country is extraordinary as a player , athlete AND as a person...i am sure of it. ...i will become his fan".

    with STUFF like that -- choosing players from their early days -- -- i can say my batting average over the past 3 almost decades has been VERY , VERY GOOD...

    with names i will include:

    SAMPRAS, GRAF, (THat's why i was once known as SAMPRAS_GRAF) --

    NADAL, SERENA WILLIAMS, NOVAK DJOKOVIC as certainly among my top , top favorites of all time from the beginning of their careers -- inclusive of the difficulties, scandals, putdowns they EACH had to go through...

    and SHINE THROUGH -- in the end.

    bwahahahaha.......

    I'd add that 2 years ago -- ONE match i saw MUGURUZA at - in that same one she beat my own favorite SERENA the first time -- i too immediately concluded:

    "this girl is right up there as a player, combatant and athlete..".

    again -- i was right. bwahahahaha...

    but above all -- this HAS been a wonderful year for ME for ONE thing:

    MY emotional and intellectual (not to mention TIME) investment on NOVAK since 2004 when much of the tennis world and fandom and commentariat was DISMISSIVE OF HIM for DARING to say publicly

    :"i think there is room at the top for others too -- and i want to be number one someday too...i also want to show -- I TOO have some quality and show that there are many good things from my country serbia different from what the world has been told"...

    he WAS THAT DARING in more ways than one -- and DELIVERED with great dignity through all the negativity and RESENTMENT in the tennis world at large for his HEART and will to ''show i also have some quality".
     
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  9. teddytennisfan

    teddytennisfan Multiple Major Winner

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    BILLIE -- even if we hardly really 'shared' in the same website all these years -- you can be sure -- there was someone ELSE -- ME -- that took flak - and BANNED from 2 well-known sites -- PRECISELY because of trying to correct people's notions about novak AND where he came from .

    i'm not serb - -- but novak - from the beginning was , even just as a tennis matter - WAS my ''baptism" in getting to know his country and people -- and learn more -- to understand for myself why he said things he said that got A LOT OF NEGATIVE comments (serbia supposedly being a 'BAD GUYS" ) -

    and understand the history etc....

    and the more i found out -- simply triggered by the ''instinctive" feeling i had about ''how this young newcomer walks on court - a certain DIGNITY about him that is so hard to define" -- i long ago told myself watching his early matches) --

    the more i KNEW i CHOSE another ''TRUE" Winner -- in every way - as a sportsman and as a person.

    and i was proven right . YAY!
     
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  10. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    I think you probably were on tennis.com at the same time, at least for a spell... although not sure the year Billie joined that board.
     
  11. Billie

    Billie Nole fan
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    I know Teddy, there are a lot of great Nole fans that are not Serbs. I've met and conversed with more fans that are not Serbs and they are all wonderful. They all want to learn more about Serbia from ordinary people, they learn different words so they can write them to Nole via messages. Some of them visited Serbia, only because of Nole.

    But you are right, Nole and his fans were not treated fairly in the beginning. The other night there was a special on Serbian national TV in honor of Nole and the guest were his parents. Nole's dad was asked to give an example of how tough it was for them at the beginning of his career and he gave an example of a junior tournament somewhere in France where they put them up in a motel that was really bad, air conditioning wasn't working and Nole had trouble sleeping in hot weather. So Srdjan went to the tournament organizers to see if they could be upgraded to something better They told him that they would have to pay the difference to which Nole's dad agreed. Nole ended up winning the tournament and when they were tallying up everything at the end, Srdjan was told that he didn't have to pay anything extra and it was their pleasure to host them. I guess people just needed to get to know them a little bit and their attitudes from suspicious and distant would change quickly to friendly and appreciative.

    I joined tennis.com in September of 2010 and I don't remember you from that time. Luckily bribox is in charge here so we don't have to worry about bans this time.:pompoms:
     
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  12. Mary

    Mary Pro Tour Player

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    I am new here and so I am late replying but I think this is a great article. I have been a Novak fan for years and have often felt extremely angry at the negative media coverage and the way his skills and results have not been recognised. Hopefully now he will be given the credit he deserves.
    This is the first tennis forum I have actually joined because I have found the attitudes and nastiness in so many places very disturbing. It's great that we have so many brilliant players to watch. We will all have our favourites and it's normal and natural to disagree and to want our personal favourite to succeed. But that is no reason to insult and abuse those with differing views.

    I hope Novak can go on to achieve the two remaining majors but as you say it's a big ask. Just wondering has anyone ever had six in a row?
     
    #12 Mary, Jun 19, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2016
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  13. Billie

    Billie Nole fan
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    Hi Mary, as far as I know nobody in the open era has won 5 in a row. Maybe somebody did it a long time ago when the only similarity with the sport today is the name.:)

    I am happy to see another Nole fan here. And you picked a great forum as we don't have such nastiness that plague some other forums. Our @britbox is not only the web master, but also a true tennis fan and conversations here are mostly pleasant. We do sometimes clash our opinions, but that is to be expected. :dance3:
     
  14. Mary

    Mary Pro Tour Player

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    Hi Billie,

    I have already spotted a few Novak fans. He looks very relaxed this morning on a London underground train with Jelena!
    It will be interesting to see how he plays now the French has been achieved and I would love to see five in a row.

    I'm all for disagreement - can't see the point of a forum where everyone thinks the same but the viciousness in some places horrifies me.
     
  15. MikeOne

    MikeOne Club Member

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    you can tell how dominant Novak has been when hardcore fed and nadal fans start complaining about weak competition and Nole's emotional behavior. This is what many said about Fed during 04-06 (no competition, only baby Nadal), Sampras 93-98 (only an up and down agassi) and now Nole (Nadal past his prime, Fed old etc..).

    Guga is right, this is perhaps the highest level of tennis ever seen, on a consistent basis. Many people tend to gravitate to more spectacular tennis and Fed, at his very best, was more spectacular than Nole, so was Pete. The problem is that Pete and Fed had more weapons but their games not as tight and balanced. Pete relied on his serve and Fed's bh was attackable, even though very few could exploit it with great effect. Novak doesn't rely too heavily on any particular shot and neither does he have a weakness or an area opponents can exploit. The guy is just the most complete and most balanced player i have ever seen; not the most spectacular, the most complete.

    as far as the calendar slam goes, Wimbledon will be the key. Novak has won it 3 times but i still feel he's won Wimbledon by playing in hostile territory, in a surface where more opponents are dangerous and where Novak's movement is not as good. I believe he won Wimbledon in 2014 because he wanted it so badly after losing to stan at AO that year; he needed it to save the year. In 2015, he was also heartbroken after the FO final loss and wanted wimbledon badly. So, in both 2014 and 2015, Novak had extra motivation to win, fueled by bad losses. This year, he is in a good place, winning first 2 slams and even though he will be motivated to go for a calendar slam, it's not the same as wanting to win to make up for bad moments. Novak also played at an incredible level to win, a level which is difficult to re-produce and he had a few close calls. This year Murray is a top contender and back with Lendl, Thiem is playing great on grass, Raonic too... I think Nole will not have the extra motivation or level to get through a dangerous draw this year.
     
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  16. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    Good post @MikeOne - difficult to say what the key is to the Calendar Year Grand Slam... Wimbledon is now, for sure... otherwise it's game over... but I think the pressure on Novak in the US Open will be immense (if he wins Wimbledon)... it won't just be tennis hacks focusing on the event, the whole thing will transcend the sport... the pressure will be *insane*.

    One thing is for sure... if he pulls it off... it will be absolutely massive. IMO it would propel him to GOAT status - he'd have 6 consecutive slams, the CYGS, a bunch more weeks at #1... The Holy Grail of Tennis is not an achievement to be sniffed at. It would be separation.
     
  17. Mary

    Mary Pro Tour Player

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    For Wimbledon obviously the draw will be a factor and also I think the weather. Its been so wet here that the grass is green, greasy and slippery. Given more sun and dryer courts Novak's movement could be a big factor.

    I find it hard to guess at his motivation. He might well just take a foot off the pedal now and relax a bit or feel even more driven by the calendar slam. No idea which would help his game the most!

    Despite the French all year I have felt a bit concerned for him. The eye infection was grim I think - I know eye infections to be very disturbing. Over and above the limited vision and pain they can make one feel so disorientated. I don't think he was fit when he played Davis cup and was relieved when he won IW and Miami. Then the press coverage over the Equal Pay issue, allegations of match fixing, his fathers statements and the doping/Armstrong libel must have been horrendous for him. I was not surprised when he lost at Monte Carlo and Rome. To me it looked like everything was totally getting to him.

    Hopefully now he feels calmer and more focused . I would live him to win but even more would just like to see him play well and look happy. Regardless of the record books he is a great, great player.
     
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  18. Moxie

    Moxie Multiple Major Winner

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    Mike, the quote of mine you posted is nothing if not generous to Novak, as I think the CYGS would be amazing for tennis. And I've justified his peccadilloes as small and down to pressure. I am, however, amused by the Federer fans squirming a bit trying to talk about 'weak era.' We Nadal fans are free to speak about lack of competition without irony.

    Rather obviously, Wimbledon is, in fact, key to the CYGS hunt for Novak. The current one. But you make interesting observations about the motivations that got him to Wimby recently, after hard losses at RG. (Which is, IMO, very impressive recovery.) I also agree it's not his best surface. He chooses not to play a tune-up for SW19, just the exho at Boodles. It's a rainy year, so a tough draw and the grass could be a near-literal banana peel this year, but we shall see.

    Here's a question: If Nole wins Wimbledon this year, with the CYGS still in play, should he skip the Olympics and focus on the USO?
     
  19. Billie

    Billie Nole fan
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    Nole indeed looks very relaxed. He must be feeling pressure but he has ways of coping with it. One can never know for sure what will happen. One tough opponent, one bad day and anybody can lose. I know he won't lack motivation and desire to win. We'll see. The beauty of any sport is that we really can't predict what will happen at the end. I'll watch one match at a time and trust that he will navigate through anything that is thrown at him.
     
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  20. Billie

    Billie Nole fan
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    @Moxie the only things that will keep him from the Olympics are injury and cancellation of the games. He is set to compete regardless of Wimbledon result. As it looks now and if everything goes according to the plans, he will play Toronto, Rio, Cincy and USO. The only question, I think, is DC quarter final tie.
     
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