What’s Wrong With Novak Djokovic?
by Sean Randall | February 28th, 2014, 1:01 pm

For the first time in a long time the tennis season will enter March and the IW-Miami double with Novak Djokovic title-less. That after the Serb lost today 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to rival Roger Federer in one of the Swiss’s best performances in quite a while.

Clearly, Roger played well, extremely well, but Djokovic just doesn’t look quite right. For someone who finished last year on a 24-match winning streak, beating and dominating everyone, this season he’s taken a step back or maybe two.

Today again, we saw him miss some alarmingly easy forehand and backhands, and then that double fault down set point. He was still able to come up with some great shots now and then, but he seems to be struggling or conflicted with the simple stuff.

Really, the last two sets weren’t even close!

Or is it Boris?

The only change Djokovic made for the 2014 was adding the oversized personality of Boris Becker. I wasn’t on board with it at first, and now after Novak’s failed to reach even the final in title defenses at the Australian and in Dubai, it looks to be an even more curious decision.

And if it Novak doesn’t come away with a win at either Indian Wells or Miami, I don’t think Boris will be around for the clay season. He’s on the proverbial “Hot Seat” as we say in the U.S.

Obviously Novak’s confidence is lacking somewhere and he has to be frustrated. He’s a champion after all. he’s 26 in the prime of his career and he appears and sounds like he’s hungry for more. But it’s just not clicking. Luckily for him we are two months into a long season, so there’s time to rebuild and regroup, but the signs right now aren’t positive.

(I’ll add quotes when they are available, let’s see if he says the usual “everything is good, Roger just played too good today”.)

“He deserved to win,” said Djokovic. “He played better in the second part of the match and was more aggressive and played all around the court really well. I dropped the opening game of the third set; it was quite a bad service game for me. I started making a lot of unforced errors in the second part of the second set and just wasn’t managing to move as well. He felt that this is his opportunity, and he used it. That’s why he’s a big champion.

“It’s like any other match against Roger,” continued the Serb. “It’s always tense. It always goes down the wire. Even though I was the better player and I felt I was in control for the first hour or so, it appears that it wasn’t enough, because a few points can really decide the winner. That’s what happened. He mentally felt more comfortable, was coming to the net. On the other side, I backed up, and that resulted with the loss.”

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49 Comments for What’s Wrong With Novak Djokovic?

Translated Age Says:

Perhaps the bigger change is not who is in his box, but who isn’t.

Ahfi Says:

Yes, people do get tired. People do have distractions in their lives every now and then. Novak is no different. It is only Rafa that never gets tired and never has any distractions except his body parts.

Brando Says:

I feel sorry for Boris as seemingly from here forth whenever Novak suffers a loss it’s BB’s fault and when he wins it’s all about Novak being great.

Like Rafa said when he was asked whether he’ll appoint a super star coach:

It’s ALL the player’s responsibility. He should be credited with being responsible for his wins AND LOSSES.

Fed beat Novak today. Exactly how many people have said so far: It’s due to STEFAN EDBERG.


Had he lost maybe we would have seen a few EDBERG directed comment’s.

And that seems to be the way it is these days: player wins= he’s great. Player suffers a loss= person x is to blame.


Novak did not lose due to Boris but rather he made poor judgment and ill advised decision at crucuial moments that seem’s to suggest mentally (yet again) he’s not at a stable place right now.

I would not call this a crisis situation for him at all. No. He lost a nail bitter at the AO and after all only lost in 500 point tourny today.

the DA Says:

He’s not yet 100% mentally. You could see he was lacking in confidence at times out there today. It’s too soon to blame Boris. When Murray lost early in a few tournaments between Feb and June 2012, everyone was calling for the head of Lendl. Too soon to say.

And let’s remind ourselves of how Nole bounced back last year after three major losses at RG, Wimbledon & USO. Remember: form is temporary class is permanent.

Brando Says:

@The DA:

Great mind’s seem to think alike also. Virtually same wavelength and a minute apart in posting!


Ditto as to what you say: Cannot blame Boris, hardly a crisis, he’ll improve and mentally is where the issue is.

Really ONLY HE can sort such a thing out. No Coach truly can help on that front I feel since as even Andy Murray said:

When your on Court it’s ONLY you that’s out there and only you who makes the choices on Court in a matter of seconds.

It’s on him IMO, not Boris and he need’s to address it as such. I think he is.

Giles Says:

I think the AO loss has affected him quite badly IMO.

Translated Age Says:

As Djokovic wrote last year in his autobiography-cum-cookbook Serve To Win: “The game looks like it takes place between the lines on the court, but really it takes place between your ears.”

Indeed it does Nole. Truer words were never spoken.

Translated Age Says:

I wonder if Sean is rethinking his pick for year end number 1.

Sean Randall Says:

Translated Age, I am.

Okiegal Says:

He’s in a mental funk! Not to worry, he’ll be back with a vengeance! So he got beat, it’s not the end of the world, as Rafa says after a loss. He also says it’s impossible to win every match, which it is. Roger was the man today, well see if he can back it up tomorrow! Should be a fun match. Good job for the “old” guy……age is only a number…..as he proved today……good for him!!

skeezer Says:

Was this only his 2nd tourney this year ? Taking too much time off @26 is harmful to your game, especially in your prime. Nole came out firing early on. I don’t think he looked that bad, but Fed pressed him with variety throughout. Fed has always been a tough out for Nole.
I fully expect him to be fine in the Clay season. He usually does well at IW, so we’ll see. Fed just fot the better of him today. Tomorrows another day.

Patson Says:

Congrats to Fed fans. Nole will rebound. Losing is part of the game.

Tennis Fan Says:

Djokovic is just not a great player … even in his prime year.

Federer is … even if he isn’t.

A Tango Lad Says:

Fortunately, Djokovic was far from his best today. After 2011, he proved he was a great player but the mental demons seem to have returned. He is feeling the pressure again.

Roger took full advantage and pounced! Well played. Amazing shot making.

For the first time in a long time, a title is firmly on his racquet now.

TennisVagabond.com Says:

Skeeze, good take.
One interesting quote, “On the other side, I backed up, and that resulted with the loss”
I would love to see Fed succeed with his enhanced net game, but I don’t see Rafa or Novak “backing away” often. Rafa is just unreal in his passing shots. I don’t believe Fed can beat him by going to the well over and over.

Ahfi Says:

Isn’t Nole planning a wedding for this year? Probably just loss of focus for now or way in over his head.

Michael Says:

The downfall of Novak coincided with the appointment of Becker as his Chief coach. However, it is foolish to attribute that Becker is responsible for the loss of confidence of Novak. At the Australian Open, he lost a very tight match to Wawrinka who was playing the match of his life and here he ran against a resurgent Roger who feels more comfortable playing in quick courts which aid his movements. Only the kind of scoreline should have disappointed Novak against Roger. If he had played his best Tennis, perhaps it could have turned out to be tight three setter and the match would have become more competitive. But, somehow he faltered making some UEs at crucial moments of the match which spoiled the show. Now as to whether such results should ponder a rethink on the part of Novak to continue with Becker ? Definitely not. Becker needs more time to settle down and he must be given some breathing space. There is just too much pressure on him to deliver. A coach can only help that much and it is upto the player to perform on the court. How can a coach be held responsible if the player makes silly UEs or put double faults at crucial moments of the match ?

Slice Tennis Says:

Sean Randall Says:
Translated Age, I am.

February 28th, 2014 at 1:58 pm

And Sean…what about your pick for Number 2 ?

metan Says:

Slice Tennis,
When the ranking appears on Sunday, there will shake up on position. For sure Rafa distance himself from Nole much in points.

Slice Tennis Says:

You are Metan.
As of now Rafa’s points is close to the sum of that of Fed and Nole.
Nole is the real number 1 according to many people here.
And Fed is close to his peak according to himself.

Slice Tennis Says:

You are “right” Metan

metan Says:

Slice Tennis,
Starting from IW Rafa needs to defend tons of points and it isn’t easy, no.

Slice Tennis Says:

If Federer gets back to his best and takes care of Nole then Rafa need not really defend all his points to stay on top.

James Says:

Nadal’s already gained 1450 points this year from AO and Doha. Defended his Acapulco points by winning Rio. He doesn’t need to defend all his titles to stay at #1. Novak has been dropping points here and there. It will be very hard for him to regain the #1 ranking this year.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Nadal has a better 2014 than 2013 in terms of points earned in a season.

Slice Tennis Says:

Completely agree with you.
And Nole has a very short window to reclaim the number 1 ranking from Rafa. He trails by about 4000 points now and he needs to overtake Rafa max at the end of USO. Else he will not have any chance of finishing the year at number 1.
Let us see if he can defend his MC points this year.
Rafa has a good cushion now. He need not really defend IW. He needs to defend just 1600 points out of the next three masters 1000 tournaments.

Hippy Chic Says:

Michael downfall what downfall? i agree in that a coach can only guide you so far,and they cannot play the match for you,but i dont think theres anything wrong with Novak,he just lost to players that have been better than he is on the day,same as any player winning and losing is all part of the game,hes not unbeatable,but its still early in the year so alot can happen,but funny how the dynamics can change from one minute to the next in tennis though.

Slice Tennis Says:

The only way Nole can challenge Rafa is by winning min 2 out of next 3 slams. He has won just 1 out of the last 8 slams.

Hippy Chic Says:

Novak hasnt actually won a GS away from the AO since his amazing year in 2011,and he doesnt actually hold a GS ATM,add to that and he also has Rafa who has more confidence against him now win or loose,Andy who straight setted him at Wimbledon last year,and now Stan whos also now a GS champion,and a resurgent Roger??so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year pans out,and i wouldnt be surprised if somebody other than Rafa were to win the FO this year,as the law of averages catches up with all players eventually,not that it matters been as it seems to be considered as the poor mans GS anyway(sigh).

Hippy Chic Says:

All im doing is speculating here,but im just wondering if this year come the FO/ wimbledon we will see a new champion,or a new old champion?

Steve27 Says:

Nole is the real number 1 according to many people here.
This is the best joker!

Steve27 Says:

Nole is the real number 1 according to many people here.
This is the best joker!

Hippy Chic Says:

Steve 27 i dont believe anybody was even saying that?

Michael Says:


Yeah, I agree with you. Somehow Novak is not able to reproduce the magic of 2011, but his performances in after years has also been exceptional. May be, he has hit a rough patch, but things can turn too quickly in Tennis. He can prove that with achieving a double in Indian wells and Miami.

Hippy Chic Says:

Michael not only that,he is now in new teritory , Rafa has now found a solution to the 2011 style Novak,and when he faces Andy hes facing a two time GS champion,and also Stan who will have renewed confidence now whenever he faces Novak,as well the next generation of players that are begining to make some noise.

Hippy Chic Says:

^And also i wouldnt count Berdych out either,who seems to be playing pretty well ATM,maybe Stans AO win is like Ben said has given other players hope of joining the elite^.

Hippy Chic Says:

Years like Rafa had in 2010,or Novak in 2011,are rare for most players,and tend to be one offs that seldom get repaeted,Rogers a very exceptional player who was able to do it multiple times,but winning a GS is difficult for any player,winning multiple GS in a year is asking nearly the impossible.

rafaeli Says:

A winning streak always comes to an end, it does not guarantee success for life. Last year, Djokovic only won 3 titles until the fall, the same might happen again this year, who knows.

rafaeli Says:

In fact he might not even win any titles until the end of the year when everyone else is knackered. He is not likely to defend MC.

Polo Says:

Many are already predicting Novak’s downfall. That may be somewhat premature. He will start winning again. But what I know for sure, is that he will always be in the shadow of those two players with whom he shares the same era. He will never be spoken of at the same level as Federer and Nadal, which I feel is what he truly aims for and will fail to reach or even come close. Novak probably knows that and it probably eats at him and affects his game.

Hippy Chic Says:

Im not predicting any downfall for Novak,however i do think that things will be more dificult for him,as there are now new challenges for him,but its how you handle the challenges that is the true test,time will tell?

Slice Tennis Says:

I don’t think anyone is predicting Nole’s downfall here. He is a great player and he deserves to be ranked as the top player in world behind Rafa.
Oddly he was ranked higher than Rafa for a couple of years and now he is back to his rightful place in the world ranking.

Polo Says:

I am watching the Federer-Berdych final match. The big question now is whether Federer can play great back to back matches against tough opponents? I have not seen him do that in a long time now.

Slice Tennis Says:

Birdman breaks back and breaks again.
Will be tough for Fed from here.

Polo Says:

This is when age starts to take its toll. It takes longer to recover from a very physically and mentally tough match then do it again the following day. It will be even harder to do that in majors where Roger has to win three sets.

Giles Says:

Go Berdy go!

Polo Says:

Has Berdych’s psyche gotten better over the years?

Ahfi Says:

” Will be tough for Fed from here ”

Well, he wins!! Some predictions, ha!

Steve27 Says:

Berdych is such a coward in finals, his mind doesnt work well in a the decisive match. Is not surprise he failed again.

Eric W. Says:

There are no coincidences in life. There’s a reason Berdych has never reached the top of the game, in spite of his firepower and talent. Mentally weak at crunch time and a dubious decision maker. A poor man’s version of Nole.

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