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Why the end is not near for Novak Djokovic
Even if the clouds seemed to look forlorn on Suzzane Lenglen, no one expected this. We are not talking about a Dominic Thiem win, this was a very likely proposition. However, the capitulation of Novak Djokovic against a player who had only won one set against him in five previous meetings was the biggest shock. The second last point of the match just showed how far Djokovic has fallen in the last twelve months. He comes in to the net and the first volley was so meaningless that it had “hit me down the line and end this” written all over it. Thiem did not oblige on that opportunity, but he surely did on the next match point. The crowd applauded for the Austrian’s stunning performance, but there was a hint of sadness and confusion over their champion’s performance. How could he go from arguably the greatest player of this generation twelve months ago to a man who looks completely lost on court? Despite all of the questions that will be asked in the coming days, Djokovic must realise that all is not lost in the face of adversity. He can make a comeback to his best and will surely do that at some point.
In the immediate aftermath of the match, it is likely that Djokovic will be on the phone to his new cornerman, Andre Agassi. There can be no greater example of a player who has been to the dumps and risen to the top than Agassi. It is well documented that the American found himself at 142 in the world rankings. In his own words, he had a decision to make. “Either do it differently, or don’t do it at all.” He accepted invitations to challenger events and found himself in an environment he didn’t want to be in. But it felt correct. The fairytale comeback was complete when Agassi reached the coveted world number one spot and won five majors on the wrong side of 30. Djokovic recently turned 30 but he is nowhere near the slump that Agassi experienced. For all of his poor form, he is still one of the best players in the world and has the ability to win the biggest tournaments in the world. Agassi will surely install that confidence within him again and make him realise that he is one of the all time greats of this sport. He has to.
After quite possibly the most shocking defeat of his career, Djokovic must take solace in the fact that this has happened before to other players. His coach, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, the list is endless. Even look at his two greatest rivals. Roger Federer suffered a second round aberration at Wimbledon in 2013 and Rafael Nadal was handed a thrashing by Djokovic himself on the Phillipe Chatrier turf in 2015. Sometimes, defeats like this are the start of a resurgence. The journey will be tough, press conferences will get even more annoying and more eyes will be fixed on your practices. However, like Federer and Nadal have shown this year, a resurgence is possible and is definitely not out of the realms of possibility for the “Djoker”. He has already changed his coaching staff, but further changes to his life must be expected if he is to defeat father time. Djokovic must embrace this change and most importantly, fall back in love with tennis again. Tennis will love him back.
Throughout his illustrious career, Djokovic has struggled to have crowds with him in the biggest of matches. Federer and Nadal are so universally admired so it can be expected that Djokovic has less support against them. He often has less of the crowd cheering for him even against Andy Murray or Stan Wawrinka. Crowds can surely be not so harsh against a guy that has given them moments they may never forget. When champions lose and seem to be battling against themselves, spectators around the world realise that they are actually human. Not robots, not machines who can be expected to work like magic every time. This humanity aspect brings crowds closer to their heroes and tennis players in the past have experienced this. Sampras had the vociferous support of New York in his last major win, Agassi had the crowd on his back in Australia and Federer has had the unwavering love of people against Djokovic at Wimbledon. So, while this loss may not taste sweet for Djokovic, he may finally get something he so rightly deserves. Affection from the public.
As Djokovic relinquishes the final major he had, all may seem lost for him. But keep playing Novak, we all know that you have the capabilities to win Grand Slams again and we will stand with you every step of the way.