At the prime of his career, Novak Djokovic, no doubt, has the best all-round game at the moment in the universe of Tennis. But, having a balanced game and converting the final with that is another thing.
Federer often says, “It’s easy to lose a semi or before that. Losing the final is utterly heart-breaking.”
From time immemorial, we have seen that what separates good from the best is to rise when it matters most, to convert the finals, which showers eternal glory. Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams exemplify this to the greatest. Sampras converted 14 off his 18, Federer 17 off his 24, Nadal 13 off his 18 and Serena 17 of her 21 Grand Slam finals.
Djokovic till date has converted only 6 off his 12 grand slam finals appearances, a mere 50% conversion.
2011 was the most illustrious year of his career, he won 3 of the 4 Grand Slams. Most tennis pundits have predicted him as the most “complete” player likely to take the baton from Federer. He maintained his luster, trained hard, but the career graph has stagnated. If we look at the finals he has lost in the past year, he always has had a grueling, nail-biting semi-final, 24-hours before D-Day.
No doubt, these players are professional, physically and mentally very strong, but at the end of the day, they are also human. They also get tired, need time to recover to their full potential. Running out of gas a day before is probably not the best way to go into a final.
Juan Martin del Potro’s hard-hitting quality game tested him in this year’s Wimbledon, depleting his resources en-route, which showed in his strokes and mental-balance in the final. Both in 2nd and 3rd sets, he was 4-1 and 4-2 up, a position from which he hardly falters. But the game did not stand up in the finals and Murray took advantage of this. The presence of the home crowd with almost a 100% of them supporting Murray ( and the absence of Federer who’s got huge support at The Championships), went on to make history, becoming the first Brit to win the title since Fred Perry in 1936.
At this year’s US Open, the unheralded Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka, having refurbished his strokes, specifically his precise one-handed backhand, played to his full potential. Again, the victim was poor Djokovic. Djokovic managed to cross the line somehow, but the opponent waiting for him in the final was none other than Nadal! He lost ultimately in a 4-setter, again lacking potency and aggressiveness in his strokes.
To beat a champion, especially a mentally-tough player like Nadal, one has to be on top of his game, with enough endurance to put pressure on him continuously. All Nadal needs is one small momentum shift and then he creates his own momentum.
This was also seen in the French Open this year. Being tied at 2 sets all, it was Djokovic who was 4-2 up in the fifth, it was a golden chance for him to end Nadal’s unbeaten run at the Roland Garros since 2005. But, again, Nadal came from nowhere and showed why he’s the “king of clay”.
With Nadal’s amazing come-back, Murray’s prime form, ever-improving players like Wawrinka, del Potro, the Djoker as he is popularly known, faces a stiff competiton in the slams to come. All we can hope is that he finds the secret ingredient of converting the final, which is the only thing he lacks at the moment.
PS: Djokovic reminds one of yet another great player : Andre Agassi. The peculiar thing about him was also failing to convert the finals.
Having arguably the longest career of his generation players, he only managed to convert 8 of his 15 finals. Sampras was always at the other end, refusing to lose the final.
About the Author: Anchal Rathie is currently pursuing BTech in Computer Science from Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), Manipal. Loves to enjoy smaller things in life, the rain, the sun, admiring the nature. He is passionate about keeping fit, playing and following sports, mainly Tennis, Cricket and…..writing….:)