Djokovic Still Dominating In Shanghai; Nadal v Wawrinka, Murray v Berdych Friday
by Sean Randall | October 15th, 2015, 6:30 pm
  • 103 Comments

Things are shaping up nicely in Shanghai site of the lone Masters event in Asia. Other than a shock loss by Roger Federer earlier in the week, the top guys are all winning, including Novak Djokovic.

The Serb who dominated the field last week in Beijing is continuing his run in Shanghai. Since the US Open, no one has gotten four games in a set during these seven matches.

Today, Djokovic pounded Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-3 to improve his win streak to 14. And there’s no sign of slowdown, not with Bernard Tomic tomorrow and the fact he thinks he can play even better.

“I was brought up that way and thought to always look for some room for improvement,” Djokovic said. “I still believe there are shots in my game that can be better. I think that’s one of the things that keeps me going. It motivates me to play more.”

The guy’s certainly in that zone right now.

Andy Murray could face Djokovic Saturday in the semifinals. Murray, who has an eye on the Davis Cup finals next month, ousted John Isner in three sets, and now takes on another big guy, Tomas Berdych in a good one tomorrow. Those two have split 12 meetings with Murray winning both this year. And after a strong first four months of 2015, Berdych hasn’t made much noise since, so I like Murray’s form here.

Also on Friday, Kevin Anderson and JW Tsonga will clash. Anderson, the surprise at the US Open, stunned Kei Nishikori in two breakers. Kei’s hit the skids of late, he’s just 4-4 in his last eight tournament matches. Maybe he’s tiring, maybe he’s just in a funk. Maybe just the competition has been better. Who knows.

Tsonga knocked out Albert Ramos in three. Ramos is the guy who stunned defending champion Federer in his opener. Obviously a disappointing loss by Roger, but no need to panic. Roger is 34, it has been a long season and I’m sure he’s over it by now. At his age, these losses are going to happen. You just hope they don’t happen that much at the Slams.

While Federer is out, Rafael Nadal is putting together another nice week. After a final in Beijing on Sunday, Nadal is now into the quarters in Shanghai after two decent victories over two of the biggest servers, Ivo Karlovic and Milos Raonic.

Playing Ivo off of clay is alway a challenge, and Rafa did what you had to do against him: survive! Granted he did drop serve to the big man – something that I think should never happen – Nadal pulled it out in the end in a final set breaker. And today, Rafa showed more signs of life beating Milos Raonic 6-3, 7-6 to collect what have been hard-to-find Top 10 wins.

“Winning a match 7‑6 in the third yesterday and winning a match again today in the tiebreak of a second set, two tiebreaks without losing a point with my serve, it’s impossible if you don’t have control of your emotions. That’s something that, a couple of months ago, would have been impossible for me,” said Nadal.

“My serve obviously worked much better than yesterday, but when I play well on my service game, it’s not just because I serve well, but especially because I play well from the baseline.”

Now things get interesting against Stan Wawrinka. Nadal’s won 12 of 14 against the Swiss, but Stan’s won the last two including on the clay this year in Rome when he overcame a 6-2 Nadal lead in the first set tiebreaker. And Stan is the reigning French Open champion, not Rafa – how weird is that. So even though I think Rafa is playing a little better, I like Stan here.

I still don’t see enough punch on Rafa’s serve and Ivo was able to attack so many of Rafa’s short balls. But if Rafa can get through – and I hope he does – it would be a monumental win for him, maybe the biggest match victory since his French Open title.

Tennis Channel has all the coverage from 1:30am ET. Murray-Berdych should be taking the court at 8am ET, just when some of us are waking up!

FRIDAY SHANGHAI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 1:30 pm
[12] K. Anderson (RSA) vs [16] J. Tsonga (FRA)

Not Before 3:30 pm
[8] R. Nadal (ESP) vs [4] S. Wawrinka (SUI)

Not Before 6:00 pm
[1] N. Djokovic (SRB) vs B. Tomic (AUS)

Not Before 8:00 pm
[3] A. Murray (GBR) vs [5] T. Berdych (CZE)


You Might Like:
Nadal on Form, Djokovic v Murray Saturday at ATP Shanghai Masters
Federer Locks Up No. 1 A Little Longer, Faces Cilic Friday; Djokovic, Murray Charge Ahead In Shanghai
Federer, Nadal, Djokovic Open Play Wednesday In Shanghai
ATP Fall Guide: Where The Big Boyz – Nadal, Djokovic, Federer – Will Be Playing
Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych Qualify For ATP London Finals

Don't miss any tennis action, stay connected with Tennis-X

Get the FREE TX daily newsletter

103 Comments for Djokovic Still Dominating In Shanghai; Nadal v Wawrinka, Murray v Berdych Friday

chris ford1 Says:

Rafa vs Stan ought to be a fine test for both. Until this year, Nadal was faring pretty well beating everybody but Djokovic. I think Rafa is finally turning the corner on his very bad year – but I just don’t see him as being able to get #1 from Djokovic again. Or Fed. Maybe Murray can make #1 sometime, but not for a pretty long while. .

Kevin Anderson is having a great year. Worth a mention. The S African became a US citizen, too. Won 3 small ATP titles, was up 2 sets to none on Djokovic at Wimbledon though Nole obviously came back. Knocked off Murray at the USO in a big match, getting to his 1st Slam QF. Now he took out Fabio and Nishikori and I give him a good chance against Tsonga.


Kimberly Says:

Ironically, not sure about this forum as I haven’t been around much but even people I know who historically despised Nadal (including my husband) are all pulling for him to return to form. The mens game is so much more exciting when he is a legitimate contender.


kriket Says:

Was just watching this year’s Wimbledon and USO finals. Great matches Novak and Fed produced.

I was really surprised by the difference in prize money though. Novak recevied just under a million pounds for Wimbledon championship title and $3,8 million for the US Open. That’s more than twice the prize money. He did receive a bonus of $500000 for something, so the USO Championship prize this year was $3,3 million. That’s like double the Wimbledon money. So in terms of prize there’s no question which is the biggest Grand Slam. I would have thought that Wimbledon is right there on par with the biggest prizes in tennis, but apparently not.


Wog Boy Says:

kriket,
That bonus money comes for most successful player during North America’s swing, methinks.
When it comes to prize money I think AO gives most mone out of all foru, 31 million dollars for AO 2016.


Rick Says:

Warinka will thumps Rafa easily!


Rick Says:

Rafa plays like Mats Wilander, when he became number 1. And his confidence is gone. All these good players would dumps him easily.


Rick Says:

Rafa would chokes easily nowadays. He did at the US Open. His mental game used to be his weapon, is now a liability for his game. He will chokes against the best players. He is nervous when he has to play to them. Usuaully could only wins a few games.


Rick Says:

If Warinka gets into the final. He would kicks Nole’s ass. They haven’t played since the French final. If Rafa luckily gets into the final. It would just be another title for Nole. Rafa gotta hires Warinka’s coach.


sekolah tenis Says:

keep novak djokovic is the best


Michael Says:

The most interesting encounter would be between Rafa Vs Wawarinka and I am not sure whom to favour ? Rafa was playing swashbuckling Tennis and imperious against both Karlovic and Raonic and it appears that he is coming close to his best while on the other hand, you have Wawarinka who is not a push over and is not intimidated by the big names that is in front of him. If his gracious, sublime and stylish back hand is working, he can place the ball forcefully in any corner of the court by working up incredible angles with consummate ease. So, this one should be a thriller for the Tennis fan in waiting !!

And Novak will be just going through the motions against Tomic and he will be just a little worried about the semi final encounter with probably Andy who has shown in the past that on his best day, he can very well trouble Novak especially in three set encounters. But Andy has to first beat Berdych to be there !!

Anderson Vs Tsonga is pretty anybody’s match and the better server on the day would win !!


nits Says:

Anderson
Nadal
Djokovic
Murray


Michael Says:

Rick @ 12.04 am,

Have some respect for the player. Do not comment in disparaging and derogatory terms. That said, are you aware of the H2H between Novak and Wawarinka ? If so, what makes you so sure that Wawarinka will be able to beat Novak conclusively ? Not every day is a Sunday. Just because, he beat Novak at French open, it doesn’t mean he will be able to manage that feat with consistency. If so, the H2H would have been completely different. Moreover, if you are not aware, Novak convincingly beat Wawarinka pretty recently in a Masters tournament in straight sets !!


roy Says:

for all the talk of nadal’s season, he is #6 in the race right now and seems he could overtake berdych and finish #5 if he does okay in the final three tournaments. i would expect him to be back in the top 4 during the clay season the way things are going. wawrinka is unlikely to defend his points and nadal is unlikely to play as bad as he did this year during the clay swing.


danica Says:

Jane, I read that article today at work ;). But that drawing is awful. Utterly bad.


Wog Boy Says:

danica,
At least he’s got color of his eys right.
Meanwhile Anderson and Tsonga are slugging it out, TB.


Wog Boy Says:

If you want to know how to chocke a set after having 6:3 in TB and two serves ask Anderson. I just noticed, Anderson is lining his bottles in the same fashion as Rafa.


jane Says:

danica, i know. bad.

wog boy, who faces winner of anderson/tsonga?


Wog Boy Says:

Rafa, I think?


Wog Boy Says:

^ if he beats Stan of course.


Wog Boy Says:

You know what? I haven’t seen any tournament in the world that spectators are playing with their mobile phones during the match as they do in China. Almost evry second one is doing that, why did they bother coming to the match one has to wonder? One more thing, you can’t see the fan with a cup of beer as it is customary during tennis match;)


Gypsy Gal Says:

Michael while i do agree with what your saying,can we please use that same standard with all the players then not just when its your favorites that are been insulted?….


Gypsy Gal Says:

Michael also Rick was rather disparaging about Rafa but i didnt see you defending him though,and also correct me if im wrong doesnt Rafa have a pretty decent H2H with Wawarinka,or dont we talk about that as hes not your favorite?….


Wog Boy Says:

Tsonga has really attractive girlfriend ..and size 14 (UK) shoes, pretty big feet..


J-Kath Says:

Tsonga beat Anderson – now I think its Nole and Tomic.


Gypsy Gal Says:

Wogboy lol what are you saying,agree about Joes girlfriend shes gorgeous,and hes pretty good looking too,they make a nice couple,i think what counts is whats on the inside though,and people should remember that….


Wog Boy Says:

No, it is Rafa/Stan.


J-Kath Says:

Sorri — Rafa v Stan as you probably all know…


Wog Boy Says:

GG,
Well, I can’t see what is inside of Tsonga’s girlfriend but I like what I see what is outside..


Gypsy Gal Says:

Wogboy true,but ive met some beautiful women,and also gorgeous men,but as people they have not been as nice personality wise….


Wog Boy Says:

Yes I know, I had same experience, once they opened their mouth I was looking for excuse to disappear..


Gypsy Gal Says:

LOL So true,nice picture of Nole BTW….


Gypsy Gal Says:

Mr Bedroom eyes looks spent physically,alot of UFE coming of his raquet,i think he was suffering some sort of injury against Cilic?….


Wog Boy Says:

This is what happens when your only tactic is to attack opponent’s supposedly weak side, Rafa BH is underrated, it his his weaker side but not weak side. This is happening on the surface that is supposed (again) to be Rafa’s weaker one. Rafa is on the mission to prove the point and is playing well, really well!


J-Kath Says:

Well GG – Would you look at that – Nadal is thru – now he has won against a top 5 player! Hope it will give Okiegal some joy as well. I think he will play Joe Tsonga next.

Winner of Andy v. Tomas will most likely meet Nole – oh my…maybe I’ll go to bed early….


Giles Says:

Well done Rafa. Achieved his goal to qualify for WTF.
Vamos Champ! 👍👍👍👍


Gypsy Gal Says:

J-Kath there is some talk that Mr BE tanked and wasnt even trying?hmm even the ump suggested something along those lines,dont know what to think on that one,as its a bit of a grey area?,anyway dont care as you say Rafa beats a top 5 player,and will play Jo Mr Sexy smile lol….


J-Kath Says:

GG – If he did tank, then maybe it will give Andy a game plan for the WTF????

Who do you predict for Joe v Rafa?


Gypsy Gal Says:

J-Kath Joe V Rafa?i would say Rafa if he carries on playing the way he has this week,but then again Joe seems to be having a purple patch,so who can tell?….


Daniel Says:

Woke up and saw Nadal won easily.

Was eatching until Djoko broke 4-2 and thought it would gonna be another easy set but now theybare in a tiebreak btomic was playing decent but not this much to push Novak


Gypsy Gal Says:

Brain cramp there by Tomic….


Gypsy Gal Says:

This is a good performance by Tomic….


Gypsy Gal Says:

Rick as you were saying….


Giles Says:

Commie just called joker a vulture. I agree!


chris ford1 Says:

Got up for the match. Tomic was actually pretty good in the 1st set, but Bernard being Bernard – he withered away in the 2nd set.


peter Says:

Tomic has improved in many areas of his game. He has been playing at top 10 level this tournament, beating Ferrer easily, beat gasquet, fiRST player to push Novak this hard these few weeks.

He’s hitting harder from both wings, rarely hitting back to the same side of the court and making Nole run a lot. If he plays every match like he did the first set he will be right up there with the big boys very soon.

Time to realise his potential.


J-Kath Says:

I think it’s safe to say Nole won in style. Congrats to him, Jo and fans.


Gypsy Gal Says:

Tomic had his chances which he didnt take,he needed to win that first set to have any chance,Novak won the first set then he relaxed more,and then predictably steam rolled through that second set….


Wog Boy Says:

Nole is yet to reach top gear, Andy is not going to be as forgiving as Tomic.


Gypsy Gal Says:

Wogboy all assuming Andy beats Berdych….


Wog Boy Says:

Tomic spent 7+ hours on the court in Shanghai compare to Nole’s 2+ hours, over three times more than Nole, you could see that in the second set, but he surprised me with really mature play and his second serve is big, he doesn’t hold on.


Daniel Says:

After first set scare, Djoko righten the ship in second as expected agaisnt Tomic. Murray or Berdy next.

This could be another good week for Nadal, he has a real shot at reaching another finals in Shangai (a tourney he has never won), and once in finals evertything can happen. But the bad for him is that he will either play Novak or Murray (who if beata Novak second straight time) will be really pumped up for the title and virtually securing Year End #2 and AO #2 seed.

So, seems a no win situation for him at this point still. But even so, back to back HC finals will be a great result


Wog Boy Says:

Is there any stats for bagels and breadsticks this year, I have feeling that Nole dished quite a few of them.


Gypsy Gal Says:

Two HC finals in a row,that is IF Rafa can beat Mr Sexy Smile?i suppose i choose to look at the glass half full rather than half empty,but thats me probably wearing my rose coloured spectacles,Rafa putting himself into contention to beat Mr Unbeatable or Charlton Hestons love child or Mr Personality depending on who gets to the final,and if Rafa makes the final….


Emily Says:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t that surprised w/ the Rafa/Stan result. Rafa has looked better this tournament and Mr. BE (liking the new nickname @gypsy gal) was really hurting against cilic the night before. I hope he didn’t tank, but I doubt the motivation was there considering the injury and the fact that his next 3 tournaments are so important in terms of being close to home (Basel, Paris, and WTF). Happy with his win in Tokyo and he showed a lot of determination beating cilic, but he needs to go home and recover mentally and physically.

BTW, congrats to Rafa fans, don’t want to take anything away from his performance and important win, but these were just some of my personal thoughts


Giles Says:

Alison. Still rambling on……….


Daniel Says:

Judging bt scores Murray is on top form and Berdy seems can’t compete with the very best as he once did. His beggining of the year looked promising but now think he could be out of top 10 or lower top 10 next year.

Him losing today and Nadal passes him already in the race.


Gypsy Gal Says:

Emily hi,yeah he was hurting no two ways about it,and i dont think Mr BE did tank,i think the simple fact was he was struggling physically,and it showed against Cilic….

BTW That was what Jalep called Stan,but i do like it,how about the rest of those nicks though?….


Gypsy Gal Says:

Giles maybe i do ramble on,but lighten up man,its just a bit of fun is all….


skeezer Says:

Meanwhile, Rafa seems to be on his way back. He has beaten some quality players here. Everyone on tour knows Dr. Ivo is a tough out, Raonic and Stan are no slouches. His fans have big hope imo, just needs to stay healhy.


Daniel Says:

Wog Boy, I think 2015 were definitely more bagels dished by Novak but this year has a lot of breadsticks. When I have the time I’ll fo to atp site and there is the events breakdown round by round. We can coint how many in his 76 matches this season so far. My guess is more than 10 6-1 sets.


Wog Boy Says:

Thanks Daniel, I was just curious. Time for bed, Andy is trashing Berdych, as I thought he’ll do.


Giles Says:

I find it really strange when a poster sings praises of a player who is not in fact his favourite ala Daniel.


Daniel Says:

Damm, Murray is demolishing Berdych.

Semis tomorrow will be a cracker. Glad it’s not going to be too early, 9:00 am for me here;-) Will miss Nadal Tsonga.

Anyine knows if Finals is payed at night or afternoon, beacuse if it’s not night middle of dawn for me on Sunday. And I don’t DO Sunday before 8 am


Daniel Says:

Sorry, I meant 2011 there were more bagels…


calmdownplease Says:

hehehehe

ANDY IS ON FIRE

Loving this :)

The Return game the BH, the FH (!) flawless movement and clinical aggression…
The lobs, DShots & exquisite Volleys, the whole shebang in fact.

Still talking to himself however?

It must be a grudge match, but Berdy had simply no chance Today

He really wants to reclaim this one I think.

Good luck to anybody that plays this Andy on this court…

Tomorrow should be one of the best matches of the year.


jalep Says:

Wow, missed some good matches last night.

Murray v Berdych — oh my.

Andy is stomping him. Which actually gives the impression that Tomas is a schmuck as a top 5 playa. But essentially he’s talented enough and a physical specimen so easily subdued versus the very top guys, though.

Andy has a legitimate shot at Novak. Potentially a classic semi-final :D

Emily, sorry about BE. Didn’t see the match. Doesn’t surprise me though. Rafa’s been working hard, focusing like his old self and slowly building up. That positive thing about Rafa was the lack of negativity about losing Beijing.

Did watch Cilic v Stan and thought Cilic is going in the right direction towards 2014 level.

Congrats to Rafa fans, especially Okiegal.

Kimberly, have often thought how much fun it would be talking tennis with Christian. Tell him hello! Keeping an eye on Hong Kong scores too and Tianjin. Semifinals look interesting as is the Race to Shanghai and Zhuhai.

Hong Kong semi’s:
Williams v Jankovic or Gavrilova
Kerber v Stosur
Tianjin:
Jovinovski v Kovinic
Radwanska v Pliskova * (heart-breaker for me if Radwanska loses but…)

Congrats Andy fans! That performance makes me nervous…


Gypsy Gal Says:

Thanks Jalep;)….


calmdownplease Says:

Jalep

Andy will always have a ‘legit’ shot against Novak now
There will be no more of this 8 times in a row nonsense again

Like EVAH!


calmdownplease Says:

I’m glad he’s cut down his schedule also, he can really make the most of these tournaments coming up, give em welly!
And THEN there’s going to be more DC heroics for us Brits to savour :)


calmdownplease Says:

‘And I don’t DO Sunday before 8 am’

Oh me too Daniel!

What AM I talking about?
You’ll only see me before noon on a Sunday if I have been up all Saturday…


Daniel Says:

Wog Boy,

6-1 sets: 29 including Shangai
6-0 sets: 10

He avearges 1 6-0 set every 7,6 matches and 1 6-1 set every 2,62 matches.


J-Kath Says:

Has anyone told Margot she can come out from behind the sofa? Maybe she’s planning to stay there thru tomorrow – I’ll be joining her then……


Margot Says:

@Kath
No need for the sofa! Andy in scintillating, destroyer mood. Best I’ve seen him play for yoinks and definitely back to pre op form.
YESSSSSS!!!!!


Colin Says:

Wog Boy, I do agree with you about the mobile phones. The things seem to have taken over the lives of many people.

Every couple of weeks I catch a bus to Wimbledon Village foe a drink with a friend. It’s not exactly a scenic delight at first, but once you get to the top of Putney Hill, you are soon going past Wimbledon Common, which is nicely leafy and wooded. Yet I’ve noticed many passengers are glued to their phones the whole way, never once looking out the window, and that’s not kids or teenagers only, it’s middle aged men and women.

Those silly scare stories about phones frying the brain are very clearly nonsense, since if not, half the population would be dead by now! A further gripe – why do people talk so loudly on the damn things?


J-Kath Says:

CDP- Didn’t realise you were a Brit – one learns something new every day.

Anyways just wanted to give a big smile and many thanks to those who extended congrats (and favourable comments)to Andy thru his humble followers….Daniel, WogBoy, Jalep, GG…if I’ve missed anyone, apologies.

Pity Sienna isn’t around – she probably would have said “Watch out: 6-0/6-1 coming soon…”

PS: Been wondering what BE meant when applied to Stan ….and it has finally dawned on me!!!

Cheers


Colin Says:

“FOR” a drink. I always read through what I type before posting, but I usually miss at least one mistake. Brain, where have you gone?


jalep Says:

Oh come on, cdp. You are right, I misspoke – yes, Andy has a legitimate chance at any tournament. Andy tricked me into picking him tp the final for USO by winning Montreal then…

…ah ahh he goes on to get his country into DC Final.

Not sure what Andy will win in the rest of this season on ATP calendar but he’s going to make some fans really happy in Belgium– pretty convinced about it ;)

Congrats KatH, Margo and CDP!…and GG/RZ


calmdownplease Says:

Here’s Novak’s FT interview if you can’t subscribe;

Enjoy!
(might be the last thing I do like this, however);

Lunch with the FT: Novak Djokovic
Peter Aspden

Midway through lunch with Novak Djokovic he still hasn’t touched his food. It concerns me. I tell the world’s best tennis player that I will talk to him about my own game to give him some time to eat. It’s generally pretty wretched, I say, but it gets particularly ugly when I am 30-40 down and I have just missed my first serve, at which point I feel I am looking down into an existential black hole, sense my self-esteem ebb away, and invariably send the ball careering outside the lines. So what does it feel like for him in the “clutch” moments, which have rather more at stake?
“The first thing is to make sure you are in the moment,” he answers calmly. “That is much easier to say than to do. You have to exclude all distractions and focus only on what you are about to do. In order to get to that state of concentration, you need to have a lot of experience, and a lot of mental strength. You are not born with that. It is something you have to build by yourself.”
His conversation is fluent, intense and measured, not unlike his ground strokes. “I believe that half of any victory in a tennis match is in place before you step onto the court. If you don’t have that self-belief, then fear takes over. And then it will get too much for you to handle. It’s a fine line. The energy of those moments is so high: how are you going to use it? Are you going to let it consume you, or are you going to accept its presence and say, ‘OK, let’s work together.’ ”
It is hard to believe that this supremely self-assured champion has his scary moments. Did he ever actually feel fear on the court these days? “Absolutely. Absolutely. Everyone feels fear. I don’t trust a man who says he has no fear. But fear is like a passing cloud in the sky. After it passes, there is a clear blue sky.” Not so easy to say if you are Andy Murray, brought up under the leaden clouds of Scotland, I say, and Djokovic laughs politely.
We are in the clear blue sky of southern Europe in one of the newest models in the fleet of NetJets, a private jet company, travelling from Belgrade to Monaco, where Djokovic lives with his wife Jelena and their 11-month old son, Stefan. I have been promised a knock with him, as part of an afternoon of tennis clinics he will give at the Monte Carlo Country Club with NetJets clients. Djokovic “owns” part of the plane in which we are travelling, under the company’s fractional ownership arrangement. He tells them when he needs it; they sort out the details. It’s as simple, inclement weather permitting, as getting a restring for his racquet.
Given the demands and head-spinning rewards of the professional tennis tour, it is the only way to travel. Djokovic’s schedule is relentless: he is at the top of the game’s rankings, and holds three out of four of this year’s Grand Slam titles. He travels constantly, and needs to rest, because he doesn’t make a habit out of leaving tournaments in their early rounds.
His 10 Grand Slam career wins put him equal seventh in the all-time list, but no one seriously believes that he will stop there. At the age of 28, he is at the peak of his powers: in form, in demand, and in relentless pursuit of the two contemporary players who hold more titles than him: Rafael Nadal (14) and record-holder Roger Federer (17).
Private jet

Food from Maya Bay (24 Avenue Princesse Grace, 98000 Monaco) delivered to aircraft
Mixed sashimi x 2 €88
Total €176
Djokovic has suffered — even if it is problematic to use that word when dealing with a figure of such sporting distinction — from “third man” syndrome during that time. His ascent was widely viewed as a presumptuous intrusion, upsetting tennis’s perfectly calibrated duel of archetypes: Roger Federer, the unruffled, elegant Swiss versus Rafael Nadal, the taurine Spaniard. Their battles had captured the public imagination, and sent the game spinning into unimagined levels of excellence. However could Djokovic fit in?
Well, by beating them. The Serbian has triumphed over Federer in all three of their last Grand Slam finals, while his five-set victory over Nadal at the 2012 Australian Open is widely considered to be one of the most punishing matches of all time, the tennis equivalent of boxing’s Thrilla in Manila between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It marked a turning point: the third man was here to stay.
. . .
We sit down face-to-face in our leather seats, surrounded by pristine wooden panelling, and shortly after take-off, two plates of assorted sushi and sashimi are brought to us. They come from Maya Bay, Djokovic’s favourite restaurant in Monaco. I congratulate him on his US Open win in September, and ask how long it took him to pick up a racquet again after receiving the trophy.
“About 10 to 11 days,” he replies. “That is the maximum number of days that I don’t play tennis, and I needed that because I have had a very tough, competitive year behind me. I wanted to put my racquet aside, and hold my baby in my arms.” All tournaments, he says, are exhausting. “But it adds a little bit more flavour when you win,” he understates.
The last week in Belgrade has hardly been a holiday: Djokovic and his wife have been supervising the work of their charitable foundation, which is devoted to improving pre-school education in their native country. What inspired that particular mission? “Personal experience. I didn’t have that kind of schooling, because we come from a culture that believes it is better for children to stay at home with the extended family, which is not something we are against.” But education, he says, is a building block: “something that nobody can take away from you. It helps to build your character, and stimulates you to be independent.”
Djokovic may not have had the benefits of a nursery schooling but something remarkable took its place: the unfettered attentions of a coach, Jelena Gencic, who first saw him aged five, pressing against the fence of her tennis camp in the mountain resort of Kopaonik, where Djokovic’s parents ran a pizza restaurant. She asked the wide-eyed boy if he wanted to have a hit. The rest is part of the Djokovic mythology: she was so astounded by the young boy’s precocity that she sought his parents immediately, and told them he could be a star in the making.
Everyone feels fear. I don’t trust a man who says he has no fear. But fear is like a passing cloud in the sky. After it passes, there is a clear blue sky
Is it possible that Djokovic, who hadn’t picked up a racquet up to that point, could have slipped through the game’s grasp if it hadn’t been for that moment? He waves his hand dismissively. “I don’t like ‘what-ifs’,” he says firmly. “I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. If you ask yourself those questions, you can go on forever.”
Gencic said she would personally oversee the young boy’s development. “She saw the sparkle in my eyes. My father believed her, and he believed in me.” The coach became a mentor, introducing her charge not just to tennis but also to poetry, science and classical music. Gencic’s death during the 2013 French Open was kept from Djokovic until after his third-round match, and came as a devastating blow. “She was like my second mother,” he said in a press conference later in the week.
The teenage Djokovic stormed through the rankings. He developed a reputation for his remarkably consistent high level of play, for his athletic prowess and physical fitness, and for the odd hot-headed moment. And this year — French Open aside — he has achieved everything he wanted. I ask him how he keeps himself motivated.
“I can carry on playing at this level because I like hitting the tennis ball,” he says simply. Are there players who don’t, I ask? “Oh yes. There are people out there who don’t have the right motivation. You don’t need to talk to them. I can see it. But I don’t judge. I completely respect everybody’s freedom of choice. If it works for them . . . ”
Part of being the world’s number one is that he has become a role model, I say. He nods enthusiastically. “A lot of young people all over the world follow every move I make.” That sounds stressful. “You can look at it from both sides. Is it stressful, or is it a privilege? It gives me strength and energy. For me it is an incredible privilege.”
Djokovic is still only nibbling at his lunch. The sushi, as one might expect, is excellent. We drink water. No surprises: this is a man who thinks more than most about what he puts in his body, and when. Another piece of Djokovic mythology: when he was younger, he was often affected in the middle of matches by sudden medical emergencies, occasionally forcing him to pull out of games altogether. It sullied his reputation as he rose through the ranks: the usually polite Federer once called him a “joke”.
I had thought I was eating healthily. I didn’t eat junk food, I wasn’t drinking Coca-Cola, no alcohol…I thought about it and realised I had eaten [gluten] every single day. It is in our culture, that we eat bread with everything. So I had over-consumed it a lot…Nowadays, about 50 per cent of what I eat is raw.
Then, in the middle of one match in Australia, he was seen on television by a doctor, Igor Cetojevic, who was no great tennis fan but who instantly managed to diagnose that Djokovic’s listlessness was a result of his diet. The men met a few months later, leading Djokovic to adopt a new diet, free from gluten, dairy products and processed sugar. The transformation in his health, and his game, was instant and radical.
“I had thought that I was eating healthily,” he says, recalling the turning point in 2010. “I didn’t eat junk food, I wasn’t drinking Coca-Cola, no alcohol.” But he concluded that gluten was the culprit. “I thought about it and realised I had eaten it every single day. It is in our culture, that we eat bread with everything. So I had over-consumed it a lot.”
He lost four kilos in a very short time (“which is a lot for a professional athlete”) and was warned that he risked losing energy. Instead of which, he says, “I felt better than I had ever done before: more alert, more aware, more energetic.” This was bad news for the rest of the tennis circuit, who were suddenly confronted by a revivified opponent with superhuman levels of endurance. Since the turnround, Djokovic has contested 16 of the last 21 Grand Slam finals.
He says his new habits do not constitute a “diet”, rather a new approach to nutrition. “I try to respect everything I put on my plate,” he says. Two years ago, he wrote a book, Serve to Win, a combination of biography, recipe book and self-help manual. Food has become an important hobby for him and his wife. “Nowadays, about 50 per cent of what I eat is raw.” He picks up another piece of sashimi as if to emphasise the point.
Now here is the problem for us tennis fans, I tell him. We have been spoilt by a golden era. The bar has been set so high by Djokovic and his immediate rivals that we fear a comedown. Where are the future stars of the game, and can they possibly live up to those standards?
“Before the last two years, it was worrying for the tennis world,” he concedes. “The young players were showing potential, but they weren’t coming up. People love Roger, as they do Rafa, but their day will come, as will mine. But in the last two years I think we have seen a lot of future stars. [Borna] Coric, [Nick] Kyrgios . . . ” Ah, wait a minute, I interrupt. He was a little bit of a naughty one, wasn’t he? (The Australian was roundly condemned and fined for making lewd, sledging remarks about Stan Wawrinka’s girlfriend at the US Open.)
“Well, he is, but, actually, deep inside, I think he is a very good guy. He has a little bit of an identity crisis, I think. He is still trying to establish himself. I spoke to him in New York. I said, ‘Listen, I know everyone criticised you, and I was one of them,’ and I was happy to tell him that face-to-face. But I wanted to add that I suffered similar things, maybe not to that extent, and it is a very valuable experience. I said, ‘If you ever want to talk to me, I am here and I am willing to help you.’ I practise with him, and I talk to him, and he is a good guy, and really, really talented.”
[The Nato bombings of Serbia in 1999] helped me to become the person I am today. They made me mentally stronger. They made me hungry for success. They stay inside your heart, always. You can’t forget them. The only way is to move on, forgive, use that experience as a positive reinforcement…If you can channel it in the right way, fear will turn to strength
We begin our descent. I say that last year I saw his picture on a fresco in the Serbian town of Andricgrad, a massive construction project conceived by the film director Emir Kusturica, with whom Djokovic is friendly. I ask him what it was like to be a rising sports star, with strong patriotic feelings, in the 1990s, in the middle of the wars in Yugoslavia, when those very feelings were being condemned in the wider world.
“It was one of the toughest times in the history of the Serbian people,” he replies. “There were lines of people queueing for bread every day. In 1999 during the Nato bombings our lives were in danger every day. They killed many innocent people for no reason.”
Those events “helped me to become the person I am today. They made me mentally stronger. They made me hungry for success. They stay inside your heart, always. You can’t forget them. The only way is to move on, forgive, use that experience as a positive reinforcement.” He returns to the subject of fear. “If you can channel it in the right way, fear will turn to strength.”
The plane lands, and we part ways. Later in the afternoon, I watch Djokovic as he arrives at the club in Monaco. He is unfailingly polite, and charms his audience. Adults and children alike pose for selfies. He is in role-model mode, playing the part to perfection. The thought occurs to me that, rather than go down in history as the third man, he may actually transcend the archetypal qualities of both of his rivals: even more gracious than Federer, still steelier than Nadal.
At one point he approaches the extravagantly laden refreshment table, picks up a 2 sq cm fragment of pizza, and pops it into his mouth. I turn to Greg Rusedski, a former British player, who is master of ceremonies for the event. “Don’t pizzas have gluten in them?” I ask mischievously. Rusedski replies with a broad smile. “Sometimes I think you’ve got to let go a bit,” he says. Such wild behaviour is not unprecedented: Djokovic celebrated his Australian Open win in 2012 with a single square of chocolate.
The time comes for our knock. I am in a long line of NetJets clients. We will each get one to two minutes each. There is an audience of about 200 people, sipping champagne, and watching us more carefully than I was hoping. It comes to my turn, and I am trying to turn fear into strength. We have a gentle rally, which he allows me to “win” by not moving towards the ball at all. In a blatant piece of gamesmanship, he says he likes my “game face”. I regain my composure, ratchet up the intensity, and shorten the next rally with a rasping volley which goes exactly where I meant it to, somewhat to my surprise. There is a ripple of applause. It is one of the most dreamlike moments of my life.
He comes to the net to shake hands. “In the moment!” I say to him. “In the moment!” he replies, laughing, and turns briskly back to the baseline to face his next opponent.


calmdownplease Says:

Yikes, that was Loooonnnngggg

Sorry non-fans, but there’s always the power to scroll!


calmdownplease Says:

‘CDP- Didn’t realise you were a Brit – one learns something new every day..’

I sure am JK!
I travel a bit, however.


elina Says:

Rick Says:
Warinka will thumps Rafa easily!

Hashtag fail.


J-Kath Says:

CF1
I (and other half) owned a hotel in Scotland and travelled 3 months a year (leaving my parents in charge) – most exotic possible – gold mining in Nevada and Montana (re-tracing the 49’s in California) PS: Husband is/was a geologist. + Long stays all over – etc. etc.

Hope you enjoy your travels even though they may be business related.
Cheers


Michael Says:

Alison,

Rick was using vulgar words in the case of Novk and so I wanted to restrain him. It is not that I react only if it involves my favourites. As I have stated numerous time in this forum, I respect every player on tour !!


jalep Says:

KatH…Did you mean CF1 or CDP ? :D

It’s tough to keep everyone straight. But there’s a huge difference between CF1 and CDP, at least when it comes to tennis…don’t know anything about either one, oh and maybe being male in common, anyway.


jalep Says:

CDP – Thanks for the loooonngg post! That’s interesting…liked it very much.


Gypsy Gal Says:

OK Michael im just not a fan of double standads,some posters seem to insult their favorites rivals and other posters with no come back or recriminations what so ever,and some cry foul only when its their favorites been insulted,or their friends been insulted,but dont care otherwise,IMO its time the staff upped their game with the moderation….


J-Kath Says:

Jalep – I meant CDP – because I discovered he was a Brit.and travelled a lot – the travelling which CDP does took me back to “Salad Days” as I can’t travel now due to family problems. Apologies to CDP and to CP1 and to you – Please,I think I need a Minder – the pay isn’t very good though…….


calmdownplease Says:

I’m from London, J-K

My family live all over, however.

You’re most welcome Jalep!

And may the best man win tomorrow ;0)


elina Says:

Wow, Andy paying 4:1 with a win tomorrow.

Great value.


Giles Says:

Joker not in the running for Sportsmanship Award again??
Oh dear, wonder why! 😜


Daniel Says:

Giles,

I’ve always said Djoko is my second favorite after Fed. Cheered for him back in AO 2008 final when he was playing Tsonga. After him, is Murray (unless when he decides to not play offense, it pisses me off because I think he is wasting his time and talent) and there is a few other whose game I like a lot. Acrually, I like almost all players as I love the sport. Don’t like Nadal for several reasons: mainly his game, his technique, his on court antics, his delaying opponents, gamesmanship, his relation with Tony, imagine myself playing agaisnt him and him as the main rival for Fed.

But we don’t choose who we like. Love Novak’s game and tyr to mimic him as I play similar to him and even my net game is my worst part so I can relate to that. Wheres Fed and Murray jusy have “natural” touch beyond me.

And I love how Novak os challeing both Fed and Nadal
and getting into the conversation. I am not devoted to Federer. Just never saw nobody play the way he does. Once he is gone I will here just the same watching other players as I am since the advance of cabo TV and internet last 15-17 years.


Daniel Says:

If Murray wins this title veating Novak and Nadal he would have won last two matches agaisnt both. That could be a game changer for him going forward.

And he always had more success over Novak in fast courts. Hope is a three setter but not a obverly long one. Hope they are both serving great to win some free points and save the best for a few long rallies as only these two can play this days. But no 1:10 hr set in first set:-)


Gypsy Gal Says:

Giles Rafas qualified for the WTFs,thats great news….


Daniel Says:

CDP,

Murray mastered the lobby like no other, this season he was impecable. Djoko missed a few in RG final but seems got his touch back for deip shot lobby combo. Curious to see if we’ll see some tomorrow.

Both are returning really well so far.


Giles Says:

Daniel. You really surprise me with your comments regarding joker’s game. IMO he is the most boring player on the tour. I think your comments on Rafa are a tad harsh to say the least buy hey, each to his own.
Vamos Rafa! 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍


calmdownplease Says:

Yeah, and I think we can really thank Amelie for that Daniel, as it really came to the fore after that first (and only) training block.
Novak has started to do them more often too, but maybe that was to kill the SABR in it’s tracks.
You’ll definitely see some as they were an important part of Andy’s new aggressive tactics against Djokovic.
The court is faster so expect less ping pong style rallies in this altercation with Andy trying to shorten the points and coming in a bit more than usual.
Andy (in this tournament) is returning just as well as Novak is which is as good as one can get…


jane Says:

daniel, great & candid post at 1:25. not that we owe anyone an explanation anyhow, but enjoyed reading your thoughts.


Daniel Says:

Although I still think Fed has an awe effect to his strokes, Djoko has the more complete shot by shot execution of the bacics, FH and BH.
Murrya delays a bit his contact point on FH and he hits his BH more flat and a bit high from his weist, hence sometimes netting too many balls, specially when changung directions. Djoko execution on double hand BH should be teach in tennis school everywhere and with video on top of it. It’s what most aproaches a “perfect” stroke. As it is Federer’s FH. One thing is evaluating effectiveness of a shot or not (nobody can deny Nadal’s unique FH), but on a tennis 101 level those two strokes are the most “perfect shots”. As Djoko also has a great technique on hos FH side hos combined FH-BH is the most bankable of pro players, together with how few mistakes he makes out of both.


Daniel Says:

Giles,

My thing with Nadal is because I cringe just to imagine myself playing agaisnt his style of play (left hand witch is a pain in the a$& to begin with), than having all balls coming back. Not how I was taugth to play.

Your view on Djoko’s game is subjective to opinion. He makes me have my eyes fixed on TV, because I few that I’ll become a better player just by watching him play. Wheres when I watch Fed, I have no pretension to do what he does and how easy he does it (nor that I think what Djoko does is easy as well).

For example Roddick serve also, how explosive it was and Pete’s accuracy.


Gypsy Gal Says:

Personally i could never get interested in playing tennis even at school,netball was always my thing really loved that sport and still do,football is my favorite sport to watch then tennis….


elina Says:

Daniel at 1:25, you forgot the head-to-head thingy.

mew


Daniel Says:

elina, it’s implied in the last thing: him challenging Fed, no?

Top story: Goffin Beats Bautista Agut For Montpellier Title