8 Things I Think I Thought About Novak Djokovic’s Olympic Fail

by Sean Randall | August 2nd, 2021, 9:08 pm

Now that the 2021 Olympics are over and done, some thoughts on Novak Djokovic’s remarkable collapse and more.

First, Djokovic didn’t have to play the Olympics. Many skipped it. I didn’t think he would go but he made the trip anyway risking potential injury (which did happen I guess), illness and fatigue in his quest for the Golden and Calendar Slam. But it all came crashing down.

Let’s remember, this was a pressure-cooker event with so much on the line. This was Djokovic first and last chance ever for such an historic sweep, the weight must have been enormous. And given the circumstances, he could have passed all that up and I think most people would have understood.

So he deserves credit for at least trying and taking a swing at it. But the way he missed was remarkable.

After he looked so good in his first two matches in singles and mixed (granted against pretty easy competition), odds were strong Djokovic would come away with one gold and/or at least two medals, but to leave with ZERO.


I will say when Novak goes down he often goes down remarkably — Wawrinka at the US Open, Nadal in those early French’s, Del Potro in Rio, Querrey at Wimbledon, etc.

He was in complete cruise control against Alexander Zverev in the quarters serving 3-2 in the second just a mere 12 points from a first gold medal match, and in a snap…24 hours later he leaves with nothing but heartbreak after three straight losses and a stunning withdrawal from the mixed bronze match.

Djokovic’s goal wasn’t to win any gold, it was to win singles gold. That’s it. Entering 2021 that was arguably his No. 1 mission on the season. And based on his comments after about being exhausted and then having some sort of shoulder problem, it’s fair to say that playing the mixed didn’t help in those areas, and it likely hindered him.

I’m guessing if he had to do it over again he would not have played in the mixed event. That doesn’t mean he would have won the singles gold, but again, Job #1 was the singles gold and as a player you have to do everything you can to toward that end result. Playing mixed isn’t going to help.

When he goes to New York, he won’t play in the men’s doubles, right? I know this Olympics is for country, but he’s trying to make some serious history and at the time he entered the mixed, he “only” needed to win eight more sets or so. So why take that chance?

I just cannot fathom that his coaching team of Vajda and Ivanisevic — who I don’t think were in Tokyo — would have wanted him playing another event. But it was likely Djokovic’s decision, and we’ve seen in recent years a string of poor decision making on his part –Adria Tour, PTPA, hitting the lineswoman, failed effort to get players out of quarantine in Australia, etc.

And this one totally backfired and his one single chance at a Golden Slam is dust.

You have to feel really awful for her. Has there ever been a walkover in an Olympic tennis medal match? If there hasn’t, there is one now thanks to Djokovic.

Stojanovic played really well, appeared to be having the time of her life but in the end she missed out on a chance to win a potentially life-changing, career-defining medal.

Djokovic will have more Slams and big title ahead, but for Stojanovic was her moment of her lifetime.
What an unfortunate finish.

There’s something about the Olympics that gets to Djokovic. He wins everywhere and everything, but at the Olympics he’s now lost three times in the semifinals and only won the bronze medal once.

He’s won the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup but playing individually for your country – and not part of a team – has been his kryptonite. I don’t know why that is, but the numbers and results don’t lie.

Let’s see if he gives it another go in three years in Paris.

Djokovic’s serve really went wayward the second half of the Zverev match. Not long after, he withdrew from the mixed citing a left shoulder (not his right serving shoulder).

I don’t recall him being in any distress or discomfort, and not on the backhand side, either. Nor do I recall him calling for the trainer at any time during the event. So how bad is it? Is it real? What happened? We really don’t know and likely won’t for a few more weeks until Cincinnati or even New York.

With what’s ahead, hopefully it’s nothing serious.

He’s not playing Canada and if I were him I wouldn’t play Cincinnati either. After what he went through and now what he’s going through (I’ve read the Simone Biles clickbait mis-quotes), he’s probably best served to rest his body and his mind and reset. Especially if the shoulder is a problem.

Now the goal is squarely on 21 sets and 7 wins in New York. Djokovic and his camp now have to do what they think is best for him to get those 7 wins. Maybe that does mean playing Cincinnati, maybe not.

He missed his one shot at the Golden Slam, he’s can’t miss this one shot at a Calendar Slam.

Full credit again to all the players who made the long journey to the Olympics including Djokovic. It’s not easy breaking from your schedule to go to Tokyo, which is far, far off the current tour map. Then go through yet another quarantine, play in front of no fans, miss out on the “true” Olympic experience and then deal with the heat after a cool European clay and grass season.

You saw the emotion from Pablo Carreno Busta, the Brazilian women’s doubles team, Belinda Bencic and the others. Winning medals, they mean something. They are rare, they are valuable and while I think the tennis event would be better served in a team format, what we are left with isn’t bad at the end.

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18 Comments for 8 Things I Think I Thought About Novak Djokovic’s Olympic Fail

John Smith Says:

Point #4 is exactly why Djokovic will never ever be the GOAT (GOAT is not only about numbers).

Federer or Nadal would have never let down their partner just for “convenience” or because they were tired. Djokovic was not injured at all. He was taking funny selfies everywhere in the olympic village with other athletes after his defeat.

Poor Nina. I would have been really pissed off.

Milos Says:

John, do you wear Rolex? :P

skeezer Says:

Btw, Rafa has something to say about Djoker’s Olympic antics:


chrisford1 Says:

Skeezer – ask me who the Japanese have more respect for. The two male tennis Legends that journeyed to Japan. the 2 that showed the Olympic spirit, accepted all the Covid safety excesses & discomfort, endured brutal conditions on court, and gave honor to Japan and their efforts to even have an Olympics.
Or the two Legends that opted out.
Rafa’s hen clucking about a royally frustrated Djokovic smashing a racket -is noted.
All clucking as Rafa is being paid several million to appear at CITI Open and schmooze with American and foreign elites, power brokers in America’s dysfunctional capital city.
Fed, possibly off at a Swiss rejuvenation clinic, was not heard from.

Giles Says:

Cif. Why so bitter? Oops sorry, I know. Faker didn’t pick up any medals, not even a Gold!

chrisford1 Says:

1. I just don’t share Sean’s belief that a calendar year Grand Slam is the absolute pinnacle of tennis achievement. The media industry created the mystique, and when Navratilova got 4 Slams in a row, Serena (twice), then Novak – it was discounted, despite being an identical achievement in terms of difficulty. A big factor?? None of the 3 were popular with the media when they did it.
Had Federer done it outside a calendar year, the media would have ended all talk of the “special mystique” of 3 grass and one clay court titles in exactly 1 year in a sport with no real season – and one event not even considered a Slam at the Time that under 1/3rd of the pros bothered to play in. (1969).

2. Sad that Nina Stojanovic didn’t get a last crack at a medal, but this was a big time in her career, her marketability.
A. Got a chance to play with the world’s best player, got huge visibility as a good looking tall blonde player who plays good doubles tennis.
B. Her social media has taken off with views, followers and messages based on play, getting to play with Djokovic! , appearance and charisma, and sympathy for her playing well but not medalling.

3. Djokovic has hubris hurt him before. The same hubris that makes him great, that explains his journey and self-belief as much as any trait of his, has cut the other way. He believed finally winning the French would make his life perfect and happy forever after and 6 months later he’s driving an effete little car of Pepe’s covered in hearts, seeking to hug people.
That same hubris played a part in his bad record at Olympics.
So did pure bad luck (Delpo 1st round, anyone?), his truly horrible net skills as a younger player in the winner gets gold or silver semi against Nadal. 1-1 tie in sets with Novak serving at 4-5 in the decider in 2008. I think that last game from 2008 is still stuck in his mind.
Funny thing is for all Djokovic’s mishaps and LOSER reputation at the Olympics, there are two guys tied with the most wins in Olympics singles. Neither won gold in singles. Such LOSERS!!!

Wog Boy Says:

…and Susan Sarandon apologies to Novak for falling for the false accusations that Novak criticised Simone Biles:


Wog Boy Says:

I also unreservedly apologise to Srdjan Djokovic for believing that he was the one whi talked Nole into going to Japan despite strong advice from Goran and Marian not to go, it was purely Nole’s decision that badly backfired, I still believe he shouldn’t have gone after winning Channel Slam, he was mentally and physically drained, but he believed that adrenaline rush for playing for Serbia will be enough to get him over the line, it wasn’t to be.

Here is one minute interview with Srdjan where he publicly showed text messages with Nole advising him not to go to Japan, there are English subtitles, you can also hear that there is absolutely no talk about golden masters or any record it was only about pride to go and represent Serbia, easy to follow:


Giles Says:

“ Playing for Serbia”. Lol. Don’t feed us with all that Bullshit. He was playing for himself and his ego!.
Alas, it was not to be! Poor joker! 😜

Wog Boy Says:

Gisele, let it go, it’s almost two months since Rafa was trashed in FO semifinal, let it go Gisele.

Giles Says:

^^^ Haha. Yep, but your loss is still fresh and is something that will never get stale seeing as faker will now NEVER win a Gold Medal. He missed his chance big time especially with absolutely no competition at the 2020 Olympics. In fact he had 2 chances to win Gold but messed it up like an amateur! Lololol

Django Says:

After his loss at RG to Wavrinka he went on a tear, after he defaulted he went on a tear.
He will be fine. All he needs is one GS- not even in NY but anywhere.

Van Persie Says:

I hope Nole ends this season as Nr.1, that would be achievable, would be enough for me. Not so sure he wins US Open, but La Decima at the AO would be perfect😉. Or, who knows, maybe anothe FO😁

Miloš Says:

It seems that Novak is getting more and more fans as goathood is here 🙃

chrisford1 Says:

Don’t know about other fans jumping on the bandwagon, but Novak has dominated as the #1 tennis topic for several years now. Not just his fans, but enemies like Giles have nothing to talk about these days by Novak.
I can understand Giles bitterness. Rafa man-handled all his opponents and just on that domination would deserve GOAT-hood except one player met him as an equal. Rafa would possibly be the GOAT with 25-27 Slams BUT for Novak and the losses and injuries Rafa got playing him.
As for VP – she’s right, for those that consider SlamCount the only metric, more Slams mean more than gold in Djokiovic’s career. History would be another ATP Championship, another year end. Knowing he only needs Cincy and MC for ANOTHER Masters 1000 Sweep – he has another shot at that improbable record as well. And a 3rd RG would be his 3rd career Slam.
I don’t think Djokovic has unlimited time. But he does have time to make even further, difficult to beat records. And he is muddling along with 333 weeks as #1 as of this weekend and counting.
And maybe losing as he did was good for him. The only thing worse than an athlete surrounding themselves with Yes men is one where an athlete is so full of ego and self belief as a Superstar they fail to listen to good advisors they trust in wife, family and long time staff.
Maybe an excess of self-belief is critical to success in sports as well as politics and business (if the talent is there). But humblings like this and Adria and ignoring advice of coaches from Varjan on not to slap balls all over the court in anger are good for him in the long run.
Novak’s gut belief, whatever he tapped into to get a heart as big as Rafa’s – leads to successes, but it can’t be all he works off of. Especially after he retires and seeks to be more than a figure head. Which, given he is a very bright man, he will seek to do.
Even if he stays in the tennis world vs, politics or as a Serbian ambassador or business guy – Novak needs to cast around for a good mentor. He will need that as much as he ever needed a coach when he transitions to life outside active pro singles tennis.

chrisford1 Says:

Excuse my mouth running on, but that is my opinion and belief that is how we will think of Andy, Stan. and Delpo and the Big 3 in the nest few years.
And as for their historical, never to be bettered stats, the Big 3/4 tennis records go on, staying fans of this amazing sport like any played.

Truth Says:

Nina was lucky to be picked for doubles. She was awful in the semi. Who thought she was going to magically win a medal? She moonballed then the opponent just hammered the ball at Djoker.

Everyone played like grandparents in singles. Bencic, Carreno and Zverev did nothing in Slams so they were fresh and Djoker had no energy and tried to get water on his sweat drenched body. Sweat and water didn’t mix well. It just weighed him down. He should’ve treated the circus like a joke but he was too stubborn. He should’ve put something cool like lettuce under his hat. Rod Laver used to do this.
Anyway, Djoker was physically lifeless but the draw was full of mugs so he prolonged his boredom.
No one worries about a low level disgusting Olympics when you have Slams to humiliate the Fedal fairy tale trashdom.

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