Monday, 22 August 2011

Novak Djokovic - Changing Of The Guard

Friday August 19 will last long in the memory of tennis fans as a turning point for the new guard in tennis.

It is now undeniable that Roger Federer is slowing down. Besides a brief resurgence in August 2010 and another at Roland Garros this season, Roger has not been able to find his best form.

It is also obvious that Rafael Nadal has struggled since the start of the season, losing five consecutive matches to Novak Djokovic.

The Serbian, who was crowned number one in the world in July, has had an outstanding season thus far and is without a doubt the dominating force on the Tour. However the events of Friday magnified all of the above.

Nadal's loss to Mardy Fish

Fish showed how much he has improved and once again how difficult it can be to beat the Americans on their own soil - they are so pumped up when playing at home.
The Spaniard failed to produce his best tennis, seeming hesitant, lacking accuracy, playing too short and unable to find his striking quality in order to push back his opponent.

I've always thought, and wrote, that Nadal plays his best tennis when he has victories under his belt and is feeling confident. Rafa's confidence is his most valuable weapon, and it can multiply the quality and efficiency of his shots tenfold, as he showed during the last French Open where he started out like an average player and finished like a champion.

He is going through a rough time at the moment - probably the toughest of his career - as Djokovic has destroyed the confidence that he spent so many years building. More than losing five consecutive finals, more than taking his throne, he showed the world that Rafa was beatable - that he has flaws and that he can be tactically inept on occasion.

Federer's loss to Tomas Berdych

The Czech is enjoying a good time of it, playing a stereotypical but efficient game while the Swiss has lost a lot of his speed, and with it his main weapon: he now finds it difficult to run around his backhand in order to fire off his lethal forehands.

As a consequence, he has also lost his ability to jump forward in order to take the ball early. He is no longer able to dominate from the baseline when opponents try to move him around.

However at Roland Garros, he showed that he could still play some of his best tennis - the tennis of the past. This makes me think that he can no longer deal with the pressure: in Paris, all the eyes were on Nadal and Djokovic. Relieved from pressure, he was able play freely and so proved that he is still able to beat the best.

Federer needs to find a balance between levels of pressure and confidence so that he can perform at his very best. He has lost confidence through defeats and is under more pressure than he has ever felt before. If he can relieve himself of this pressure, Federer will become dangerous again.

Djokovic's win over Gael Monfils

Firstly, we must applaud the Serbian - even if the tennis he produced was not something you would expect of a world number one. The power he currently holds at the peak of world tennis grows with every loss that his two rivals suffer.

He has destroyed the mindset of two of the greatest champions the game has ever seen. That is partly why Friday was the most poignant symbol of his reign; but also because he himself suffered a downturn while winning.

In terms of quality of tennis, the start of his match against Gael was pretty bad; but what also seemed to be lacking was his attitude. The Serbian wasn't ready to fight. Only mistakes and poor errors of judgement from the Frenchman allowed Djokovic back into the match.

It is not easy to beat the unbeatable one. Mentally, it requires a huge amount of strength, and Gael could not find it on the day. It's a pity because this may have been a unique chance: he could have gained a lot of confidence from a win over the briefly fragile Serbian.

Regardless, Nole will continue to write history, and now alone - amid the crisis he is inflicting upon his closest rivals.

Courtesy: Yahoo

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