Meet Novak Djokovic, Your Favorite to Win the French Open
by Sean Randall | May 15th, 2011, 4:19 pm

Tennis is often a game of matchups and right now on the clay, Novak Djokovic is all over Rafael Nadal. The Serb gave further evidence of that dismissing the King of Clay Nadal on his favorite surface 6-4, 6-4 to win the Rome Tennis Masters and sweep the French Open lead up (and the season thus far).

Aided by a 3-hour rain delay this morning, Djokovic showed no signs of weariness whatsoever from his 3-hour epic semifinal win last night over Andy Murray in today’s comprehensive victory. In fact, like last week in Madrid, Djokovic is having an easier time on the clay against Nadal than he did on the hardcourts at Indian Wells and Miami where Nadal at least won sets.

This month, however, Djokovic has simply dominated Nadal by pounding any short offerings and really taking the offensive on Rafa’s serve. The backhand is immense and the angles he’s finding are incredible. It’s really a sight to behold.

And after losing nine straight to Nadal on clay Djokovic has now improbably won the last four straight sets and he did it relatively comfortable fashion.

All told Djokovic the Destroyer has won 39 straight matches (37 this season) and he looks as unbeatable as anyone ever has – yeah, that means you Roger Federer. There’s just no where for a player to hit the ball and feel any sort of comfort right now against him. And that includes Nadal who even tried moonballing today.

So does this make Djokovic the favorite to win in Paris which starts in a week? I think so. He may have never reached the French Open final but he’s beaten Nadal convincingly twice on clay and four straight times overall this season. And then there’s the win streak. No one’s taken two sets, imagine getting three!

Still, a power player with a big serve is likely the only guy who’s going to get him right now. And there’s not many of them out there.

As for Nadal, he’ll need to get that US Open serve back (maybe get Bellucci’s serve b/c he won just 5 pts on his second today) or hope that someone else can knock Novak out. Because right now he doesn’t seem to have any answer for the Serb be it at the altitude of Madrid or the fast court at Rome, the matches weren’t really that close. And today against Djokovic who probably wasn’t 100% fit – he has to be feeling some fatigue – he still couldn’t make a real impression.

Rafa will get some help and comfort from his familiarity with Paris, but if the two meet again in three weeks it’s tough to see how Rafa’s going to get through it.

And as saying goes for Nadal about the shear difficulty of winning three sets against him on clay, I guess the same can be applied to Novak. Wow.

What a stunning 8-month transformation for someone who was struggling so mightily at the start of the US Open. Calling him Super Human probably doesn’t do him justice anymore.


Djokovic: “He is the king of clay and he is the best player ever to play on this surface. I have won against him twice in the last eight days which I think is incredible, an incredible achievement for me, and he has given me a lot of confidence for the French Open. This is only a couple of tournaments this year and he has since been dominant on this surface for so many, many years.”

“I am most happy about the game this year on clay. The way I was fighting all the way, I am confident and aware and [have] self-belief that I can win against the top players.”

“It is an incredible honour to be part of the history in some ways and part of the elite of players like Federer and Nadal and McEnroe and Lendl and those players who have won many matches in a row.”

Nadal: “My level felt much better today than it did in Madrid. I was able to go inside the court and move well and to play more aggressive, and I think I did. I am not disappointed about my match and I am not sad tonight. We will try next time.”

“I have been doing everything that I can so I cannot ask myself more. I am trying and I am doing very well, but one player is doing better than me. The champion in my opinion is not only be able to win every week; it is when they are able to wait at the right moments and I am waiting at every week, trying to find solutions, and we will see what is going on next time… I wish him all the best and I have to wait my moment to win another time.”

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193 Comments for Meet Novak Djokovic, Your Favorite to Win the French Open

Ci Says:

Let’s face it. Novak owns Rafa but not totally. And tennis is better for it :) We need a good rivalry. Not a one sided one.

Krishna Says:

Novak owns Rafa totally. 4 straight wins in Masters finals (two on hard courts and two on clay).. this is usually the time of year when Rafa dominates..but Novak is dominating.. and he didnt even lose a set in both clay encounters!

I hope Fed wins the FO (I know his chances are slim with Novak/Rafa there).. but if he doesnt then i hope Djokovic wins :)

nice article.

Kimmi Says:

great article sean. with all the pressure of holding the streak, he comes to a big match like today and delivers to perfection.

I am still asking, how does he do it? he looked totally dead on the court yesterday. amazing stuff!

lets see what happens at the FO but really, if anyone “deserve” (sorry colin :)) to win the FO then it is novak.

stu Says:

Novak, I know the streak has to end some time, and I won’t be too disappointed if you are not holding the RG cup in 3 weeks, but please don’t bomb at the French. Semis or better. And a W at either the FO or Wimby would solidify your position in this tennis era.

Daniel Says:

Best of 5 is a whole different animal. Fed and Nadal are still hard to beat. Novak is hard to beat this season, But during 2 weeks, best of five has major changes. If he manages to get to the final, he will already be n.1 and the pressure will be off. He may play even better there.

But the point is, he can’t be upset earlier, and the more he went deep, the more pressure he will put into himself and everybody else.

It will be a drama Slam, as it was with the AO and Rafa’s possible Slam. Last year also, the n.1 ranking was in the grabs, Fed just needed to finish Soda off, but everything conspired for him not to.

Will see in 2 weeks. Djoko’s ultimate test!

stu Says:

Novak vs top 10 in 2011

#1 Rafa: 4-0 (2 Hard, 2 Clay)
#3 Roger: 3-0 (3 Hard)
#4 Andy: 2-0 (1 Hard, 1 Clay)
#5 Soda: 1-0 (Clay)
#6 Ferru: 1-0 (Clay)
#7 Bird: 2-0 (Hard)
#8 Melzer: 0-0
#9 Monfils: 0-0
#10 Almagro: 1-0 (Hard)

What an amazing streak, Nole! 14/37-0 against the top 10!

Roger is my biggest worry for the FO coz they have not played each other on clay yet :)

Vox Says:

Nole learned to play tennis on clay, so it is only logical that he started delivering on this surface. I’ve been waiting so long for this, we all knew that this day will come… And now, everybody can see it :). Great article! I really hope that Nole wins Roland Garos! He deserves it and he wants it so much!

mat4 Says:

In their last ten matches, Novak leads 8-2. There are obviously some changes.

Then, an anecdote: after the USO final, Rafa went to Nole’s locker and apologied about the way he celebrated his title. He really is a nice boy. But today, their handshake seemed very cold. I can understand.

It seems that Mouratoglou was right about Rafa’s FH. And something I noticed two years ago, watching Rafole in Paris-Bercy: Rafa has problems with high shots on his backhand. Today it was quite obvious too.

jane Says:

Nole’s accomplishments are amazing and exciting. But as Duro mentioned, and grendel, and others too, the streak, in a way, adds extra pressure. I keep thinking of when Fed said, “I have created a monster” back in, I think, 2008 (?) when he was expected to win all the time. Well, I am not saying Nole is where Fed was, obviously, but the streak is like a mini version of that – just as you say, Daniel, the “Rafa Slam” pressure may have been a factor for him at the AO. It would be phenomenal if Nole won the FO, but I will be fine with it if he doesn’t. What he has already done is quite something. I would have been fine had he lost to Soda, Murray or Nadal today, and part of me was thinking it might be good to take pressure off the “streak” talk before the FO! He celebrated loudly at Rome, whereas he didn’t really at AO, IW, Miami, Nx only with his crew at Madrid. That reaction is letting off pressure imo, and shows he is feeling it. But whatever happens, just glad he can get a rest now and hope he can stay healthy.

kreist Says:

Even though this was a straight set win, it was pretty close at some moments and it was a beautiful match from start to finish, but I have to say that Nadal really has no idea how to play Novak at this point, why I am saying this?, my point of view was that the match went the way Djokovic let it, when he wanted to play a good service game, there was nothing for Rafa to do, when Novak lost his concentration Nadal who was really consistent throught out the match was there to force an unforced error from Nole or to make a winner, from my perspective Nadal was 100% the whole match, and Djoko was up and down maybe because from the fatigue from all the matches.

If I were part of Rafa´s team I would be really worried, Rafa is very strong mentally but the guy has a heart and 4 final losses in a row to the same guy must hurt and a lot.

This final for me it always felt that Novak had the last word, but thats what I think, If someone knew that nole could recover from an epic and long semifinal was nadal who did the same at australia in 09, and now the whole world knows there is someone who is as strong mentally and phisically as rafa.

At Rolland Garros I think who Novak is going to be more affraid of Andy, I dont know if it was a bad at the office from Novak but he really had to fight and earn it. Rafa has to improve his serve which came up at times.

Thank god, this french open is going to be exciting!!

Lulu Iberica Says:

Said it on the other thread, but will say again congratulations to Novak and all his fans. He really had all the odds against him with that match last night, and somehow he still pulled it off. He actually seemed less tired today.

Right now he totally has Rafa’s number, and I don’t know if there is any strategy Rafa can use to beat him. Mostly Rafa has to work on his own game and hope Nole’s level comes down a bit. The scary thing is that Murray is also looking dangerous, so hopefully he ends up on Nole’s half of the draw at RG! Anyway, there’s lots of outstanding tennis being played and I don’t think anyone can complain about a boring clay season this year!

Also, congrats to Maria Sharapova & Kimberly! I hope Maria can win the French and get the career GS this year!

Dan Martin Says:

AO – 2000 Points
Dubai – 500 Points
IW – 1000 Points
Miami – 1000 Points
Serbia – 250 Points
Madrid – 1000 Points
Rome – 1000 Points

Nasty stuff from Nole this year

jane Says:

Thanks Lulu, and me too re: Maria.

I guess another way of looking at the “streak” is that it gives added incentive to keep winning. And they say “pressure is a priviledge.” So I guess it is a different way to spin things and maybe it is true. So far, it has been phenomenal.

Ben Pronin Says:

I don’t entirely agree that Djokovic wasn’t tired. I feel like, at least in the first set, he was actually coming to net quite a bit to end points quicker. I think that’s generally a good strategy and wouldn’t mind seeing it if he’s tired or not.

Also, I don’t think he really lost concentration so much as just felt the fatigue. Nadal practically handed the match over with all those moon balls, giving Djokovic all the chances in the world to just tee off. A few times he began missing a little more seemed like he was getting tired. But, also, I think it’s fair to say Djokovic has gotten good at coasting. In Madrid and in Rome, he broke Nadal to win the match the very first chance he got. Hell, all 4 sets that he’s won, he won breaking Nadal in the final game.

I didn’t think this match was great. Djokovic was tired but Nadal didn’t exploit it at all. Instead, he did Djokovic the biggest possible favor by employing a dumb pushing strategy.

I guess the only player who stands a chance against Djokovic at the French is the French Open Upset Specialist.

Ben Pronin Says:

Also, Djokovic has qualified for the WTF.

Maso Says:

Novak is just incredible this season, maintaining this level of play over 5 months, just nuts! He had an easier time beating Rafa on the clay (twice) than on hardcourt. This should be a very interesting FO.

Skeezerweezer Says:

^^ but you could support and argument as to why did Rafa MB? Out of desperation or just trying to change strategy? Anyway you look at it Rafa was convinced in the now that he cannot beat Nole with his current game. Like I said in the other thread, Nole is the only guy that has handled Rafa s FH.heck Rafa was pummeling that FH and most times Nole got it back with measure….what else at that point is Rafa going to do knowing his FH sets up everything else?

Mila Says:

Great article Sean, as usual. I admire some of you guys for being able to comment during the match. My weakness is that I am in such a “fever” during Novak’s matches that I couldn’t do anything but watch – even bathroom breaks became a nuisance…Could be these Balkan’s hot-blooded genes :-)

Jane, today before the match, I was probably channeling you for the first time ever, i.e. thinking Novak may lose this one ;-) Who knows, perhaps this time you thought Novak would win easily; these are crazy times for Novak fans when everything is possible.

I also noticed that Novak did celebrate louder in Rome than in previous 3 wins over Rafael, although I think it was due to Rafael’s rather cold handshake (where was a usual hug) at the net – I think Novak thought that gave him right to celebrate more. Rafael speech was also “less warm” towards Novak than, say, IW speech. That said I like Rafael a lot and can sympathize with such a nice guy – four losses in a row in finals is tough to take, and from the same guy even tougher!

I am watching Serbian language media and their interview with Novak and will post my translation soon. He basically says that he was tired and decided to risk more than usual. More to come.

Lulu Iberica Says:

Ben, I did think at the outset that Djoko seemed a bit tired and Rafa had a chance, but then he seemed to push the fatigue aside rather easily. Last night there were times it seemed he might fall over from exhaustion. But then, Andy M did push him a lot harder.
About the moonballs, I don’t love them either, but everything Rafa hit was coming right back at him. I thought he made some shots that would’ve been winners against most players. After a while, though, it was clear that the moonballs stopped working and Djoko just smashed them. Then I wish Rafa would’ve tried anything else. The net points are interesting, because both of them were successful when initiating net play (Rafa 9/10). Raf did at least hit a lot more to Novak’s fh, and made more use of his own bh. And most important to me, Rafa didn’t look like a frightened puppy out there!

Polo Says:

Congratulations to Djokovic and his fans. I thought Murray had him yesterday but incredibly wormed his way into a victory. Then I thought he would be too tired to keep pace with Nadal today. Djokovic seems to have developed the ability to will himself to win. That tells me he has become really confident about his skills as well as in his improved stamina. He has become even more mentally tough than Nadal?

jane Says:

Mila, I honestly had no idea about the match today. I did think, well, he’s probably tired. But I also thought, well, he proves again and again he can do it, so why not?! I was in the car on the way home for the first few games of set one, and then watched quietly until Nole broke and was broken right back. But what does he do? Breaks again! That’s when I relaxed and thought, yep, he can do it, again! Crazy times for Nole fans indeed. Who would have thought it?! :)

Lulu Iberica Says:

Yes, Polo, at least for the moment Novak is mentally tougher than Nadal. That is quite an achievement!

Dave Says:

Sean: “Djokovic the Destroyer has won 39 straight matches (37 this season) and he looks as unbeatable as anyone ever has – yeah, that means you Roger Federer.”

Djokovic’s 39 run is the best since Federer won 41 consecutive matches and 7 consecutive tournaments (which included two Grand Slam titles and one World Tour Finals title — that’s similar to winning three major titles) from US Open 2006 to Dubai 2007 over a 7-month period, beating 15 top ten players along the way. It’s interesting to see commentators write off Federer. Even the TV commentators today avoided mentioning Federer’s name (mentioning Vilas, McEnroe and Lendl), even though Roger is next ahead on the list of consecutive matches won. This winning streak is the only big record currently within Djokovic’s grasp, yet it s only one of many numerous big records that Federer is near or at the top. That is what makes Federer unbeatable, not just one or two records.

It would be a big joke if neither Djokovic nor Nadal wins the French Open. After all, Djokovic could get complacent from his recent success. Or — worse — Novak practices with Sampras or Borg before the French Open (thus getting jinxed like Fed was at Indian Wells 2007). As for Nadal, he might overtrain like he did after a similar loss to Federer before French Open 2009, leaving him vulnerable to an early loss.

Djokovic’s success over the last six months is impressive because he did it while all the top players were playing well. Nadal’s success last year was largely based on success during a three month period (clay and grass 2010) while the top players were off form and his other nemeses were injured.

Djokovic’s sudden increase in level since the World Tour Finals likely caught both Nadal and Federer off guard this year. Both probably did not expect Djokovic to play at this level and maintain it for four months.

It would be compelling to find out exactly what Djokovic’s new team member — his bearded doctor — has done for him physically and mentally since last July. Whatever it is may be much more than just treatment for a gluten or other environmental sensitivity.

Regardless, if Djokovic (or Federer) takes over the No. 1 ranking from Nadal at his peak, it should not be surprising. It is a story that has happened many times before in tennis history — after all, only 9 players in the open era have been able to remain No. 1 for longer than 53 consecutive weeks (Nadal is currently on only 50 straight weeks). This would show how silly the premature talk of Nadal eclipsing Federer’s place in tennis history has been (es[ecially given the comprehensiveness of Federer’s achievements).

tfouto Says:

@Dave what are you saying? Dope?

dari Says:

Ohhhhhh, that’s who that bearded guy they kept showing is!

Duro Says:

The Caesar!!!

andrea Says:

i only had time to watch the last couple of games, but have since seen the highlights from the match. i couldn’t believe nadal being caught directionally on clay and actually wiping out. i don’t know if i have ever seen nadal wipe out on clay.

i’m sure someone knows the stat. has he?

dari Says:

He fell earlier this week and also in monte Carlo. Lumps of clay can trip you up. Don’t think its a big deal as long as nobody gets hurt.
Nice quotes from.both guys on the Rome.masters site:

Mila Says:

Duro, since you mentioned the good old Julius, here is his quote with few translations:



and likely the most appropriate in this case:


Lulu Iberica Says:

Thanks for the link, dari. Nice words from both, indeed. Reminded me why I love Rafa so much! And Djoko has acquired the mindset of a champion.

Ok, I really must get something done now! Night all.

marko Says:


El Flaco Says:

andrea Says:
i only had time to watch the last couple of games, but have since seen the highlights from the match. i couldn’t believe nadal being caught directionally on clay and actually wiping out. i don’t know if i have ever seen nadal wipe out on clay.

Nadal took a tumble against Soda at the 09 FO. Start watching at 1:35

Dan Martin Says:

Rafa knows how Roger felt in the first half of 2006. It is no fun being #1 and losing to the same guy over and over.

skeezerweezer Says:

Some Rafa stats, don’t know if it has been updated after todays match…but telling…

1ST SERVE POINTS WON ranked 26th

SERVICE GAMES WON ranked 12th, with Novak and Fed at 2 & 3 respectively


1ST SERVE PERCENTAGE 65 %, thought last yr was in at least the 70’s?

Regardless, you can see he needs to improve his serve here, and needs to get back his USO ’10 mojo on his serve. The serve is the 1rst chance a player can be offensive, they get the first free crack at starting the gane, and points CAN be dictated from here. Then I wonder he’s played Novak the great returner so many times this year that the numbers could be skewed. Regardless, this is an area for improvement. Looking just at Rafa’s game, what happened to that improved serve? Poof??

brian Says:

Nole has rewarded me my belief in him..his talents..Since he started bursting in the scene i fell in love with his style of play and his personality..When people,rather his critics says he quits when the going gets hurts me and i am so glad he proved them wrong and that all those times when he indeed were for s real reason..his health and not because he is a faker as some critics claimed..

Nole for Roland Garros !!!

dari Says:

In the quote above from the Rome website- think its strange Rafa thought he was being aggressive this match.
Ouch- 26th on first serves won?
I’m sure he’s up there for 2nd serves though

Dave Says:

tfouto: “Dave what are you saying? Dope?”

Not necessarily, though i wouldn’t rule anything out. But it seems the doctor has had a massive impact on Djokovic, and his work with Djokovic is more than just on his allergies. If it’s all legit then all power to djokovic for incorporating new effective methods in what he does to improve his performance level. Federer, on the other hand, has all the money but still seems to rely on old methods too much, even older racquet.

From New York Times, on the “doctor”:
“We are all humans, you know,” Djokovic said. “It’s all health issues and you overcome that. I have been working really hard. I have a doctor in my team now that keeps up on all the things, for allergies and what I eat and things like that. So we are really cautious on things that are going through the path of professional tennis.”

That doctor, Igor Cetojevic, began working with Djokovic in July before the Davis Cup quarterfinal in Croatia. The gray-bearded Cetojevic was in the front row of the players’ box Sunday night and also with Djokovic and other members of his entourage Monday when Djokovic met reporters and photographers on one of the upper levels of the massive Melbourne Cricket Ground adjacent to Melbourne Park.

Cetojevic said he was a trained general practitioner with an expertise in “Chinese medicine,” and his Web site says that he is also an acupuncturist who has attended seminars and had hospital experience in Beijing. Cetojevic’s Web site says that he holds a diploma from the Indian Institute of Magnetotherapy in New Delhi and that he specializes in working with advanced biofeedback systems, including S.C.I.O., or Scientific Conscious Interface Operator, a device that measures 16 “standard electrical parameters of the body” in an attempt to detect and treat areas of stress or imbalance and can be used to help combat allergies.

Djokovic was not asked about the particulars of his own treatment, but he did indicate that Cetojevic has played a significant and wide-ranging role in recent months as Djokovic has reached the United States Open final, won the Davis Cup and now won his second Grand Slam singles title.

“He’s a great psychologist as well,” Djokovic said as Cetojevic approached him, wearing a vest with no shirt underneath.

“The great doctor,” Djokovic said to him with a grin before turning his attention back to his interlocutors. “He has no shirt because he gave it away.”

johhny Says:

Nole you legend, have a rest, recover and shoot for the RG title. You can do it!

skeezerweezer Says:


Yeah 2nd serves won(Rafa) he is # 2, with Fed #1….but still :).

Rafa: “Today I was able to go inside the court and move well and to play more aggressively”

Yeah I thought that was a wierd coming a guy who was MB’in to try to stay in the points, but as always these guys get takin out of context alot :(

grendel Says:

In this match, Nadal and Djokovic were 67% each on first serves won, but on second serves Djokovic won 50%, Nadal 25%. I’m not keen on raw data generally speaking. For instance on ratio of ues to winners, Nadal was 22 to 15, Djokovic 32 to 26 – this really tells you very little about the match imo, though others may disagree. But it’s hard to ignore that 2nd serve stat, although again not easy to analyse. For example, that impressive 50% of Djokovic’s, was it due to the excellence of D’s 2nd serve, the poor quality of Nadal’s return, or neither particularly, just that D was outrallying Nadal a good deal even on his 2nd serve. Doubtless some kind of mixture.

Apparantly, Djokovic is the only person to beat Nadal 4 times in a row except for Davydenko. If Djokovic wins the French, I think he equals Vilas for longest streak. I bet his is much more impressive, though, in terms of quality of opposition. Still, he’s got to do it. I think people are a little quick to write off Nadal’s chances. He was right in there today. Certainly Djokovic was the better player and, as the risk taker, the deserved winner. But Nadal wasn’t far off sneaking it. Nadal will surely be a different proposition in a final at RG – home to him, really. Even so, if Djokovic plays at his best, I agree he is favourite.

Dave Says:

Website of Djokovic’s doctor. He sure has a lot of time to spend on tour with Djokovic. But that’s the advantage that Djokovic has — he is a symbol of Serbian nationalism, thus the best Serbians are probably willing to help him as a way to help Serbia. That’s an advantage that players like Federer, Nadal and most other players do not have.

tfouto Says:

well dispite all the expertise this doctor have, Djoko has the money that makes this ‘special doctor’ being his all time doctor…

He (doctor) seemed really happy after the game, sending kisses to TV camera…

mat4 Says:

About the doctor – Igor Cetojevic, I think: imagine dr Fuentes watching Rome and chating with Toni Nadal…

Don’t be silly. If this man was doing what some imply, you can bet he wouldn’t be in Nole’s team.

Another think: since his AO run, Nole has a lot of evening sessions, and in Europe I usually enjoys good draws in Monte Carlo, Rome. The director of Monte Carlo is a friend of Niki Pilic, and, as you know, Sergio Tacchini is an italian society and a sponsor of the Rome tm. Compare that to AO a few years ago: Djoko finished a match a 4 am, then he played in more than 40 C heat. Of course he is “fitter” now, when he has better timetables.

tfouto Says:

He has a book on his site, maybe i should bought it, mail it do Federer… :)

mat4 Says:

… another thing… sorry.

Kimmi Says:

maybe nadal should think about choosing to serve first at the coin toss. he is always asking to receive. well, today djoko won the toss so he did not have a choice. djokovic broke him every time he is serving to stay in the set and match…too much pressure.

mat4 Says:

Dave: you are writing nonsense. It has nothing to do with nationalism, but with money. That doctor earned probably 1000 to 2000 euros a month, and it’s big money in Serbia. Novak has a lot of “arguments” to convince him to be a part of his team.

mat4 Says:

There is a lot of talk about Djoko’s “improvements”. I have written an article in french, on Sportvox, and another is following. Basically, there are almost none. His FH, he had it two years ago; the serve is his old serve; the BH almost hasn’t changed. Djokovic was returning and defending extremely well in 2008 already.

But now, with the change of racket, everything is working, and Djoko has matured. He is just playing the way everybody was expecting him to play three years ago, when he was labelled as the “next big thing”.

Dave Says:

mat4: You are presuming you definitely know the answer and so you believe you must be right. You even “know” the doctor’s salary. Now that is silly and nonsensical since you are not on Djokovic’s team… or are you?

grendel Says:

mat4 – I had a look at this Dr.Cetojevik on the drigor website, and if there is one thing which is screamingly clear it is that he is one of the last people to encourage chemical doping of any sort, including “legitimate” drugs. He appears to be a romantic new age type, given to talking a fair amount of harmless nonsense: e.g. “It has been proven mathematically that we exist in a minimum of 11 dimensions simultaneously” – no it hasn’t, this is a highly speculative proposition of “string theory” which in any case belongs to the world of hard physics, not the charming make believe world of homeopathy and Bach Flower and suchlike which the good doctor goes in for.

Djokovic, once a maverick talent of huge potential (for success and failure alike) has matured into a very great tennis player. Of course, he has been helped by a very supportive team. That’s alright, isn’t it?

Eric Says:

Dear lord… I am afraid of Djokovic right now. 6-4 6-4 win over Rafa at Rome?

I am eating my words and jumping on the bandwagon… Nole is going to win the French. No one could possibly stop him except Murray, Roger, Rafa, and Soderling. And he’s completely destroyed them all this season. So…. Well, maybe the 5 set format will give Rafa a big advantage. I am not confident that he is 100% healthy, though; he’s looked poor (for him) all year and this Nole drubbing, while obviously ALL NOVAK, reinforces my feeling… anyway… it will be a great French Open and Wimbledon will be even more exciting, if anything. Djoko all the way! Undefeated season! CYGS! All masters titles! (Well,e xcept Monte Carlo,, I guess…. :D)

Kimmi Says:

i am reading the link dari sent. re: some of quotes from press.

Djokovic said “Maybe this is a bit arrogant to say that I can play better than this, because I have played that well against Rafa in Madrid and here. I have been hitting the ball really well and I am serving better this year, and it is important to get a couple of easy balls or free points from the serve. But there is always a need to improve…”

his serve was getting returned a lot today though..very few free poinst. did he hit an ace today, i don’t recall seeing one….

Miki Says:

No, he said his salary would be something like that, if he was a regular doctor in Serbia, and that Djokovic has enough money to keep him for himself :)

Dave Says:

Djokovoc has clearly and obviously improved all elements of his game (from movement to groundstrokes to mental) from what he was able to do in early 2008 at the Australian Open.

At the Australian Open 2008, it was unlikely that Djokovic would have been able to beat Federer had he not been compromised by mononucleosis and food poisoning as well as drained from a long five setter with Tipsarevic.

After all, Federer just finished his 2007 season that was superior to even Nadal’s 2010 season.

Yet at the start of Australian Open 2008, Djokovic and other Serbian players like Tipsarevic were eagerly telling the press that Federer had lost his aura and the players were not scared of him. That was before Djokovic or Tipsarevic had played Roger.

Why was that, given Federer’s success the previous year?

That was probably because they knew Federer was sick. When Federer arrived sick in Australia, he was hospitalized for food poisoning the week before the AO started. It was reported in local Australian papers that Federer had been sick and was looking sickly on the practice courts. The opportunistic Djokovic and other Serbian players took advantage of a sick Federer to put the word out that Federer was beatable. As luck would have it, Tipsarevic drew Federer in the third round and drained him in a five setter, which probably weakened Federer enough for Djokovic to beat him in the final.

The Djokovic of the Australian Open 2008 with his Wilson racquet would have probably lost in straight sets to today’s Nadal or Federer.

Kimmi Says:

dave – why are you talking about 2008? it is 2011.

jane Says:

Dave asks “Why was that, given Federer’s success the previous year?”

Well in Djoko’s case, it may’ve had something to do with the fact that Nole won in Toronto against Roger in the final and he got to the USO final and really *could’ve* been one maybe even two sets ahead had he not blinked. He surely kept it close for two sets. And frankly Nole said that kind of stuff prior to 2008. He was definitely outspoken as far back as 2006. Now, he has calmed it down a bit.


Kimmi, I think Nole is right to say he can still improve; why not? Nadal still says that. Nole could do even better at net; as you pointed out, his serve could be even stronger (more aces); and I am sure there is other stuff.


Re: the doctor. Well, I guess you know your fave has really “made it” into the conversation when people start the doping talk. I remember this with Rafa many a time. I think the doctor’s emphasis on diet has helped with the breathing and stamina issues, but like mat4 I don’t think (?) they’ve disappeared utterly. Also, I suspect this doctor is a bit of a psychologist, as Nole said, and that’s in many ways what Djoko needed, the belief in his abilities.

But I do think his return has improved, as well as his court coverage and forehand. His serve has just gotten back to where it was circa 2008, ditto his backhand – but the serve could still be even better.

Anyhow, my twocents. And where is Twocents??

Kimberly Says:

ok bracketeers, picks out friday but please pre-register. and see if this works. I always make a mess with this. wish the user friendly atp site would get with the program.

all other bracket players, if this link works please repost throughout the week so others can join.

For all of you who have not played, you don’t know what fun you are missing, and mostly Fed and Djoko fans/Celtics so don’t let my Nadal fan or Heat fan status stop you! Me and my five year old boy and one of Dari’s friends are the only ones who support rafa so any rafa fans would be appreciated too!

Dave Says:

“grendel Says:’I had a look at this Dr.Cetojevik on the drigor website, and if there is one thing which is screamingly clear it is that he is one of the last people to encourage chemical doping of any sort, including “legitimate” drugs. He appears to be a romantic new age type, given to talking a fair amount of harmless nonsense: e.g. “It has been proven mathematically that we exist in a minimum of 11 dimensions simultaneously” – no it hasn’t, this is a highly speculative proposition of “string theory” which in any case belongs to the world of hard physics, not the charming make believe world of homeopathy and Bach Flower and suchlike which the good doctor goes in for.’ ”

I’m sorry to tell you this, but there is a lot about alternative and complementary medicine that you do not seem to know about, despite your judgments about it. It’s not a make believe world as you believe, but it is beyond the scope of this thread to discuss it. You could start with reading the four volumes of Chemical Sensitivity books written by William Rea, MD. Once you’re done with that, you could read Magnet Therapy by William Philpott, MD. Then Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine as well as What The Drug Companies Won’t Tell You And Your Doctor Doesn’t Know by Michael Murray, ND. We could go on to Bach Flowers and homeopathy later.

Oh, and you definitely do not know anything about Djokovic’s doctor to know what he is or is not capable of doing, just because you read a blurb on his website.

Dave Says:

Kimmi Says: “dave – why are you talking about 2008? it is 2011.”

True, but it was a response to what mat4 said.

mat4: “There is a lot of talk about Djoko’s “improvements”. I have written an article in french, on Sportvox, and another is following. Basically, there are almost none. His FH, he had it two years ago; the serve is his old serve; the BH almost hasn’t changed. Djokovic was returning and defending extremely well in 2008 already. But now, with the change of racket, everything is working, and Djoko has matured. He is just playing the way everybody was expecting him to play three years ago, when he was labelled as the “next big thing”.

mat4 Says:

Grendel: As I can see, we have about the same opinion, and you probably misunderstood me.

Dave: the average salary for a doctor is about 600 euros in Serbia; I presumed that Cetojevic is probably earning more than that. And no, I don’t have all the answers.

Your speculations about Federer, Djokovic and Tipsarevic are without foundations. Novak has always been cocky, and he had 20 years then. He played Roger at least three times in 2007, and won once. And no, he never wasn’t afraid of Roger. And with his Wilson racquet, he won several times against Nadal, too.

Of course Djokovic is playing now better than in 2008. He improved his FH in 2009, and his FH makes mainly the difference now, with his serve.

About his return of serve: he is returning exceptionally well against players he knows: Federer, Nadal, Troicki… But his return was excellent three years already. I remember his match against Nalby at Queens, in 2008, when he returned in Nalby’s feet most of the time.

His evolution is made of a few steps here, a few pieces there, and a lot of maturity. He just has grown up.

Kimmi Says:

jane – yes, i agree with him that he can improve. what i was trying to say is, he probably needs to improve his serve more coz he did not get lots of free points on his serve today..though i understand that it is not easy on clay.

jane Says:

Thanks for setting up the bracket challenges Kimberly; you rock! :)

andrew Miller Says:

Thing is now that Nadal’s losing on clay, his biggest opponent isn’t Djokovic – it’s the other guys like Del Potro and Soderling who suddenly know that Nadal’s not king of clay anymore.

jane Says:

Agree Kimmi, re: the serve. I know it’s hard to ace on clay, but a few more would be nice. Maybe he meant hard court or something. Anyhow, I am with you.

grendel Says:

“He was definitely outspoken as far back as 2006” – jane. I recall Djokovic around that time having to retire whilst playing Nadal at the French. He was pretty funny, saying things like he had been in control of the match. Absurd though it was, you couldn’t help taking note. Here was a youngster with huge self-belief. Seems like it’s all finally come good.

Kimmi, I got the impression – don’t know whether it was justified – that Djokovic’s serve was a little ordinary today. I thought his groundies were even better than against Murray.

Kimmi Says:

dave – OK :)

mat4 Says:

re Kimmi/Jane:

Djoko believes he has to improve his approach to the net and his volleying. We have seen today that Rafa didn’t use enough his BH slice, that allowed him to slow the rallies so well at the USO (Roger used it well, and I don’t understand why he didn’t play more slice against Djoko at the AO, when it was almost obvious that Djoko didn’t make anything against), and one way to exploit those defensive slices is to go forward.

Kimmi Says:

grendel – me too. i also felt djoko could not get free points. every time when his serve was in danger i would wish for him to hit an ace but there was none today. groundies were top notch though.

i think i mentioned on the other thread that nole played better today than yesterday. i guess he knew that is the only way to beat rafa. anything else won’t cut it.

skeezerweezer Says:


No doubt Nole has room for improvement, serve, yes, still and transition for sure. But what has been amazing is he hasn’t had to. Imho Murray exposed some of this and Fed at the ripe old age CAN expose this but Rafa’s style is not a consummate variety game of spins and pace, and now this falls right into Nole’s sweet spot.

Kimmi Says:

I also think that murray was going more for returns on djoko serve than rafa.

this is debatable but right now i feels like murray will probably trouble djoko more than rafa.

skeezerweezer Says:

^ BTW Rafa’s BH slice is not a pure slice nor chip, it’s a chop, technically…

grendel Says:

mat4 – no, I was agreeing with you. It is clear that any hint of doping is moonshine. re your comment: “And no, he never wasn’t afraid of Roger”. I remember watching Djokovic against Fed at the AO – sorry, can’t remember the year, but probably the time he beat Baghdatis in the final. I think Federer won in straights, but I remember the match as being tight. I felt pretty nervous, and had the feeling that Djokovic was always on the brink of breaking through, but that Federer was just managing to hold him off. I remember suggesting something of this sort on this site, but a notable Fed fan – Tejuz – who had actually watched the match live (he was an Aussie), disagreed and asserted that Federer was always in control. I was sceptical, but didn’t want to argue with someone whom I liked but who anyway knew much more about tennis than me – but you know how you get these feelings. I was convinced then that Djokovic was very very dangerous.

Kimmi Says:

skeezer – re: murray, i was thinking the same thing. your post says it better than mine :)

jane Says:

I think Murray really took it to Djoko for sure; and I think their future battles will be tight and exciting. Both are excellent returners and defenders. So far, Nole has been more aggressive, but Murray probably has more natural variety / touch, so he can use it to his advantage.

I was wondering this today and I am curious what others think: let’s say Murray did serve it out and win versus Nole; could he have, would he have beaten Nadal today? Certainly it seems plausible given that he pushed Rafa at MC.

So going into the FO, there is Fed, Murray, Nole, and possibly Soda and Delpo who could cause some damage. Maybe Bellucci could be dangerous early on to someone? Anyway am very much looking forward to the FO!

On the ladies’ side too. Plenty of possibilities with no Justine, Kim or Serena (not sure about Venus). But there’s Sharpie, Gorgerous, Vika (if she’s well), Woz, and many others.

jane Says:

^ Nadal as dangerous goes without saying @ 9:37.

mat4 Says:

re skeezerweezer:

first, I do need some english lessons. Tennis vocabulary among other things.

Then, honestly, I don’t see how you can make a lot of free points serving against Murray or Rafa on clay.

PHM, after a loss at RG, said that Djoko’s second serve went 190 kmph, and it is clear that today, Djokovic hasn’t got that second serve. He didn’t recover the precision he had on the first serve, too.

I also believe that Roger still can win on faster courts, and that he has improved his game compared to 2010 and even to 2009.

Kimmi Says:

jane – unfortunately i will not believe muzza beating rafa on clay until i see it. lets hope djoko win vs rafa will be an incentive for muzza too.

maybe a lot of guys will believe now.

It happened to federer. everybody think they can win against him now.

Kimberly Says:

All right rafa! Enough, a sweet little child has cried all afternoon and evening. He is even missing his beloved heat play (good thing so far) because he was too sad and took to bed. I promised him rafa would win the French, so he better do it!

grendel Says:

You’re forgetting Kvitova. She could go out in the first round. And – just as plausibly – she could win the whole caboodle. I’m pinning my hopes on her.

re Murray: why did he collapse in the 3rd against Nadal? Was it to do with the elbow in some way, or had he simply shot his bolt? One thing: Djokovic may have acted as a kind of pathfinder where Nadal is concerned. Others may take heart….

Kimmi Says:

i am just watching the match again, the celebration at the end from djoko. he certainly has the bigger mouth than murray..

I remember muzza mouth at the AO vs rafa..that was big :)

Dave Says:


At Montreal 2007 (not Toronto), Federer should have won it in straight sets but instead lost 6-7, 6-2, 6-7. Federer broke Djokovic and served for the first set but Djokovic fought off about 7 setpoints. The mistake Federer had made after Wimbledon 2007 was to practice with left handers expecting a strong challenge from Nadal that did not materialize.

Federer winning the US Open 2007 final was justice for what had happened in Montreal. However, though it’s portrayed as Djokovic blinking the fact remains that Federer’s reputation from 2004 to 2007 was his ability to shift to a higher gear whenever his back was against the wall, which he did to defeat Djokovic in straight sets. Federer was a different player at Grand Slams, so it really did not matter that Djokovic kept it close for two sets.

Djokovic ended 2007 badly, losing all three round robin matches in the WTF. Before that, he lost in the second round of Paris.

Federer ended 2007 winning the WTF, crushing No. 2 Nadal in a 58-minute straight setter along the way.

So before Australian Open 2008, Djokovic really had little basis to make those claims, despite his arrogance at the time. However, knowing that Federer was sick before the AO likely motivated not just Djokovic but even the more thoughtful Tipsarevic to make those claims. It has the appearance of being an orchestrated conspiracy by the Serbians. No non-Serbian players were reported to have made those claims at the time. Only Serbian, led by Djokovic.

Of course, when Djokovic tried to pull the same stunt at Wimbledon 2008, making claims about Federer, it blew up in his face after he was blasted off teh court by Marat Safin despite all his talents.

Lulu Iberica Says:

Jane, IMO, Rafa is playing the third best clay court tennis right now, behind Djoker, then Murray. Rafa probably got lucky with Murray’s elbow injury. Andy would’ve had a good chance today, and he’ll be dangerous at the FO. I’m not too afraid of him though, because I still give the mental edge to Rafa, and I think Rafa will pick up his game a bit. I have to say though, Murray has really improved in the mental dept, and maybe part of it is due to Djoker’s example.

grendel Says:

Kimmi – you beat me to it! First about the Nadal aura looking a little tarnished. But also about Murray. I won’t believe he can beat Nadal on clay until he beats Nadal on clay. And then I’ll say: always suspected the lad had it in him…

dari Says:

Kimmi- novak mouth bigger than Murray AO? No way

dari Says:

What encourages me about Murray performance here and MC is that all of this is happening on clay- pushing the top guys to the brink. And in Rome particularly where I don’t thjnk he won more than two matches before.
If he keeps going, I look forward to what can happen on grass and hars court.
Kimmi- that’s a good point for the blue print to beating Rafa.
That said, whether something is wrong, health, family, etc., Rafa does not seem at his best. Could be that I’m comparing him to 2010 which was probably his best and a period where many others were not at theirs, or because djokovic is just making him look slow and tired and rattled

grendel Says:

If I remember correctly, Djokovic was serving for the first set in the 2007 US Open final, was 40-0 up – and managed to lose it. the question then is, did he choke – which is the natural assumption – or did Federer by sheer brilliance peg him back? the default position is definitely the choke, unless it can be shown that Federer simply outplayed Djokovic in a pretty devastating manner for the rest of that service game. That I don’t recall, I’m afraid, perhaps someone has access to a You Tube or something. Of course, had Djokovic won that set, all options are open – speculation is probably futile.

jane Says:

Kimmi, I am not sure: I think maybe Andy would’ve had a chance??

Lol, yes Nole’s celebration today was too much. He has been quite subduded in his celebrations lately, all through AO, IW, Miami and even in Mardid except with his team. But in Rome he has been hollering. I don’t love it. But I do understand it’s a release.


I don’t think it was only Serbian players, Dave, was it? Surely other players also felt and talked like they had a chance on the court, or that they had to step on court and believe?

You’re right, it was Montreal not Toronto. But my point was this: 1) Nole always blabbed like that back in the day so saying that at the AO 2008 was nothing out of the ordinary (now he is much more respectful and deferrential, having gone through the school of hard knocks and seen what it truly takes to be a champion, consistently, like Fed and Rafa have been) and 2) He had beaten Fed (regardless of whether or not Fed should have beaten him, and Nole’d beaten the numbers 3,2, and 1 in a row – first since Becker in 1992), plus he’d been in the finals of his first slam. So all I am saying is that tose 2 things would’ve given him a shot in the arm in terms of belief and likely contributed to his self-assertions at the AO.

I don’t think it’s valid to discount those factors and chalk it all up to a Serbian plan against an ill Roger. Probably all the players in the locker room had heard Fed had been ill and were sighing with relief ;) but these other factors probably played a part for Djoko’s confidence then.

Dc Says:

Murrays mouth is not that big..but when needed he can really stretch it beyond limits..too bad he cant do it with his game..

Dave Says:

grendel “I remember watching Djokovic against Fed at the AO – sorry, can’t remember the year, but probably the time he beat Baghdatis in the final. I think Federer won in straights, but I remember the match as being tight. I felt pretty nervous, and had the feeling that Djokovic was always on the brink of breaking through, but that Federer was just managing to hold him off. I remember suggesting something of this sort on this site, but a notable Fed fan – Tejuz – who had actually watched the match live (he was an Aussie), disagreed and asserted that Federer was always in control. I was sceptical, but didn’t want to argue with someone whom I liked but who anyway knew much more about tennis than me – but you know how you get these feelings. I was convinced then that Djokovic was very very dangerous.”

That’s incredible. Federer crushed Djokovic in straight sets 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 in only 100 minutes at the 2007 Australian Open, winning 59% of the points. It wasn’t even close. Djokovic threw a few problems at Federer in the second set, nothing that Federer couldn’t handle.

jane Says:

@ 10:09, “in the finals of his first slam.” – oops I meant He’d been to his first slam final.

grendel’s right – hard to say re: choking or brilliance/resilliance. It’s often maybe a bit of both.

Kimberly Says:

Lulu, to put Murray before rafa is ridiculous, rafa won two tournaments and almost bageled Murray in set 3 of montecarlo and was in two finals. If you look at clay court points I doubt Murray is even third. Clearly Novak is one but to go as far as to say Murray is two IMO is totally off.

Ben Pronin Says:

Djokovic was physically and most probably mentally exhausted at the end of 2007. But like several others have said, he’s always been super cocky. He expected to beat Federer at the 2007 Australian Open when they played in the fourth round. He kept it maybe surprising closer than most expected, but couldn’t really hurt Federer. But he improved mentally, physically, and tennis-wise as the year went on and that lead to his first victory over Nadal, Federer, and then his first GS final. He didn’t play THAT bad at the end of the year. He won Vienna and lost to Nalbandian in the semis of Madrid. Then he lost his last 4 matches to close out the year. But at the beginning of 08 he was well rested and had a ridiculous amount of belief in himself. How could he have known Federer had mono if Federer didn’t reveal it until after Dubai in February?

It’s amazing to me to see so many people claim Djokovic hasn’t improved and he must be doping and this and that. Djokovic’s forehand used be a liability. Even back in 08, the experts claimed he’d never dominate the way a Nadal or a Federer or a Sampras could because he doesn’t have that “go-to” weapon. His forehand certainly isn’t up with those guys, but it’s getting there. Especially right now, only Federer at his best probably hits a better inside out forehand than Djokovic. Dominating off the backhand wing is very difficult, but now he’s got a huge forehand to go with it. The serve might be the same as 2008, but it’s infinitely better than it was last year. And last year, while double faulting 10 times a match, he managed to stay number 3. How often does he double now? Maybe 2 times on average per match? That’s a HUGE difference in any level of the sport. And quite frankly, great fitness, strong attitude, nothing can explain how he mastered the drop shot/lob combination. It’s amazing how well he executes that tactic. That can only be creditted to practice and hard work.

Sean made a great point that we’re in an era of wussies where there’s “no way a player can recover from a great physical effort the day before.” And I mentioned it earlier, Nadal simply didn’t exploit Djokovic’s fatigue. He just gave him easy sitters that Djokovic barely had to move for in order to smack the winner. People on this site know my opinion on PEDs in the sport, and I’m not going to defend Djokovic in this regard at all. But to say that he’s still the same player exact player with improved fitness is just a blatantly wrong analysis. Like Federer said, Djokovic has always been capable of this brilliant level, but a key difference is he used to choke a lot in these big moments and now he doesn’t. Once again, Sean was right in saying that the win over Federer in the US Open semi was probably going to be the turning point of Djokovic’s entire career.

mat4 Says:

Last year, I remember some posts when Jane was – how should I say it (language problems)? – desperate for AM and Djoko to finally make a breakthrough. Now, most have forgotten RF and some are writing off Rafa.

The best solution is to listen Rafa’s interviews: he never forgets how dangerous and remarquable all this players are. Neither should we.

I don’t think that AM is better than Rafa on clay, although I am certain (and it is much easier now) that he could win. He doesn’t play down the line often enough, although he has a vicious crosscourt FH with a high rebound prepared especially for Rafa.

Krishna Says:

I agree Ben.. I think his win over Federer at the 2010 USO was the turning point of his career.. Even though he lost to Nadal in the final..(probably because he was mentally/physically drained from the encounter with Federer) has helped him in his confidence big time.. since the 2010 USO.. he has had nothing but positive results..

grendel Says:

dave says: “That’s incredible. Federer crushed Djokovic in straight sets 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 in only 100 minutes at the 2007 Australian Open, winning 59% of the points. It wasn’t even close. Djokovic threw a few problems at Federer in the second set, nothing that Federer couldn’t handle.”

It’s a matter of perception. In that second set, I sensed Djokovic as being highly dangerous. To me, he pushed Federer to the limit. Federer was good enough to handle this exceptional tennis, but only just in my opinion. If that opinion is worthless, so be it. But that is how I felt. After losing that second set, Djokovic faded away – he was done. Federer had also been all over him in the first set. For Fed fans, it was a delight. It’s that second set which was the crunch – Djokovic made his move, and was very nearly successful (in that set I mean). Which is why quoting stats for the entire match is to miss the point.

jane – I wasn’t saying it is hard to say whether choke or brilliance from Fed. Maybe it was,maybe it wasn’t, I can’t remember unfortunately. That’s why it would be good to see a recording.

jane Says:

mat4, “desperate” is fair. :) I think what makes things so exciting right now is that Fed is clearly playing better than last year, Rafa is still great, but maybe slightly lower (?), Djoko is clearly much better, Murray has had his best results on clay, and then there are other “floaters” or dark horses or even real contenders on clay, like Ferrer (obviously!!), Delpo, Soda, Berdych, Bellucci, Gasquet. It’s kind of like *anything can happen* and is quite thrilling to know. I do not think for a minute that we should ever count out guys like Fed and Nadal – for OBVIOUS reasons.

And heading onto grass, players like Tsonga, Roddick, Fish, Raonic, Isner, Karlovic, Kohls, Petz, et al could come to the fore again too, not to mention Fed being perhaps the most likely contender to take the title.

So there is lots of tennis to be played still, and who knows what’ll happen.

What’s nice is that Nole and Muzza have made a little noise this year. Maybe Nole’s made a lot of noise. ; O

Kimmi Says:

muzza has not made noise yet. big rafa win or big novak win might do just that jane

jane Says:

grendel, so sorry for misinterpreting you or putting my words in your mouth. Here is a recording. Wow, Nole looks so young; and these were Darth Federer days. :) I don’t know, am clearly biased, but Nole had 40-love to take the first set. I think he got tentative and tight – hit shots long, going for too much. But Fed hit some on-the-line winners. Combo – Chexican. :)

This video, if you forward to the end, shows how Nole had broken and could served it out:

This video shows begining of the end for Nole. :)

The entire match is available in HD on youtube. I love you tube.

mat4 Says:

Re Ben:

Nole’s inside-out FH was excellent in 2009 already, but lately he has improved a lot his crosscourt FH, as we could see this evening (for me).

He also is able to hit all kind of trajectory: high and rounded, flat, with spin, inside-out, inside-in, crosscourt…

At the AO, he was the second with most FH winners, after… of course, RF. Although Tsonga, Soderling, Berdych hit harder, none has this kind of versatility. It should be noticed that Djokovic plays with some margin, et hits rather “almost winners” than winners.

jane Says:

Kimmi, he’s made noise insofar as he reached the AO final. That’s what I was thinking. Also, he played Nadal, King of clay, pretty close at MC, and almost – just by a hair – was the one to stop Nole’s streak, so to me that’s a “little noise” ;)

grendel, I posted the you tube links but my comment is in moderation. Hopefully it is “released” soon.

mat4 Says:

Jane: Murray will win one GS this year. Make a note. I allow quoting.

Kimberly Says:

Jane, he also lost to Donald young and alexander bogomlov(?) also nadal completely obliterated him in set 3 of montecarlo (u can mention the elbow but rafa fans are never allowed excuses so….)

I believe, if nadal does not win the tournament he loses number 1. If nadal wins I think novaknjust needs the semi to take 1. Or maybe the final. Either way he deserves it. Novak has four masters already that is sick. New rankings are up and there is only 500 pts between rafole.

Kimberly Says:

Interesting Vegas odds are now showing sharp ova as then third favorite fornthe French behind azarenka (favorite) and woz. They are puttingnher as the fourth for Wimbledon behind Serena, Kim, and Venus? And ahead of woz and azarenka.

Skeezerweezer Says:

Great reads up here all day, enjoyed them all, tennis x rules!

Joe W Says:

You know as soon as I turned on the TV and the women’s final was rain delayed I just knew that Novak was going to win today. Novak is truly a winner in that he is someone who (finally) recognized his God-given talents, worked his tail off to develop them into skills, and used these skills to accomplish his goals. And if his goals are to be the #1 tennis player in the world, and win a slam or two, this is his year. I’ve been following tennis since the 80’s and I can’t remember a player who is more on fire than Novak is right now. Remarkable run.

grendel Says:

Nadal and Djokovic each bent over backwards in complimenting each other. Both are pretty keen that the other should be lumbered with the pressure of being favourite for RG. “You’re the best!” “No, you are!” “Not, you are!” “be very difficult to beat you!” “be even more difficult to beat you!” And so on.

But in the midst of all this desperate one-downmanship, Nadal suddenly injected a note of truth:”The big champions are not just those that are able to win every week but those that are able to wait until the right moment,”.

Now how about THAT for laying down your marker! I bet uncle Toni is furious…

al Says:

Wow, amazing run for Novak so far, I was actually expecting him to lose against Nadal seeing that he had shown some fatigue during Murray match.
Maybe Nadal experimented with strategy(moonballing) but back-fired.

A word creep into my mind… ‘Nole-Slams’.. no no that would just be silly. :)

Hope he do well in FO!

tennisfansince76 Says:

there is some talk here about the 2007 us open. as i remember it Fed was lucky to get out w/ a straight set win. Djoker was the better player for the first 2 sets. Djoker’s service games were impenetrable while Djoker was putting pressure on Fed’s serve. Djoker did tighten up while serving for the set. then in the tiebreaks fed had nerves of steel and served lights out. once Fed was up 2 sets to none Djoker caved a bit. just don’t think Djoker had the belief that match.
the 2007 austalian open as a fed fan i definitely got the sense that Djoker was a future contender for the throne. he put pressure on Fed in set 2 but Fed got thru. i’m sure Fed saw what Djoker could do aand wanted to make sure to beat him soundly and not let him have any idea that he could supplant the king. Djoker was just a kid then. not ready to topple the tennis rex.
as far as Djoker’s strokes i think they were mostly all there by 2007 when he made his move. he served well. had a lights out second serve. his strokes were killer on both sides. great down the lines off both sides. when he fell back a bit his strokes especially his FH got a lot spinnier. anyone doubting his FH should look at the monteal 2007 matcg against Fed where Djoker took 2 high bouncing rally shots by Fed at about head height and positively smoked them by Fed in the decisive tiebreaker, i still don’t think he is 2nd serving as well as he did in 2007/2008. the biggest difference to me in his game now is conditioning, consistency and mental. he has simply grown up. on the physical side if you are having problems w/ gluten and you get off of it that will make a huge difference.

tennis coach Says:

Dave you have quite a great imagination and fixation on Djokovic and “Serb conspiracy”. Everything you are saying is far from truth and it’s based on pure speculation. I am sure that everyone would have heard about what you were saying if that was the truth. Therefore let’s leave out all these speculations and accusations of Novak’s doping and serb conspiracy and talk about tennis.

Lulu Iberica Says:

Kimberly, obviously over the whole of the season Rafa has been better than Muzza. I am not saying he would’ve beaten Rafa in MC without the elbow problem, but he did take that set comfortably. And he certainly showed better stuff against Djoko than Rafa did in Madrid or Rome. Do you think Rafa played a better match today than Murray did last night?

Lulu Iberica Says:

^^^Two things: 1. I did say “at the moment” Murray has been playing better and I don’t think the moment will last long. I am certainly not saying in general Andy is better than Rafa on clay. That would be ridiculous.

2. Maybe I’m giving AM too much credit. Maybe it’s just a match up issue, but he was a hair’s breadth from stopping the Nole train.

Michael Says:

The match lived up to its billing. It was really a treat to watch both Djokovic and Nadal playing their best tennis. The game changer according to me was the return of serve.Djokovic was just returning very easily even Nadal’s first serve which put more pressure on him. At the back court, unlike Madrid, we did see Nadal competing point for point but yet Djokovic was better. Nadal is just clueless how to handle Djokovic. He hit swirling forehands which would have won him against any other player, but not Djokovic. When he sensed Djokovic returning back everything and creating incredible angles for his shorts, Nadal had little option but to resort to moon balling hoping that Djokovic will out hit them. Ofcourse, Djokovic obliged Nadal a few times. But in the end even that didn’t work. Nadal was obviously very disappointed losing and this was evident in the way he handshaked with Djokovic. Djokovic has done the incredible in tennis, beating Nadal consecutively in Clay in straight sets. This is an achievement even Federer could not match who was always struggling against Rafa on Clay. According to me, this achievement is like winning a calendar grand slam because Nadal is such a great player on Clay and possibly the Greatest the Game has seen until Novak played spoilsport.

BT Says:

This doesn’t seem to have been published by the ATP but it would appear (accoding to that Novak has qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals after winning Rome.

tennis coach Says:

tennisfansince76, I agree with your opinion. Novak had all the elements of his tennis game already in 2007/8, in fact he had better 1st and 2nd serve at the time then now. We saw today and yesterday that he did not get any free points, he had to fight for every point. His biggest problem at that time was poor health, fitness and lack mental toughness. I would also like to add that change of racket at that time cost him dearly and derailed his path to success temporarily. He has been working on his fitness for quite some time, he hired fitness coach who helped him tremendously. So, it does not come as surprise that with amount of time he invested into his fitness that he would benefit handsomely from it .

tennisfansince76 Says:

these are some great youtube clips of fed-djoker in 2007. note that in the 07 open Djoker served for set 1 at 40-0, was a break up in set 2, had 2 set pts on feds serve in set 2. and then he had 2 break pts to go up in set 3 including one which he let go as out but was in.

also note the monster shot making and movement from both players on full display

Michael Says:

It is Federer who will have a troubled time ahead what with the likes of Murray and Djokovic coming of age not to mention Nadal. Federer too is not getting any younger and it is time may be for him to hang the boots as he is now being beaten black and blue by B level players whom he will never lose earlier. I do not think Federer will go on to win another Grand slam. Probably his only chance will be this year’s Wimbledon where he needs to make a match of it and may be in that court he will have the edge against Murray and Djokovic. But Nadal could still prove to be the stumbling block in the final.

dari Says:

Thanks tf76. I’m reminded of two things watching that video:1) Novak has had the goods for some time
2) man, were the glory days of fed spectacular.
He’s gotta get another slam, I tell ya!

al Says:

About the ‘witch doctor’, he is truly a great help Nole had added to his team, medically and psychologically. I remember during I think was Indian Wells, when Novak was one set down and serving to stay in the match against Nadal, before Nole serve, he gestured and pulled everyone to stand up and cheer for Nole. Nole then held and broke back and went on to win the match. It was a heart-warming sight to see.

aleish17 Says:

Congrats to Novak and his fans!

I am feeling so sad and disappointed right now (as a Rafa fan).

Hope the Nadal team will figure out a way to handle Novak’s game next time they meet. Nadal was just wiped out. Totally outplayed by Novak.

Best of luck to Rafa in RG!!!

truefan Says:


You forget the age factor. In 2008, Federer was 26+, turned 27. That’s when things started to go downhill. At the end of 2007, even with Nadal, Federer was H2H 6-8 – very close, especially given that one of Nadal’s victories was a 5 hour 5 setter in Rome, and other other was a win over a sick Federer in 2004 Miami. So NOBODY dominated Federer until he crossed 26.

Nadal is just about 25, and is already in decline. Do you seriously believe Nadal will be a major factor in 2013, except maybe a bit on clay (which would be the age equivalent of Federer in 2008)?

And how about Nadal in 2016 (which is the age equivalent of Federer in 2011) – I don’t know if Nadal will even be top 10 in 2016.

Once his supreme movement, reflexes, power and stamina wane just 5%, he will lose so many more matches. Even now, in his BEST year (2010), he lost 10 matches. Federer lost only 4 matches in 2005, and only 24 during the 4 year period 2004-07.

Nadal needs to be 100% to win. And nobody can fight age.

Huh Says:

I’m mighty impressed by murray too apart from nole n rafa, the guy’s surely made some nkise by pushin rafa to 3 sets in MC n almost beatin nole in rome semis which shows muzza chalengin rafa at MC was no fluke, but he has indeed improvd somwhat mentaly
n motivationaly. MUZZA for a GS thia year, CHEERS!!! :D

dave Says:

Kimmi: “It happened to federer. everybody think they can win against him now.”

That’s according to the bias of the newspaper writers and nitwit pundits. In reality, not just anybody can beat Federer, even now. In the past one year Federer has won more consistently than either Djokovic or Nadal. The fact is that in the past one year more lower ranked players have been able to beat Nadal and Djokovic than Federer:

– 9 different players have beaten Djokovic. Federer has beaten Djokovic the most (4 times). Four different players outside the top 16 have beaten Djokovic: Filip Krajinovic (No. 319), Xavier Malisse (No. 74), Michael Llodra (No. 34), Juergen Melzer (No. 27).

– 9 different players have beaten Nadal . Djokovic has beaten Nadal the most (4 times). Four players outside the top 16 have beaten Nadal: Guillermo Garcia Lopez (No. 53), Feliciano Lopez (No. 31), Nikolai Davydenko (No. 22), Marcos Baghdatis (No. 20).

– 9 different players have beaten Federer. Djokovic has beaten Federer the most (4 times). The only player outside the top 16 to beat Federer was former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt (No. 32) at Halle. Still, Hewitt’s grass win loss record is similar to Pete Sampras, and Federer got injured at Halle.

On Nadal: Despite his recent losses, Nadal deserves to be the favourite at the French Open. We should respect what he has done at Roland Garros, the fact that Roland Garros clay is different from Madrid and Rome (it’s more like Monte Carlo, and maybe there is a reason Djokovic stayed away from MC), plus the fact that Djokovic has lost twice to Rafa on that court. Moreover, Nadal and shrewd Uncle Toni have shown a remarkable ability to step it up a level by the start of the French Open. Until Djokovic proves himself at the French Open, Nadal should remain the favourite.

dave Says:

tennis coach: “Dave you have quite a great imagination and fixation on Djokovic and “Serb conspiracy”. Everything you are saying is far from truth and it’s based on pure speculation. I am sure that everyone would have heard about what you were saying if that was the truth. Therefore let’s leave out all these speculations and accusations of Novak’s doping and serb conspiracy and talk about tennis.”

Hmmm, ‘tennis coach’ you don’t know what you are talking about. The facts and truth don’t support your claims, so the great imagination and wild speculation must be in your head. If you disagree, provide us facts.

What Djokovic and Tipsarevic said about the “vulnerability” of Federer was reported in local Australian newspapers before and at the start of the Australian Open, and were later reported in the British media. The only players quoted were Djokovic and Tipsarevic, both claiming unknown “other players” felt the same way about Federer. Some remarks were made in direct comments to the press while other remarks were made at the press conferences. However, no other players were ever quoted besides those two Serbians. Indeed far more players (Roddick, Nadal, Fish, Blake, etc.) were later quoted ridiculing such claims that Federer was vulnerable.

Here are two examples of the truth:

– During the 2008 Australian Open, just before Djokovic played Federer, the official AO website reported: “In the first month of 2008, we still wait for the predicted cracks to appear and for the king to abdicate after 209 weeks as the planet’s No.1 player. You’d think the doubters would learn but the Swiss master heads into Friday night’s Australian Open semi-final against rising Serb star Novak Djokovic with fresh question marks over his superiority. Djokovic went on record after round one to suggest Federer had lost some of his invincibility and may be vulnerable. Such comments don’t rile Federer… Djokovic began the tournament talking up his chances of bringing down the world No.1, but took on a more diplomatic tone when cornered after his quarter-final victory over David Ferrer.” When the Grand Slam event’s own website reports it, it is definitely not the speculation or imagination you pretend it is.

– The British Telegraph newspaper reported just before the Federer-Djokovic match: “Here in the Melbourne sunshine, there has been an attempt at revisionism. According to Djokovic, the men’s locker-room now believe that Federer has lost his aura of invincibility, that he could be vulnerable to defeat. It was a view that was enhanced last Saturday evening when another Serbian, Janko Tipsarevic, extended Federer to a 10-8 fifth set in their third round. “The players start to feel that Federer is beatable,” Djokovic said. “Of course, nobody’s unbeatable. But he was very, very dominant, especially on the faster surfaces. You know, now he’s been the world No 1 for a while. The players started playing in a different way against him, with more belief that they can win. So it’s a good thing for all of us.” Still, it has come to something when you are discussing the supposed ‘vulnerability’ of a 12-time grand slam champion, someone who has won three of the last four majors, and who is attempting to win a hat-trick of Australian Open trophies and a fourth overall. And Federer’s 7-5, 7-6, 6-4 win over American James Blake tonight took his run of successive grand slam semi-finals to 15. How shaky does that sound? And although Djokovic beat Federer in the Toronto final last summer, the Swiss has won their other five career contests, including a fourth-round meeting here last year and also the title match at last year’s US Open. True, Djokovic had his chances and his set-points in New York that day, but that didn’t prevent Federer from winning in straight sets.”

dave Says:

mat4: “Your speculations about Federer, Djokovic and Tipsarevic are without foundations. Novak has always been cocky, and he had 20 years then. He played Roger at least three times in 2007, and won once. And no, he never wasn’t afraid of Roger. And with his Wilson racquet, he won several times against Nadal, too.”

I’ve proven above that it is fact, not speculation (see my post to tennis coach). Thus your speculative claims are without foundation.

Second, my point is that the Nadal of today would probably beat in straight sets the “Wilson” Djokovic who won the 2008 Australian Open. During the period before 2009 (Djokovic used his Wilson racquet till the end of 2008), Novak beat Nadal four times, but Nadal also beat him ten times. Today’s Nadal with his RPM Blast strings is a better player than the pre-2009 version.

You cannot see inside his head to know whether he never was afraid of Federer. Or are you claiming you can read minds?

Despite his cocky mouth and behaviour, it’s possible that Djokovic really has an insecurity complex and tries too hard to convince himself to be confident. After being thrashed by Federer in a 2006 Davis Cup tie, Djokovic gushed like a fanboy about the quality of Federer’s play: “In some deciding points when he made some incredible passing shots, some incredible sliced backhands , some incredible forehands I was just wondering is he human? Is he from this planet? It’s unbelievable when you try everything and you play your best tennis and somebody beats you 6-3 6-2 6-3. You have to question what is going on, what you need to work on to be the player like Roger.”

When Djokovic finally beat Federer one year later at Montreal 2007 — his first win in five or six attempts since 2006 (unlike players like Gasquet and Nadal who at a younger age beat Fed) — surely Djokovic realized that Federer played a sloppy match on a windy day after his vacation break, and made about 50 or 60 unforced errors. It’s quite possible that he did not truly believe he could consistently beat Federer despite all the bravado from Djokovic and his parents. That may be a reason why Djokovic capitulated to Federer at Monte Carlo 2008.

Seth Says:

Why are people discussing Federer v. Djokovic matches from 2007? Fed is my favorite player, but some folks attempts to insert him into every current narrative come across as pretty ham-fisted and unnecessary.

dave Says:

Jane: “I don’t think it was only Serbian players, Dave, was it? Surely other players also felt and talked like they had a chance on the court, or that they had to step on court and believe?”

No, at that time the only players who said that Federer was vulnerable and beatable were the two Serbian players Djokovic and Tipsarevic. They were quoted in the news media before and at the start of the Australian Open. They also claimed that other players felt that Federer was beatable, but the news media did not have any similar quotes from any other player at the time.

It’s one thing to state confidently that you believe you can beat the No. 1 player like Federer or Nadal and that you intend to beat him. That’s just being competitive and confident. But it’s another thing to start rumours that the locker room believes Federer is beatable and vulnerable. Unlike previous occasions, Djokovic was not just blabbing ad hoc. At the AO 2008 he seemed to be making a concerted effort to repeat his same message at interviews with news media he gave before the AO even started. The Aussie press reported it, even though it sometimes came from interviews outside the official press conferences.

Even the British Telegraph tennis writer Mark Hodgkinson – no genuine fan of Federer — dispelled Djokovic’s claims as an “attempt at revisionism”.

Djokovic beat Federer all of… once in five or six tries? It’s not like Canas, who at least beat Federer twice in a row :)

I’m not discounting the factors you mentioned, just considering the bigger picture. A probable reason why Djokovic and Tipsarevic were motivated to spread rumours about the vulnerability of Federer was the bad feelings from the Davis Cup tie between Switzerland and Serbia in September 2006. Djokovic had resorted to delaying tactics (medical time outs, ball bouncing, etc.) in his five set victory over Wawrinka. Djokovic had a reputation for using similar gamesmanship in tight matches, including against Gael Monfils at the 2005 US Open. After Federer crushed Djokovic in the reverse singles, Roger spoke out on Djokovic’s reputation for time wasting: “You know I don’t trust his injuries, no it’s not funny, I mean I’m serious, and I think that he’s a joke when he comes down to these injuries. The rules are there to be used but not abused and that’s what he’s been doing many times. That’s why I wasn’t happy to see him doing that and then running around like a rabbit again. Yeah it was a good handshake for me. I was happy to beat him.” Someone had to tell the kid, who better than the player’s leader?

Finally, it’s good you posted the youtube videos of the 2007 US Open. However, it’s not Chexican :) First, we are not talking about two equal players here. An objective observer would tend to give the edge and benefit of doubt to the proven great player with the track record over the unproven “rookie”. After all, you would not rationally give a young player an edge over Rod Laver at his peak, would you? Thus you would not give Djokovic an edge over Federer. Between 2004 to 2007, Federer has proven numerous times why he has the best winning two-year, three-year and four-year winning records in the open era as well as why he has won more grand slam titles at a faster pace than any man or woman in the entire tennis history. Federer has proven his ability to bounce back from similar or worse holes. A break down and 40-0 is simply not enough against Federer in a grand slam final, please. With his back against the wall, Roger got into his zone, focused, got more consistent, raised his game and started breaking up Djokovic’s rhythm with his returns until Djokovic’s insecurities and nerves surfaced. Once Federer got into the tiebreak, he has the best tiebreak record in ATP history to close out the set. It’s happened so often, it’s not luck. Second, even if the “rookie” Djokovic won one set, it would still be a long way from him winning a five setter against the grand slam king Federer. Federer was not at his best, but he was playing at a higher level than he did in Montreal.

Murray, Bellucci and Ferrer were far closer to beating Djokovic in recent weeks than Djokovic realistically was to beating Federer at the US Open 2007.

Duro Says:

Ha ha ha… Dave, you are fantastic.

I adore when someone passionately root for his fave. That is so good for the sport, sites, posters, everyone…

My compliments. I am equally blind as you are when rooting for Novak.

In No1-vak we trust!

So help him God.

Allez alleeeeez, Alez alleeeeeez, No1-leeeee, No1-leeeee…

grendel Says:

tennisfansince76 – thanks for the clips. Unfortunately, they don’t show all the points from 40-0 up in that deciding game of the first set, but what is clear is that 1)Federer played exceptionally well and – you might say – threw down the gauntlet to Djokovic and 2)Djokovic couldn’t handle it, and undoubtedly tightened. I think your comments on the match are absolutely spot on.

None of the quotes Dave adduces from Djokovic are in any sense controversial and prove absolutely nothing w.r.t. conspiracy and all that nonsense. If anything, the quote beginning “the players start to feel that Federer is beatable” is quite cautiously worded. What you have of course is one young champion in the making straining to unseat the (then)current occupant. This is as old as sport itself, and one of the things that make it fascinating. I think everybody suspected that eventually Djokovic would make good his ambition.

I agree with dave that Nadal should be favourite at RG. The surface apparently is closer to Monte Carlo and I suggested earlier that Djokovic’s absence from Monte Carlo was perhaps “prudent”. Nothing wrong with prudence, and Djokovic’s decision has borne fruit. Still, we have at last got a real fight on our hands. It won’t be easy for either of them.

@Ben may15,”Sean made a great point that we’re in an era of wussies where there’s “no way a player can recover from a great physical effort the day before.” Yes, Sean saw more clearly than anyone of us, not bad for someone who gets such consistent flack.

Duro Says:

Look at these two old grump (Manolo Santana and Nicola Pietrangeli) at 2:55, ha ha ha! They were rooting for Rafa. Exactly like in the “Muppet Show”…

MMT Says:

What I like the most about Djokovic’s win in Rome is that he had all the ready-made excuses that people give available to him: he had a tougher draw, he had a long/tough/late semi-final, he had the ankle injury, the crowd were against him in the final, the court is fast/slow, the altitude, the streak…blah, blah, blah.

But in the end, Djokovic just went out and won – no excuses, no breathing problems, no injury time-outs…he just won. So to me is shows two things -(1) the excuses are just that – excuses which a player can fall back on if they choose not to be competitive and (2) Djokovic just may finally have come to the realization that the future is NOW, and tucking your tail and running from a fight at the first sign of trouble may cost him more than living to fight another day.

The next big question is if/when he loses (who knows when that will be) what affect will that have on his game? Will he use it as another excuse to give less than his best or will he take it in stride and keep on fighting.

I hope it’s the latter.

stu Says:

^^ +1

James LaRosa (twitter)
Top 5 prize money:
1.Federer ($62.4M)
2.Sampras ($43.2M)
3.Nadal ($40M)
4.Agassi ($31.1M)
5.DJOKOVIC ($25.6M). Cha-ching.

who knew!

stu Says:

Barring a shocking turn of events at the beginning of the French Open, after 2 matches, Novak Djokovic will share recognition for the longest winning streak of the decade with Roger Federer.

Alexander X Says:

Dave, I must say that you are as a big fan of Rodger also pretty malicious. Nikola Pilic, Zelko Franulovic, Boba Zivojinovic, Goran Ivanisevic, Monica Seles, Jelena, Ana were/are the excellent tennis players as well. Predisposition of the people from the Balkan geographic region is just perfect for tennis. The proportion of the legs with the hands and the ratio makes big difference not only for tennis, for basketball as well.

I am sorry dude but tennis is not “reserved” just for Americans to win it is obviously where your words are coming from. CNN helped a lot to conflict in former Yugoslavia and now when they cannot bomb Djokovic again they are starting with all good crap again. Monica would dominate the tennis court for decade if she was not stubbed in Germany by the German nationalist (you mentioned that word by the way).

Novak is one in 10 players ever. Guy won master’s tournament at age of 18 the youngest ever and if you are real fen of tennis Novak bit Roger and Nadal in the past just a dozen times. He won AO twice and I am afraid (for you) that this is his time. Watching him 2007 in Miami with Nadal in ¼ final, the guy was three time better and more complete player than Nadal including all elements of tennis game. He has the record that you or CNN just cannot ignore. The fact is that people on Balkan mature bit late, takes them generally speaking more time than let’s say in US or Spain.

Like it or not Novak is as we speak mature, with experience and with fantastic psycho physical predisposition and just phenomenal tennis player who is slowly entering into 10-tennis legends’ club. We will be watching this guy for many years to come.

Nims Says:

Just going back to Roger-Novak talk, recently Novak made a statement until USO 2010, he went in every match against Roger well prepared to lose. Per his statement, he meant he was playing to lose rather than win. So i’m not sure Novak was too confident in 2008 AO, when he made all those remarks. Sounds more of insecure feeling rather than confident. AO 2008 was one of the worst tennis Roger played, it was fitting he lost to Novak. Even in USO 07 his quality of tennis was way below his normal level that time, except he tightened his game during the breaks and important moments.

jane Says:

Yeah, Djjokovic really seems to believe that NOW is the time MMT. As you point out, no one would’ve thought too much of it had he lost to Rafa in the final, or even to Murray. But he is clearly hungry for success and he has been extremely focused and professional.


grendel, the clips I posted of 2007 (yesterday at 10:46 pm), are not just highlights, so you can see everything that happened from 6-5 40-love set one. Two shots Novak hit long, and Fed hit one forehand on the line – next thing you know it was deuce. I agree with tennisfansince76’s post at 11:48 yesterday.


Dave it is possible that other players in the locker room were starting to believe. None of us know for sure what is actually said in those rooms. Fed’s level was outstanding in 2007 but not quite to the level of 2006. He lost early (relatively) at IW and Miami, Rafa pushed him very hard at Wimbledon, Nole won in Canada, etc.;while he was still – clearly – the man to beat, maybe players were starting to believe it was becoming slightly more possible by 2008.

El Flaco Says:

Did Djokovic injure his ankle or hip against Murray? Some have said the ankle, but he may have jammed his hip when his foot got stuck in the dirt which I think would be much worse. He was stretching his hip several times during the match.

jane Says:

I agree with all those who say Rafa is still the favorite for Roland Garros, obviously! He has won it five times. Even Fed, in 2006, at his best, couldn’t beat Rafa there. And beating Rafa, on clay, over best of five sets, is probably the biggest feat in tennis, or surely one of them. So much as I love Djoko, I think it’s too much to claim he is the favorite to win the FO.

Skeezerweezer Says:

From ESPN;

“And Djokovic has demonstrated that Nadal has not, contrary to public opinion, come up with a clay-court “endgame” strategy. You can still beat Nadal — or anyone else — if you hit harder and more accurately and want it more.”

Dc Says:

talking about the 2007 US open, anybody who watched Feds backhand return at Set 3,5-4, 40-30 while DJ as serving to remain in the set will realize that Fed had too much variety that nole could handle.

Yes, Nole was playing well and was a break up in set 1 & 2, but Fed never seemed bothered and was able to break back Nole at will.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

I think Novak is the favourite. He has beaten Rafa four straight, twice on clay. He has beaten Rafa using Rafa’s own game plan in Madrid, and with a slightly more aggressive one in Rome.
Rafa is tiring more quickly than Novak. And Rafa is due for another injury- 5 straight Slams with no issues now? He’s due.

But will Novak make the finals? Does he have the dominance over the field that Rafa has, or is he just matching up very well with Rafa?

Well, he does have a 39 match win streak, 7 trophies, and 2 clay trophies, so I’d say he is as strong against the field right now. We haven’t seen him against Rog on clay, but given the thumpings he’s given TMF lately, I see Rog as an equal wildcard challenge to either 1 or 2.

Novak has shown GS mettle with 2 Slam championships and what, 2 finals? Not in Rog or Rafa’s league, but not exactly a novice to the format.

With 400 points separating them, even if Rafa wins, if Novak makes the finals he will take #1.

Feel kind of sad for Rafa struggling for so many years, coming back from so many injuries, always a step behind Rog for #1. And when it seemed he’d finally put that era behind him and was preparing for his own time at the top, a player his own age, who he’s been clearly better than for years, turns it up a notch and snatches the top spot right from his hands.

It may still be a temporary hot streak, but it just doesn’t feel like it to me.

Sure hope DelPo makes it back by next week to make it REAL interesting: twin favourites, with 3 bona fide challengers in Fed, Sod and DelPo would make a real exciting tournament.

skeezerweezer Says:

^ It would be interesting to see what Fed could muster against Nole today. Some would think he would get thumped, but the last guy to take Nole to the absolute limit was Murray, who has much more variety of game than Rafa. Nole is in the zone right now banging it out from the baseline with anybody, and winning. Would like to see if Feds variety of spins and game would have any effect on the zone man and is rythm currently.

It is true players match ups is crucial sometimes, but lets not forget prior to this year Rafa pretty much owned Novak and they played over 20 times already…..he(Nole) has just flat out improved, cause it’s the other way around now, in a very short span of encounters.

Rafa has been in the cross hairs of the rest of the field for awhile and it’s looking like his invinceability is broken. Remember when players started feeling the same about Fed, so it might be a tough go for Rafa here on out, but hope the best.

Don’t know if Delpo is ready to take on the big 3, he has mentioned before he needs to play a lot of matches, and this break doesn’t help. If he stays healthy he should be back with a “watch out” for USO…

Did happen to watch highlights of that big upset by Sod over Rafa in the FO, and if Sod can bludgeon his serve and FH he is very capable of upsetting anyone…

stu Says:

^ I’d argue with “a player his own age, who he’s been clearly better than for years, turns it up a notch and snatches the top spot right from his hands.”

results-wise, no doubt Rafa was better, but I don’t think that was “clear” in terms of ability. Rafa has always been mentally tougher, and that has been the difference in a number of close matches. Plus, Rafa got to the top first, which means Novak had to deal with both Roger as well as Rafa (in semis and then the finals of tournaments) to win tournaments.

stu Says:

^ I’d argue with “a player his own age, who he’s been clearly better than for years, turns it up a notch and snatches the top spot right from his hands.”

results-wise, no doubt Rafa was better, but I don’t think that was “clear” in terms of ability. Rafa has always been mentally tougher, and that has been the difference in a number of close matches. Plus, Rafa got to the top first, which means Novak had to deal with both Roger as well as Rafa (in semis and then the finals of tournaments) to win tournaments.

skeezerweezer Says:

“Did happen to watch highlights last night again….”

Typical Skeezer typos and whatnots….:(

Colin Says:

Contrary to what many might say, I reckon a 5 set match against Djokovic could suit Murray. In their semi-final, it seemed to me Nole was showing more signs of physical fatigue in the late stages. His willpower carried him through, but I would say he’d have found a fourth (never mind a fifth)set a harder task than Andy. But there’s the matter of Andy’s mind, and that’s about as predictable as the British weather!
Concerning Nadal, it’s going to be interesting to see how he does the rest of the season. Could it possibly be that he’s burned himself out?

Djokoland: Inside the World of Novak Djokovic [Video] Says:

[…] QuicklinksMeet Novak Djokovic, Your Favorite to Win the French Open […]

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Come on Stu- you just can’t parse the records of Rafa and Nole over the last 5 years and reach any conclusion other than Rafa was at a clearly higher level. If your only argument is that they had some close matches (despite Rafa’s H2H dominance) then there’s a LOT of players we can say are really close to winning a half dozen Slams… Ferrer, Simon, Karlovic, there’s lots of guys who fight close every time.
For those who argue that Nole really hasn’t improved that much based on cherry-picking great matches and points, look, Nole’s always had the tools… but the whole point is consistency, ESPECIALLY for someone playing the defensive marathons Nole and Rafa has been playing. His movement is also incredible now. Novak’s results are not an accident, and fitness is one part of it.

jane Says:

^ Agree that his results are no accident. The Telegraph put up a list of five things:

1. Inspiration and confidence from DC title
2. Greater Maturity
3. Gulten-free diet
4. The serve is back/better/whatever
5. Momentum

I think the work with his fitness trainer over the last year, the re-jigging of his Head racquet, and the oomph on his forehand side now have all helped too. It is clearly a combination of a number of things just coming together for him.

source for list:

Art Says:


I have admittedly not been following tennis too closely over the past year (and this is my first post in some time) but I must say I find Djokovic’s transformation absolutely amazing from what I’ve seen in recent weeks or months.

Novak has always pretty good technique off both wings and generally can hit the ball pretty flat when he goes for it. But without doubt, the most noticeable improvement in Djokovic is his power, strength and stamina.

His ability to hit to consistently hit with such power over and over again (and effectively overpower Nadal) is absolutely amazing. Stunning!

Some have alluded to his new doctor, acupuncture, and even drugs (though I must say he screamed like weightlifter on steroids after he won the match against Murray) or whatever, that I don’t know.

But if isn’t drugs, it just confirms to me that tennis without a doubt has clearly taken another gigantic step in terms of its evolution. That is, tennis has pretty much has fully completed its transformation to a game of sheer power from the baseline. This has enormous implications for tennis or the likelihood of who will win the grand slams this year since all of the slams have effectively slowed down their courts in recent years with perhaps the exception of the US Open.

This means guys like Federer, who is nearly 30, and effectively grew up in his teens playing with old strings, one-handed backhand and serve-and-volley technique have very little chance of winning anymore, particularly the slams. Yes, I’m basically saying Federer’s technique and style is irrelevant in 2011 (and was basically the case when he suffered loses to guys like Soderling and Berdych last year in the French and Wimbledon)because they could just sit back and smack the ball on the slow courts. Federer’s new racquet won’t make up for the power differential. All the sub-25 year old players have grown up on new strings, new racquets with a two-handed backhand because they don’t need worry about approaching the net anymore.

This also means that someone like Andy Murray will have to hit the gym further or his game could fall further behind the likes of Djokovic or Nadal despite his multi-dimensional finesse strategy.

And finally, this really means that tennis could really become increasingly boring as we watch big guys like Nadal, Djokovic or Del Potro (who I believe would be close to top if he weren’t injured) just hammer balls from the baseline. Federer aside, I really miss the likes of Sampras, Becker, Edberg or even Rafter in the 1990s. Tennis just seem like a game of real beauty and skill back then! I’m just not sure what to think anymore. Oh where, oh where has Johnny Mac gone!


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Fret not. Every zig has within itself the seeds of its own zag.

stu Says:

Nadal beat Djokovic 11 times between 2008 and 2010. One match on grass – at Queens – was EXTREMELY close…7-6, 7-5. His 4 wins on HC included the USO, two WTFs and the painfully close Olympics. The remaining 6 wins were on clay- Madrid 09, could have gone either way. Rome 09 – one TB. Monte Carlo 09 – 3 sets. etc. The point is, Novak has challenged Rafa, esp. on clay, more than anyone else, and I think he would have won at least a few of these close matches (and hence, made it seem like a tighter rivalry) if he were as mentally strong as he is today, then.

jane Says:

Art says “since all of the slams have effectively slowed down their courts in recent years”

I thought the surface of the FO was actually sped up? I was surprised to hear players say that Rome was playing “Fast” too. It almost seems like a neutralizing of the surfaces: neither super fast nor super slow?? I read somewhere, was it the ESPN article, a S.I. one (?), that there will be no more “clay-court specialists” and they cited the players recently doing well on clay as examples: Djoko, Fed, Berdych, Soderling, Murray, Rafa Kvitova, Sharapova, Azarenka – all have had considerable success on fast surfaces and many are “big” hitters.

But I don’t know enough about the surface changes to say further.

skeezerweezer Says:


At one of the matches I saw lately on the Tele they put up a stat that the avg FH speed is faster this year than the year before…not just Novaks, but the overall tour…so yeah me thinks the game is evolving also

Patty Says:

“But if isn’t drugs, it just confirms to me that tennis without a doubt has clearly taken another gigantic step in terms of its evolution. That is, tennis has pretty much has fully completed its transformation to a game of sheer power from the baseline”

Sorry but without “assistance” a player does not evolve overnight. We are blind if we think “yoga and a glutten free diet” have ALONE made Djokovic the player he is today. Such a shame!!!!!

jane Says:

Novak hasn’t evolved overnight and if someone looks at the you-tube videos from 2007 posted on this thread, it becomes evident that he had all the shots to be very successful then; he just went off the rails for various reasons (public, private, racquet changes, coach changes, etc). A gluten allergy can trigger asthma, anemia, etc., many stamina-related symptoms, so yeah, going off it could make a marked difference. Hiring Iron-man’s (a.k.a. Muster’s) previous trainer in mid-2009 has probably paid off by now too.

But people will think what they think, and so be it. Everyone is entitled.

stu Says:

Completely unrelated topic, but that was a very cold handshake at the net from Nole. Stark contrast to “for me, you’re the best player in the world” less than 2 months ago. What’s up with that?

stu Says:

More winning streak stats:

Sets W-L, over 39 matches:
DC: 6-0
AO: 19-1
Dubai: 9-2
IW: 12-2
Miami: 12-1
Serbia: 6-0
Madrid: 10-2
Rome: 10-1

Total: 84-9 (90%)

Just for kicks, GAMES W-L
DC 37-17
AO: 120-60
Dubai: 67-42
IW: 79-34
Miami: 77-33
Serbia: 37-18
Madrid: 69-43
Rome: 64-32

Total: 550-279 (66%)

Ridiculous, considering that ~50% are the opponents’ service games! Has there been a more dominant streak ever?

Dc Says:

Nole played 1GS, 1 250 & 5 Masters in his streak.
The masters now have 3 set finals.
Does anyone has stats on what tournaments did McEnroe & Fed play during their 40+ streaks?

marrisv Says:

I think part of the the problem with Nadal is mental. Novak has become more mentally strong and is in his head.

Rafa has always chosen to receive in his career after winning the toss and has always been mentally strong to keep holding serve even in tight sets at 4/5 or 5/6 down against the best players. But now that has changed with Novak specially.

With Novak being a great returner and being mentally strong as he is now, you always feel a break is coming in those tight situations.

It is up to Rafa now to show how he can respond from this. This is exactly the reverse state to 2009 leading in to FO where Nadal had the upper hand with Novak.

Alexander X Says:

McEnroe did not play AO back in 1984.

MMT Says:

@marrisv, I must respectfully disagree that the “problem” with Rafa is (1) a problem with Rafa or (2) mental. Djokovic has significantly improved his fitness, and this results in better pace and direction throughout his matches and entire tournaments – for that matter the season. He hasn’t just improved against the top players; he’s also mowing through the rest of the field and this saves his energy and concentration. Now he hits through ball throughout the tournament and doesn’t panic and scramble like he used to which allows him to dictate more and more points.

Nadal is fine – he’s lost one match to anyone not named Djokovic. The difference is Djokovic.

stu Says:

Federer’s 41-match streak:
2 Slams (USO and AO, he dropped 2 sets at USO and NONE at AO!)
Davis cup
Masters cup (best-of-5 final)
Madrid (500 points, best-of-5 final)
Dubai (300 points)
Basel and Tokyo (250 points)

All on HC though. He finally lost to Canas at Indian Wells, so he didn’t manage to “sweep” a season.

stu Says:

Federer’s 41-match streak:
2 Slams (USO and AO, he dropped 2 sets at USO and NONE at AO!)
Davis cup
Masters cup (best-of-5 final)
Madrid (500 points, best-of-5 final)
Dubai (300 points)
Basel and Tokyo (250 points)

All on HC though. He finally lost to Canas at Indian Wells, so he didn’t manage to “sweep” a season.

jane Says:

This is for you, stu, the record keeper. ;) It was a comment posted by someone under Tignor’s write up on Sharapova and Djokovic’s wins:

INTERESTING Open Era Nole Records:

**Against Top-10 players:
1. Roger Federer (2003–05), 26 (lost to Marat Safin, Australian Open SF)
2. Roger Federer (2006–07), 17 (lost to Rafael Nadal, Monte Carlo F)
3. Novak Djokovic (2011), 13

**Most ATP Masters Series titles won in a season:
Roger Federer in 2005 and 2006, Rafael Nadal in 2005, and Novak Djokovic in 2011, 4.

**Winning streaks
Player Wins
1. Guillermo Vilas 46 (1977)
2. Ivan Lendl 44 (1981–82)
3. Björn Borg 43 (1978)[4]
4. John McEnroe 42 (1983–84)
5. Roger Federer 41 (2006–07)
6. Novak Djokovic 39 (2010–11)
7. Björn Borg 35 (1979–80)
= Thomas Muster 35 (1995)
= Roger Federer 35 (2005)
10. Jimmy Connors 33 (1974)
11. Rafael Nadal 32 (2008)

***Most singles titles won in a row:
1. Ivan Lendl (1981–82), 8
= John McEnroe (1983–84), 8
3. Guillermo Vilas (1977), 7
= Björn Borg (1978), 7
= Roger Federer (2006–07), 7
= Novak Djokovic (2011), 7

marrisv Says:

@MMT, Of course Djokovic is blowing through the field and not just Rafa.

But there is a worrying pattern here for Rafa. The last four sets he served to stay in the set, he has been broken.

At 5/6 and 4/5 in Madrid
At 4/5 and 4/5 in Rome.

Nina Says:

There is an interesting story about Nole’s mysterious doctor. Apparently he found Novak, not the other way.

He told in an interview that he saw Nole on TV many times and that he seem to suffer in his matches, both physically and psychologically. So he sought him out and offered him his help. I think he’s done very significative changes to Nole’s diet as well as mental preparation. Now Nole has the stamina and the mental power to beat anyone in any circumstances. This is not just about a streak and overconfidence. I believe that streak or no streak, Nole will be able to maintain this level of game though the year.

Kimmi Says:

marrisv – i also notice the pattern of rafa getting broken when serving to stay in the set.

I wouldn’t be surprise when he meets nole next, he ask to serve first if he wins the toss.

seriously, i don’t think rafa has EVER asked to serve first. the only time he serve first is if his opponent wins the toss and ask to receive.

Kimmi Says:

great posst people. i have my popcorn while reading each one of them. great stuff :)

Dc Says:

Novak is playing the attrition style of tennis.Look at the sheer amount of running that is being done to win every game.

He will not be able to sustain this for long. The amount of running he has done in the past 6 months – a player like Fed would probably do in a year or more.

Irrespective of the FO results, Nole probably will fare poorly at Wimby due to mental & physical exhaustion. With Nole & Nadal physically spent, look out for Fed & Murray to pick up the tournaments towards the end of the year.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Have to agree with you. I think Wimbledon will be a real good opportunity for Fed and Murray. Its possible Nole and Rafa could be tired or hurting by the money end of the FO. They’ve played a LOT of tennis these past weeks, and they’ve been playing Rafa vs Rafa style tennis. A lot of running and a lot of hard hitting topspin shots.

puckbandit Says:

Loved reading through these comments. (only skipped a few)

Can not remember the last time I was this excited for the FO to start:

Great signs o life from Murray coming out of his post AO depression.

Fed – still playing great and one must assume very eager to prove he’s still got it.

Rafa – as posted above, now channeling Roger’s after a loss presser with this quote: :”The big champions are not just those that are able to win every week but those that are able to wait until the right moment,”. You know he’s pi$$ed.

Nole ; no comment necessary

Gasquet: Can he play for more than one set the beautiful game he showed in 6-7 first set against Fed? Maybe being at home will inspire him.

Ferrer – his stamina alone can get him to the semis.

I will be joining you all next week, with croissants and cafe au lait of course!

Kimberly Says:

pre-register everyone. draw will be out on Friday. I am thinking of doing one for the ladies too. I will def. pick Maria to win!

puckbandit Says:

There was one disturbing post. Apparently there’s a Heat fan in here? hmmm

Okay, Kimberly, since you did the bracket challenge I’ll let this pass.

Hey Jane: Are your ‘nucks gonna make it another 7 game series, you know, just to keep the heart doctors in business up north?LOL

Kimberly Says:

Ha ha. Rafa fan and a heat fan, not a good way to win friends around here! The bracket challenge is my only saving grace!

Colin Says:

As far as I’m concerned, Djokovic’s development into Superman has to be largely mental, because the stuff mentioned in connection with the mysterious doctor – acupuncture and all this other Oriental mumbo-jumbo – is non-medical. Any apparent effect is a placebo effect. Next thing we’ll hear he’s taking homeopathic medication (ie water).

sar Says:

“Whatever it is may be much more than just treatment for a gluten or other environmental sensitivity”

Dave, Art, etc: all they have to do is make him pee in a cup and donate a little blood. Now I know how Rafa fans feel about people accusing him of drugs.

“He is just playing the way everybody was expecting him to play three years ago,”

Mat, I agree. This is the Novak everyone expected a long time ago.

Jane, great Telegraph article.

“I am equally blind as you are when rooting for Novak.”

Duro, ole and alleeeez

jane Says:

According to ESPN, these are the “top ten” aspects of Nole’s current winning run:

puckbandit, sheesh, at least versus the Preds it was only six games. Hope the Nucks can beat the Sharks. In less than 7, please!

Dc Says:

Furious Rafa calls up Nole:

Rafa: Nole, i taught you how to run and play so you could defeat Fed and now you using the same tactics against me.

Nole: I never promised you that i would not apply the same tactics against you.

Rafa: You better stop it or else i will tell the whole world how you have cheated me.

Nole: Don’t try to act smart with me else i will teach Fed & Murray how to defeat you.

Rafa hangs up

stu Says:

wow, jane! i think the most consecutive singles titles won is the coolest stat of them all! why don’t we talk about that as much? thanks for posting it here!

jane Says:

And if THOSE ten accomplishments weren’t enough, in addition to organizing the soccer match in Miami in support of Japan earthquake relief, Djoko has now flown over to the Cannes film fesitval where he is walking the runway in a fashion show to raise more money for Japan. I hope he puts his feet up for a day or two after this!

jane Says:

stu, no problem, and be sure to check out that ESPN list; it is real something!

sar Says:

Cannes is a short hop from Monte Carlo

sar Says:

Trip distance: 34.05 mi Time: 48 mins

jane Says:

sar, have you made that trip yourself? Sounds like fun anyhow. The Fashion show is tomorrow, so will have to look for photos. Glad you liked the Telegraph piece.

dari Says:

Got home in time to catch last set of fed and Rafa FO final 06. Good stuff!
Tennis channel.playing FO classics all.week to rev us up. can’t believe its here already!

Skeezerweezer Says:


As I was typin your name, I thought, wtf is that? lol, crazier than skeezerweezer!,, Shaaamooon!

Anyways ” channeling Roger’s after a loss presser with this quote:” was exactly where my mind is at with Rafa. Fans of his are getting the Fed fan feelings of another having your number. What goes around comes around.


Too funny post ;)


Canucks eat Sharks in game 1, game 2 Sharks hire Justin Bieber, Shania Twain & Celine Dion to sing for them in the pre game ceremonies, thus throwing the Canucks in a tizzy, which results in a Sharks thumpin. ;)

marrisv Says:

Kimmi @7;29 pm – As a start, I think Rafa needs to really focus on getting his USO 2010 serve back and get some free points.

Anywys, real excited to see how this FO pans out. Nole has laid down the marker for 2011- “catch me if you can”.

margot Says:

Huge congratulations to Skeeze….oh and Nole too ;)
Andy has been working, albeit briefly, with Cahill and I feel improvements/back on track etc may have a lot to do with this. So good to see a “real” coach in the box. Am hugely cheered!
How nice to see u Puckbandit. Think us Andy fans r long overdue for some celebrating :) :) :)
Colin @9.38, wouldn’t be the first :)

MMT Says:

@marrisv – Yes, but that’s only been against Djokovic, and he hasn’t lost all year, so I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with Rafa – I would say there’s something VERY right with Djokovic.

If Rafa needs to do anything against Djokovic it’s attack a little more – even on clay. He has the ability to do it, and he’s a good enough volleyer that he can put a little bit of pressure on Djokovic and maybe throw him off his game.

Also, by positioning himself to attack (rather than his instinct when under pressure, which is to take a couple steps back and defend), he will lengthen his strokes, which will also prevent Djokovic from dictating.

Just a thought…

marrisv Says:

@MMT – Agreed. Rafa needs to play more aggressive tennis against Novak and it is all about the court position.

IMHO, he needs to show more aggressive intent on the returns like he does at Wimbledon and also he needs to get more confident with his offensive backhand. In Madrid final, i belive he had no backhand winners and in Rome, it was a little better and he had maybe 1 or 2 in the final.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Thinking of Rafa’s offensive game: To me, it was a matter of tinkering with different pieces of it until the USOpen. That was a real expression of Rafa looking to hit kill shots. Still defence first, but not first, middle and last. He was close to the baseline, serving HUGE, and going for winners.
He kept that aggression up in the Australian Open, and looked phenomenal before the Ferrer loss.
But against Novak this year, he’s been very defensive again. I wonder if the whole offensive Rafa was in the end one that he was only comfortable with against lesser opponents. Rafa’s road to the USO Final was really easy, and his first few rounds at Oz were a joke.
I actually can’t remember: was Rafa very aggressive against Novak in the finals or did he just outrun him? I recall Novak being exhausted from the Fed semi and long run in general.
So is it that Rafa can’t play the offensive game against the elite?
And if so, is it mental/ revert to comfort zone? Or is it something about the manner of play which takes those options away?
One thing is, the high-pwered serve seems to have just abandoned him since USO.

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