Monday, April 4, 2011

Djokovic is not intimidated by Nadal

Or I should say Djokovic is no longer intimidated by anyone, not by the “big guns” or the unflappability of Rafael Nadal and certainly not by Roger Federer either.  In fact, Novak Djokovic isn’t afraid to play anyone anymore, which has allowed him to win 26 straight matches since losing the 2010 season ending championship to Federer last November.

It was during the semi-finals of the 2010 US Open that Djokovic decided to “go for it” when his was match point down to Federer, who had owned him previously in such matches, ripping that memorable crosscourt forehand winner from one corner of the court to the other.  The confidence that flowed from that decision, executing that shot and winning that match helped the Serbian lift his tiny country to its first Davis Cup victory last December, and has since led Djokovic to 24 straight wins (and four titles) in 2011, including the year’s first Grand Slam (Novak’s second Australian Open title) and now back-to-back titles – and wins over Nadal – at Indian Wells in the BNP Pariabas Open and in Miami at the Sony Ericsson Open, which both claim the unofficial title of the “Fifth Slam”, a feat that was last accomplished by Federer five years ago.

Over the years, dozens of players have wilted in the spotlight of a Grand Slam or Masters 1000 Series final, including “the Joker”, the moniker that Novak Djokovic ‘earned’ when he was more famous for his post match impressions of fellow players Nadal, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova than for his all-court playing abilities.  The primary recipients of these meltdowns had been Federer and Nadal, whose games and (particularly in Nadal’s case, physical) presences on the other side of the court were enough to intimidate anyone into submission.  But now it’s Djokovic who seems to intimidate (witness Novak’s straight set wins against Federer and Andy Murray on this year’s biggest stages) with his relentless court coverage that makes it impossible for his opponents to feel comfortable that their best shots will be winners.  Even the indefatigable Nadal seems to have been frustrated, and forced to have to go for too much at the end of these last two finals against Novak.

After he won the 2008 Australian Open, Djokovic suffered from a variety of issues:  from “the heat” and breathing problems (and other physical ailments) which led to retirements in some high profile matches, changing and adjusting to a new racquet, and last year’s serving problems.  All of these issues appear to have disappeared, to the detriment of his opponents whom he has thus far blanked in 2011.  It remains to be seen whether Djokovic’s success (and how long his streak on the hard courts) will last as the clay court season begins.  But one thing’s for sure – Novak Djokovic is no longer intimidated by anyone!

No comments:

Post a Comment