While we are in a rain daily in Rio, now’s a good time to talk about… Novak Djokovic.
The Serb was on top of the world just two months ago after finally winning that elusive French Open. Now, he’s still ranked No. 1 but things don’t seem so rosy.
We knew something was up at Wimbledon when he lackadaisically dropped the first two sets to Sam Querrey. Djokovic admitted as much afterward, but he didn’t want to get into it at the time.
Djokovic took a few weeks off, came back in Toronto refreshed and ready, but at the start again looked shaky. He didn’t serve well at all, and reports cited a gimpy shoulder as the cause. Tomas Berdych had his share of chances in the quarters but as usual the Czech couldn’t cash it in. And then Gael Monfils was up early but ran out gas. Djokovic played much better in the second set against the Frenchman and then took care of Kei Nishikori in the final.
So things were looking up heading into Rio.
In his quest for a first gold, he drew a hot guy in Juan Martin del Potro and just couldn’t get it done. It was a good match, not Djokovic’s best, but no shame in losing to a red hot Delpo who would’ve have beaten just about anybody that night.
But there was that big burst of emotion at the end. Almost like it was more than just tears about tennis. And then I ask why he didn’t stick around to play mixed? If he wanted a gold that badly, why not give it go since he was already out of the singles and the doubles, he’s there, and I think internally Cincinnati was already off the table?
Then again, maybe he didn’t like the Rio experience, or just was tired or whatever. So to me, not a huge thing to pass up the mixed.
Then today he officially withdrew from Cincinnati with a mysterious left wrist injury.
Left wrist injury? I don’t buy it. Did you see any signs of any wrist issues? Because I didn’t. And again, Cincinnati’s an event he’s never won before, never missed before, and with Andy Murray potentially also bailing and the other guys exhausted from Rio (Nadal, Nishikori), what a chance to complete the Masters set!
And going back to Toronto, I didn’t see any real shoulder concern either. He served bad yes, but I just feel like if there was any real shoulder issue that’s not something you want to try and play through.
So that leads be back further to Wimbledon. That match with Querrey, that morning practice. When, I think, all this – whatever “this” is – started.
Q. We’re so used to seeing you play so consistently, at such a high level. Today your serve and backhand were not the way they usually are. Was there a reason for that? Were you 100% healthy?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Not really. But, you know, it’s not the place and time to talk about it. Again, the opponent was playing on a very high level and he deserved to win.
Q. We saw you practicing this morning on Court 14. You didn’t seem yourself. What were you thinking this morning?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I just said, I just don’t want to talk about it. Please respect that. Thank you.
Watching the Querrey match, there was no hint of physical injury. No trainer visits, just an overall disinterest I’ve never seen from him. Like his mind was elsewhere.
And I still think it is.
We’ll probably never know what’s really troubling Novak until maybe, as I like to say, “the book” comes out. But whatever it is – and maybe I’m wrong and he is injured or is just burnt out from the French and the pressures of the Career/Calendar Slam – at least he has time now to get right.
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