Friday, 17 December 2010

Where next for Novak Djokovic?

Yesterday we named Novak Djokovic as one the players most likely to break up the Nadal-Federer Grand Slam dominance in 2011, and in what will be a critical year for the Serb he will certainly hope to hit the heights he scaled in 2008.

The upcoming Australian Open will mark three years since the 23-year-old Djokovic won his lone Grand Slam title, with victory over first-time finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Following that success, though, the Belgrade native struggled to perform consistently at the majors, with a host of semi-final appearances punctuated by surprising losses to Marat Safin in the second round at Wimbledon a few months later, Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round of 2009 Roland Garros and Tommy Haas in the ’09 Wimbledon quarter-finals.

Djokovic rose to No. 2 in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings in February and went on to finish the year World No. 3 for the fourth straight year. A grand achievement for the vast majority of professionals, but Djokovic will no doubt be eager to finish the year inside the Top 2 for for the first time.

While Grand Slam success would surely help cement Djokovic’s place at the top of game, he will also look to improve his performance in ATP World Tour events. In 2010 the Serbian won just two ATP World Tour titles (Dubai and Beijing), his lowest tally since 2006 and five less than Nadal’s extraordinary tour-level haul. He particularly underperformed in the nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments, only reaching the semi-finals in Shanghai, Toronto and Monte-Carlo.

However, Djokovic reaped the rewards of hard work and self belief when he hit top form to save two match points and defeat five-time former champion Roger Federer in this year’s US Open semi-finals, before finishing runner-up to World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the final. The right-hander then went on to have a very successful end to the season, culminating in leading Serbia to a 3-2 victory over France in the Davis Cup final.

While disappointed after his defeat in the US Open final, Djokovic believed he had turned a corner in his career. “I am feeling bad about my loss. I wanted that trophy, and I know I gave my maximum to get it even tonight,” said the Serb. “But when I sleep over the night, tomorrow I will wake up as a new man. I will continue to work hard and wait for the next chance to come.

“I feel much more comfortable on the court, more confident and getting this aggressive game back - the game that I need to have in order to stay at the top - and a game that has been a part of me always. It's a good sign. I will continue on working, as I said, and hope that I can keep that performance.”

Courtesy: ATP

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