Some quick on thoughts on Novak Djokovic’s excellent adventure this weekend at the French Open with culminated with him lifting a second French Open title after his comeback win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
1. GOAT DEBATE IS OVER… FOR NOW
A second Career Slam. Another win over Rafael Nadal at the French. A 19th Grand Slam. Sorry Roger Federer, sorry Rafael Nadal. As of today, Djokovic is the GOAT.
I know he hasn’t hit 20. I know he is not and never will be globally beloved like Roger and Rafa, but the overall numbers don’t like. Was does it for me RIGHT NOW is the second Career Slam and the fact he’s now got huge wins over both Rafa and Roger at Slams, and at their Slams, and he’s got a winning records over both of them.
Of course, the Slam chase isn’t over yet. So if Roger wins a French, Rafa wins an Australian or the two just win a bunch of Slams, then that could change things. But odds are against them while odds are real good Djokovic is going to win a few more.
2. DJOKOVIC RISES UP
I thought leading into the final with so much history on the line that Djokovic would rise up and meet that challenge. He did just that, he just chose to do it when he got down two sets.
Watching that second set, there wasn’t much hope for the Djokovic and his supporters. He looked totally gassed. But, taking a page from his win over Musetti, he got some life back when he left the court (apparently, it’s available in the locker room…LIFE!).
Once he got the break in the third, he got his second wind and you saw the bounce in his step was back.
3. WHO’S THE BEST ON CLAY
So if we started the French tomorrow, would Nadal still be the favorite? Or would Djokovic?
Like I said the other day, I don’t think Nadal wins another French. Djokovic might not either, though imagine next May he’ll be going for a THIRD Career Slam. Incredible!
4. HE LIKES PLAYING THE YOUNG GUYS
I love this quote from Djokovic after his win over Lorenzo Musetti: “I like to play young guys in best-of-five, because I feel even if they are leading a set or two sets to Love as it was the case today, I still like my chances, because I feel like I’m physically fit and, you know, I know how to wear my opponent down, you know, in the best-of-five match. And, you know, I’ve won most of the five-setters I have played in this tournament and in my career, so I think that experience helps.”
That’s a great quote. And with that belief that’s how he won yesterday. Down two sets, he didn’t panic because he feels like he can go the distance. And he’s right. He’s proven that all his career.
5. MAKE HIM HIT OVERHEADS
I said this before, if I ever played Djokovic I would make him hit like 200 overheads. I’d still lost 60 60 in about 20 minutes, but I think I’d get a point thanks to him missing an overhead.
It’s amazing to me that someone who is a GOAT candidate can have such a bad overhead, a shot they teach youngsters early on in tennis.
6. THE DROP SHOT
Again, the drop was horrible in October against Nadal, but in the semifinals he had that incredible one down set point in the third. Then against Tsitsipas he had another good day with that shot getting a break off it in the fourth and keeping the Greek off balance in the fifth.
Let’s see how much he uses it on the grass where it’s often a great shot.
7. FITTEST PLAYE EVER?
Remember the 2012 Australian Open? Five hours, 53 minutes on court against Rafael Nadal?
NINE YEARS LATER… he beats Nadal in 4:11 on Friday, comes back 48 hours and goes another 4:11 to beat Tsitsipas who is 12 years younger than him!
I remember when players retired before 30. At 34, Djokovic is the fittest guy on the tour. There’s no debate. And arguably the fittest to ever play the game.
What makes that so much more incredible is that early on his career he was having trouble finishing matches. He had retirements to Guillermo Coria and Rafael Nadal at the French. He quit against Andy Roddick at the US Open and the Australian Open. Nadal at Wimbledon. Federer at Monte Carlo, and on and on. Even Roddick took a shot at him.
Maybe that was all fuel, because now you can easily make the case no one has ever been fitter on a tennis court than Novak Djokovic.
8. MENTALLY STRONG
And he’s not just fit, he’s mentally tough as nails.
After that win, Djokovic is now 5-1 in Grand Slam 5-set matches, with four of those wins over Roger and Rafa. So not exactly slouches.
Nadal does have a couple Slam final wins over Roger at Wimbledon and the Australian. Federer has a couple wins over Rafa, but together they are 0-4 against Djokovic when a Grand Slam final goes five.
Pretty good, right? The guy can hold his nerves.
9. SO WHERE DOES HE END UP?
After such a big, historical win, it’s easy to project out that Djokovic is going to just keep racking up Slams. My guess is, that won’t happen. I think he’ll get Wimbledon or the US Open this summer, then the Australian next January and then maybe one or two more after that.
So maybe he gets to 25 and passes Court. I think 24 tops.
Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev are all right there with more younger kids coming up. So I’ll Djokovic at least a year, perhaps until the end of 2022 when his window begins the close.
But more importantly, he’s going to go past Roger and Rafa. The question is, once he gets past those two, how motivated will he be to keep going?
So a lot is in play. That’s why I like Federer’s recent quote from Halle: “As long as we play, anything is possible.”
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