Djokovic: Tennis’ Greatest Nearly Man

Posted: September 14, 2010 in Tennis
Tags: , , ,

Novak Djokovic suffered disappointment at Flushing Meadows, as he was defeated in four sets by Rafa Nadal as the Spaniard completed his collection of Grand Slam titles.

And it is of great disappointment to tennis lovers that Djokovic has not got more success to his name, as he remains one of the most popular players in the game.

There is something about the Serbian on court that is appealing to any onlooker. He just always seems to enjoy it, playing with a smile upon his face.

His impressions have become slightly cult as well, with Djokovic occasionally taking time in his pre-match warm-ups to imitate his fellow professionals’ service routines. It is my abiding memory of him at Wimbledon a few years ago, watching him prepare by gently mocking the techniques of Nadal, Federer and even Maria Sharapova.

He even took time to imitate US legend, John McEnroe at The US Open in 2009, prompting a short knock about with the great man himself.

After matches he is a friendly, jovial person, taking time to crack jokes with the media. Even after that final defeat to Nadal, he was smiling afterwards, offering a series of pleasantries to the Spaniard. After all, there was no need to be too despondent about a loss to a player Djokovic feels could become the greatest of all time.  

Yet whilst he doesn’t take himself too seriously off court, on court he is the consummate professional, with a fantastic array of shots and a good engine.

The number of un-returnable drop-shots he hit in Monday’s final was incredible, given Nadal’s propensity to cover every inch of the court. He certainly isn’t lacking in that department.

He hates to play badly, as shown by the racquet smashing in the defeat to Nadal, but has such fantastic ability that one would only be frustrated by not capitalising on it.

Yet the Serbs big issue is fitness. He is far too injury-prone to establish any long-standing dynasty. It’s why he often seems to tire in five-set matches, or in matches following a full-setter.

Couple that with the fact that he seems to struggle with extreme heat conditions, as found in the US and Australia and you have tennis’ best nearly-man.

Perhaps he has been unlucky to appear in an era dominated by two players who will be remembered as the game’s greats.

Djokovic doesn’t quite have the ice-cool temperament of Roger Federer, or the physical attributes to reach every shot played against him like Nadal. These are the attributes that mean he is just slightly short of greatness.

That Nadal and Federer have won 18 of the past 20 majors in the last five years shows everything you need to know about men’s tennis. It is incredibly hard to break through the dominance that those two hold over the game currently.

Alongside Juan Martin Del Potro, Djokovic can be incredibly happy to have taken one title away from the dominant duo. His 2008 triumph in Australia will take pride of place on his mantelpiece, as the one time he emerged as the victor, and not the loveable loser.

That title aside, Novak Djokovic will remain one of the sport’s nearly men. It would be great if he had more gold to show for his efforts and the demeanour in which he conducts himself.

He’s just been unfortunate to be competing in the era of tennis’ greatest ever players. He is now the sport’s greatest ever nearly man.

  1. Chris H says:

    I don’t like him at all. If he is ever criticised, or it is suggested he isn’t the greatest, he throws his toys out of the pram. I really don’t think he is as good as he thinks he is

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