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How can Djokovic become peerless once again?
5 June 2016. A day which is written in tennis history and will likely be an event that will not be seen for another 50 years to say the least. Novak Djokovic won his fourth consecutive major title over an increasingly confident Andy Murray to cement his status at the very top of the men’s game and his place in the history of the game was in little doubt now. An extremely rare event that has arguably not been appreciated by the public, even a year and a half later. Perhaps even more peculiarly, since that gloomy day which ended in sensational sunshine, Djokovic has not had the pleasure of lifting a Grand Slam or have the comfort of playing at somewhere in close vicinity to his best form. Motivation, desire and mental strength have all been pointed to be reasons his fall from grace has been so sudden and startling. However, an elbow injury saw him close his 2017 season in June and all the aforementioned aspects have probably added with the pain in his elbow to make the ultimate decision and quit the season. What can the Djoker do to show once again that the saying “write champions off at your peril” will ring true?
People will point to Roger Federer’s and Rafael Nadal’s comeback and say why can Djokovic not do the same? What people need to realise is that what happened this year with the two greatest male players of all time was simply a freak of nature. Just like with the four consecutive majors won by Djokovic, this type of comeback will not be seen in a very long while. Djokovic’s return to the tour will be much more subdued, regardless of the success he will inevitably achieve. What he can learn from his two great rivals is their intense passion and love for the game that made them icons. This is not to say the Serb lacks in that department, he is one of the most electrifying players to watch on court when in full flow, but there has been a sense that the happiness in his face has been dwindling when on court since Paris 2016. What the reasons are for this are still unknown but it is likely to be that once you reach a peak so magnificent, the only way to go from there is downhill. He must realise that he still has a hell of a lot to give to the sport he has ignited for the last decade and only a smiling and content Djoker will achieve those things. If he plays his cards right, with him being “only” 30 years of age, he still has the chance to go down as the greatest player ever rather than being the player who had the best peak seen in history between 2015 and 2016.
Djokovic’s success in his career has often been based on two superlative aspects. His incredible movement and his relentless domination of the baseline. At his best, there has been no more perfect player in every part of tennis. However, with him now entering the wrong side of 30, it is unlikely that the movement will be as flexible as it once was. Here is another point where he can learn a lesson or two from his two great rivals. Become more aggressive in his style of play and make full use of the brilliant approach shots he plays so regularly. It is well documented that Djokovic is not as comfortable near the net as he is away from it. Despite this deficiency in his game, the boy from Belgrade should embrace this chance to make himself a more complete player. The hiring of Radek Stepanek is a great choice in this regard since he was famed for his play on the doubles tour. Younger players are fresher, potentially hungrier and in better form, so Djokovic must maximise his chances for success by not relying on his astonishing defensive skills time and again.
So, the comeback we are all waiting for is only 10 days away and it will be fascinating to see in what shape and form Djokovic returns. Get this comeback to the sport he loves right, he will end his career as the champion we all know and love.