Name another professional tennis player who looks better at the end of a match than when he starts his first point? A player who can deliver punishing tennis with a mental strength that is truly second to none? A man who became just the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian Open crowns? And he did so in style, because Novak Djokovic is the proverbial “complete package.” At age 25 the sky’s the limit for the Serbian man of steel.
When Novak Djokovic ripped off his shirt after winning his Australian Open 4th round match against Stanislas Wawrinka, you could see that at 6’2” and 180 lbs this man may well be the fittest human being on the planet right now. (See shirtless photos by Getty Images on my103.7fm.com). This match also provided evidence that the “Djoker” can never be counted out, regardless how good his opponents are in the game. He won this match after losing the first set 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7, 12-10.
After giving up a set against Tomáš Berdych in the Quarters he came against one of the fastest players on the tour in the Semi-Finals: world no. 4 David Ferrer. He cruised beating him 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. San Diego’s Angel Lopez, former tour player and tennis professional (Director of Tennis at the San Diego Tennis and Racquet Club, also owner of the Angel Lopez Tennis Academy) said about this match: “Djokovic made Ferrer look slow.” Lopez adds, “His self-believe when he’s down, his athleticism, and his ball striking skills are amazing.”
Going into the final against Andy Murray, who cruised until the Semi-Finals where he had to play a hard fought 5-setter against Roger Federer, Djokovic seemed to be the favorite on paper (10-7 head-to-head). However, the world no. 3 won Brisbane and the win over Federer in Melbourne was certainly giving him a lot of hope and self-confidence. As so often when playing his nemesis Djokovic, Murray won the first set, played one of his greatest matches ever, and still lost.
Dan Talintyre listed 6 “Lessons learned from Djokovic’s Aussie win” in the Bleacher Report:
- Not a Mental Collapse from Murray
He held serve against arguably the best returner in the game for two whole sets.
- Murray heroic in defeat
Evidently struck down by the injury gods, Murray pushed through the pain barrier and managed to fight Novak Djokovic all the way until the end of the match.
- Djokovic clutch when required
In a final where break points and broken serves were essentially non-existent in the first few sets, Djokovic's ability to come through with the goods was truly phenomenal.
- Murray's Serve a Game-Changing Weapon
The 2012 U.S Open champion would serve fewer aces than Novak (eight to seven) but won a staggering 81 percent of his first-serve points for the match and would keep one of the best returns in the game to just 33 percent retuning points won.
- Backhand Still an Issue for Novak
Where the forehand had 27 winners, the backhand had just 11, and it also had a staggering 29 unforced errors
- Djokovic Truly Is the World No. 1
He completely and utterly deserves his ranking as the best player in the men's game, with no other player parallel to him right now.
Prize money and win-loss records speak volumes about the Serb and his climb to the top of the world rankings and becoming ranked the year-end world no. 1 for both 2011 and 2012.
A few more comments from people in the tennis business:
Cathy Jacobson-Guzy, General Manager of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center and El Dorado Park Tennis Center in Long Beach, CA, summarizes Novak’s and Murray's game: “I can't get over the endurance, stamina and power these players have in our sport today! It's a pleasure watching them and being so involved in this wonderful sport of tennis!”
Steve Bellamy, founder of The Tennis Channel, The Ski Channel, and The Surf Channel, says about Djokovic, “I have seen a maturing in his off court behavior that mirrors his on court artistry and athleticism. He can work a room like a movie star. He'll meet a sponsor who sells insurance and by the end of the greet, the guy thinks he's a superstar. Tennis players have notoriously been bad at that.”
Ken DeHart, PTR & USPTA Master Professional, USA High Performance Coach, Director of Tennis at the Almaden Valley Athletic Club, and Wilson Premier Advisory Staff member, says, “Notice not only the phenomenal conditioning level of the pros today. Notice their core strength as noted by their upper body posture. It is up-right, very quiet upper body positioning. They have mastered the division of upper body balance and lower body movement (i.e. rub your head-pat your stomach at the same time example) Much like a duck on a pond - gliding gracefully above the water and paddling like heck beneath to get where they want to go.
It also shows how important the feet are. When Andy began to have blister problem, it really affects your acceleration and more importantly your deceleration. It hurts a lot to stop when you have blisters. Therefore you are often more hesitant to run knowing you have to stop and change directions immediately.”
Angel Lopez commented further, “Novak Djokovic is taking the game up another notch with his superior movement and flexibility. Just watch how he sets up his shots in between points. He is also very focused. Look at his eyes when he plays! And the power. Both players were pummeling the ball so hard, not just once, but consistently.”
I must admit I was fascinated the first time I saw the Serb’s eyes close-up during a match in Indian Wells. I always thought the eyes are telling stories about the mental condition of a tennis player. “The Djoker’s mental strength comes from his physical strength,” adds Lopez.
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