ROGER Federer, Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver and now, Novak Djokovic. These men are part of an elite group that can say they won tennis’ most prestigious tournament four times. For Djokovic, this win is a little sweeter though, completing an epic, two-year journey to recapture a Grand Slam crown. After overcoming personal and injury issues expect to see Djokovic’s name inscribed on a few more trophies before he’s finished, with the 31-year old Serbian firing on all cylinders once again.
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25 months ago, Novak Djokovic was arguably at the peak of his powers. Already an 11 time Grand Slam winner, his triumph over Andy Murray in the 2016 French Open cemented his status as an all-time great. His 12th title gave him one at every major, completing a Career Grand Slam for the Serbian. With that win, Novak became the first player to hold all four major titles at once since Rod Laver in 1969 while also becoming the first player to record over $100 million in prize money. So it’s fair to say that Novak Djokovic was on cloud nine at that point.
AS all the accolades started to pile up it seemed like nothing/no-one could stop Djokovic. However, as we all know, from that point, things started to turn sour for the champ. He faltered in the third round of Wimbledon and settled for runner-up honours at both the US Open and ATP World Tour Finals to close the calendar year. In 2017 those losing ways continued as injury niggles and personal issues started to take their toll. After being upset in just the second round of the Australian Open, Novak opted to shuffle the deck, changing some of his close personnel. He parted ways with his longtime coach, physiotherapist and fitness specialist, hiring Andre Agassi as his new coach in an effort to refind his mojo.
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AS we all know things didn’t exactly go according to plan as Novak’s confidence and motivation levels continued to decline. His 2017 season was officially ruled over after his quarterfinals loss to Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon, almost exactly a year ago to the day. With his play struggling and an elbow complaint hampering him, Djokovic packed up shop, ending arguably the worst season of his career.
DETERMINED to reclaim the mantle as the world’s best tennis player, Djokovic hit the ground running to start this season. Despite the former world No. 2 facing an uphill battle to defend his point totals Novak bravely battled his way through his first few contests as he started to recapture some form. Following a three-set loss to Dominic Thiem at the Monte-Carlo Masters in April, Djokovic declared himself pain-free for the first time in months. It’s no coincidence that he seemingly turned the corner at the same time that he reunited with his former coach Marián Vajda.
WE should have known what was coming after that. Since then he has been on a tear losing just five matches since that April loss to Thiem. He had an awesome run into this year’s Wimbledon and finally seems to have put his health problems behind him. Despite sitting outside the top-20 at one point this season, once again Novak is a Grand Slam champion.
ON more than one occasion the win at the All-England Club almost slipped through his fingers. One particular instance I can remember came in his semi-final epic against current world No. 1, Rafa Nadal. Locked at 7-7 in the 5th and final set, you can imagine that things were pretty tense. Djokovic served himself into a 15-40 hole and started to slip. If he conceded another point, then Rafa would have the break and an opportunity to serve for the match. Instead of caving, Djokovic dug his heels in and after showing off some epic shot making with Nadal, he prevailed, taking an 8-7 lead after a 13-minute game that included fives dueces! Of course, as we all know, a few short games later Djokovic was officially declared the winner of the instant classic.
HIS run through Wimbledon has led some to believe that the second chapter of dominance from Djokovic is about to begin. He has made four straight quarter-finals in ATP tour events and he will be one of the odds-on favourites to win the U.S. Open, which gets underway in just six weeks. At 31, Djokovic is no spring chicken, but there’s definitely a world where he hits his stride and claims another few majors. We might not see Novak reach the incredible heights he was tracking towards before injury. It’s still better than seeing him on the sidelines and if his recent form is any indication, the winning ways won’t stop anytime soon.
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