The big takeaway for me from today’s lopsided Cincinnati final was that on his favorite surface Novak Djokovic just got fed a bagel by a man six years his elder. SIX YEARS!! Absolutely incredible.
At 25, Djokovic should be in the very prime of his tennis career. He was in form. He hadn’t been broken all week and he just blew through the Toronto title. Yet today, he got bageled by an arch rival on his very best surface, something that he just cannot let happen. But credit to Roger Federer who shoved one right down his throat in a 6-0, 7-6 victory to win his fifth Cincinnati title. How’d that taste, Novak?
Really, I don’t care how mentally fatigued Novak was, how do you come out that flat again? Djokovic looked fine Friday and Saturday, and playing Federer should get the blood, the juices and the motivation flowing. But as CBS’s Jim Courier said, from the start the guy just wasn’t “engaged”.
And of late that’s been the pattern. In his last four big stage matches (sorry Toronto), Djokovic’s won ONE SINGLE SET! In lackluster efforts he lost to Federer in four at Wimbledon, then Murray and Del Potro in straights at the Olympics and now this hack job against Federer in the Cincinnati final. Sure, Federer played unbelievably well but Novak has got to start better, correct the double faults and at least manage a break point somewhere in the match. He did up his game in the second but was I never felt Federer was ever in trouble.
So after putting together a spectacular 2011 season and then winning the Australian, Djokovic’s regression continues. I picked Federer to win this match on part because I wasn’t buying into Novak. And the result somewhat confirms my belief that maybe he doesn’t have that DNA needed to stay on top like Federer, Pete Sampras and even Nadal who I think has it but his body fails him. Which for me is too bad because Novak’s got a game that’s up their with the greats. The head isn’t.
Perhaps Novak’s just an entertainer, a showman like Andre Agassi was. Not a GOAT candidate as some have made him out to be based on last year. Might he be happy being the second guy, or the third or the garbage man, collecting titles when his rivals don’t play or are upset? If you watched his post match interview on court with Mary Jo Fernandez one would have thought he had won the match! He looked darn happy and sounded satisfied.
To be fair, though, Novak’s actually been shouting from the rooftops all season that he cannot repeat 2011. It’s almost like he’s been predicting his downfall. But from a sporting point of view, if that’s your mindset, your belief, that you can’t repeat greatness, then how do you ever expect be great? Maybe that was never his goal.
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