Will Djokovic ever rise again?

Is Djokovic still in a slump?  When is he getting back to, being his dominant avatar and, demolishing competition across the net by standing sturdy like the proverbial backboard tracking down the un-trackable, and schooling the likes of Nadal on how to put yet another ball back to utterly bulldoze whatever is left of hope across the net?  Is he ever going to hit that indomitable ruler of the world phase again?  The fans would hope so and the die hards would themselves start out for the Amazon rain-forest or the Himalayas to locate the herb that could give Nole his laser-like focus and insatiable drive back.   Only if it were as simple as that, because focus is not the only aspect of the game that needs to be recovered and reclaimed by Novak.  Novak’s DNA compels him to prolong points and he is perhaps the only player who can not only outrun Nadal on the court but also win more than his fair share of “who’ll put that last ball in” rallies against the bull.  Novak’s game has been shaped by the general slowing down of the courts worldwide and honed into perfection by the likes of Nadal who was in his prime when Novak was trying to impose his domination in the world of tennis.  And, as with Nadal, slow courts allowed Novak to track down every ball and advancement in racket and string technologies helped him hit winners on balls that he could barely reach.

NADAL’S DECLINE DUE TO INJURIES

Converting lost points into raging winners was predominantly Rafa’s domain but his injuries infested post 2013 period gave Djokovic an opportunity to surge ahead.   Nadal won about 56% of his matches against Novak prior to 2014 and only 10% thereafter.  This lopsided H2H prior to and after 2014 is probably the result of not only Rafa’s injuries but also Novak’s consistently higher level of play post 2013.

DjokovsNadal-1DjokovsNadal-2

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FEDERER’S DECLINE BROUGHT ABOUT BY AGE

The difference between Rafa’s and Novak’s H2H however was never too wide.  What  really helped Novak’s rise was the inevitable fall in Roger’s level upon turning 29.  The age 29, in tennis, is like the first kiss of death and even the best of them with an amazing performance at 28 suddenly see their wheels come off upon turning 29!  The “turning 29” thesis is amply supported by the difference in H2H between Novak and Roger with Roger winning 68% of his encounters against Novak prior to 2010 and only 34% in the period thereafter.

The fall is even more precipitous for those who have reached number 1 positions by the time they hit their 29th birthday as they by then have clocked considerable mileage both mentally and physically by reaching more quarters, semis and finals than most others on the tour.   The decline in form, results and breakdown of body-parts and focus is further exaggerated with Novak’s and Nadal’s style of play as the pressure mounts to constantly track-down balls, out run opponents, and maintain unflinching focus throughout many rallies lasting 10 shots or more.

NovakVRoger-1NovakVRoger-2

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CONCLUSION

There is no escaping the “turning 29” rule.  If someone like Federer with his aggressive style of play and an in-built habit to cut points short and thereby lengthen his life as an active player on the tour could not contain the inevitable fall then there is no reason to believe that Novak with his unsustainable style of retrieving and prolonging points will be able to reverse the tide of time.    However, there is no reason for him to not perform well and win 2 or 3 more slams prior to hanging up his racket and riding into that glorious sunset around the age of 32-33; but, as with Federer and all other tennis greats, it’d be a pipe dream to expect the return of those halcyon days.

 

11 thoughts on “Will Djokovic ever rise again?

  • March 5, 2017 at 3:33 pm
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    Yes you do have a point there but then why has Roger managed to keep it going for so long? Perhaps you can write about that next. I like your writing style. Are you a college player looking to go pro.

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  • March 5, 2017 at 7:09 pm
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    I agree that Djokovic won’t get back to that form, and 2-3 Slams are a lot of work to do. The guy became a father a few months ago and that changed everything. Period. Djokovic is not Federer. Roger has 4 kids but tennis is still nº1 priority in his life. That’s the only way to do it. You want to be a successfull pro player but tennis is your nº2 priority? You better find another job. Tennis is a full time job and the only way to be successfull is to put tennis at nº1, nº2 and nº3 on your priority list.

    Enzo Ferrari, founder of the legendary italian car firm, used to say: “When a driver becomes a father, he’s done. Because he will take the foot up 1 milisecond before he used to”

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    • March 9, 2017 at 4:29 am
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      In Enzo’s day the fatality rate among F1 drivers was horrific. I don’t thing Novak is at any risk of death on the tennis court if he keeps competing at 100%.

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      • March 20, 2017 at 5:47 am
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        Agree but more injuries.

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  • March 7, 2017 at 4:28 pm
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    Good read – enjoyed that. Makes me wonder about guys like Stan who seem to hang around doing quite well but no push or what it takes to conquer a GS until he turned 29. Is Sam Querrey about to do something similar at age 29. Probably too early to tell — but he did look more invigorated and inspired in Acapulco than I’ve seen him in a long time.

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    • March 7, 2017 at 11:02 pm
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      I think Stan and, more so, Query, have not been number one yet. Wawarinka has come close but never had to feel that pressure of safeguarding his crown each day …. Only recently did Wawarinka start reaching 2nd weeks in slams so the mileage is not as high as Djokovic’s, nadal’s or roger’s. I don’t know what the writer feels about my view based on the content of the article.

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  • July 18, 2017 at 8:54 pm
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    The conclusion and premise of this article seems woefully inaccurate now that Federer has won Australian Open and Wimbledon both at age 35. More to the point, it is massively erroneous considering that Federer’s aggressive style of play has CLEARLY paid dividends and has lengthened his life not only as an active player but as a dominant player. Roger never so much as dropped a set in the entire Wimbledon tournament. Fed obviously defied and escaped the ‘turning 29″ rule. You may be right about Djokovic as only time will tell but you clearly struck out with your Federer analysis. The surprising part is that this nonsensical conclusion seems to have been written AFTER Federer won the Australian Open and the Sunshine Double at Indian Wells and Miami. He is looks like the #1 player on the planet again and seems to have a couple more majors in him.. Why would you write this ridiculous nonsense? Do you know anything about tennis?

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    • July 25, 2017 at 8:21 pm
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      The conclusion and premise are not woefully inaccurate at all. Or have you forgotten all about the 5 year slump that Federer had prior to his reemergence? A single supremely exceptional player, aka Federer, does not negate the idea that tennis players generally do lose a lot of their steam after the age of 28-29. Considering how many people have played tennis on a pro level across the world, it isn’t unthinkable to have a few outliers, but it certainly isn’t the norm.

      Additionally, the author mentioned that Federer’s style has allowed him to chase less and overall easier on the body. Djokovic and Nadal’s play style on the other hand is much rougher and makes them much more prone to injuries.

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  • July 25, 2017 at 12:47 am
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    “Turning 29” is not a rule. Soon to be 36 year old Fed has defied it. Of his 31 victories this year, 21 have come at the expense of players under age 30.

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  • July 27, 2017 at 1:25 am
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    Hey, my university math professor would be proud of your analysis using stats… BS, my friend BS. If took the same table and take a year 2011 as a reference ND vs RN the H2H is like a pendulum for either player before and after…. Career H2H is very close and they are two greatest players of all time. Novak may never be back to his 2011 or 2015 levels, but does not take anything away from his career. Federer would be the best ever, if this was figure skating and we mark for artistic impression & degree of difficulty. But this is TENNIS and for as long the player wins the point the guy is winner. The defence that Rafa & Novak (even Murray) have been able to play is just amazing. Then they also can hit the winner when needed… down the line laser beams.

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  • July 27, 2017 at 8:34 pm
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    I think it depends on how good next generation is. Federer was not able to win many slams after 29 because he had players like djokovic and nadal who were 5-6 years younger than him. If current in players or mid early 20’s can lift their level in coming years then it will be difficult for djokovic.
    Ofcourse as long as Fed, Rafa and Andy are playing there is always going to be tough competetion for him even if the younger gen turns out to be weak

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