Early Australian Open 2017 Discussions

Greetings. Since the last time I posted, the Argentines won their first Davis Cup title so congrats to them and especially Del Potro who was the hero of the tie. He came back from two sets to love down to defeat Cilic 6-7(4), 2-6, 7-5 6-4, 6-3 in the second singles which paved the way for Del Bonis to play a brilliant match against Karlovic which clinched the title for the Argentines.

I was really happy for Del Potro after everything he’d been through with his injury. He was also the last player to defeat Murray when he won another epic five-setter against him in the tie against Great Britain.

d

I’m looking forward to seeing what Del Potro can do in 2017 if he stays healthy. This year was a rebuilding year for him in which he won his first title since 2014 in Stockholm, made the Olympics finals, and won the Davis Cup.

If he stays healthy he will be a serious threat and may even win another slam. I for one would be delighted for him if it happens.

  • Who is the Australian Open Favorite?

Now let’s get to today’s topic. Usually, when the Australian Open comes around there is only one obvious favorite and that is Djokovic. According to some of the so-called experts, that is not the case next year.

To be fair to Murray, he hasn’t lost a match since that Davis Cup defeat to Del Potro before Beijing and he is now the world number one. He has been on a great run which culminated in him defeating Djokovic in the London finals.

I’m not overlooking that. With Lendl back in his corner, he has taken his game to another level and is now a serious threat to Djokovic. That said, we all know Djokovic was far from his best in the London final.

The way I look at it, Djokovic started finding his old form in London again if you leave out the final. That is an ominous sign for any rival who have hopes of winning the Australian Open next year.

m

Yes, Murray is on a dominant run but Djokovic is still the favorite in Melbourne for me. The Australian Open king has won the title there five times out of the last six years. And it’s not like he hasn’t been in this situation before.

Back in 2011 he had that slump toward the end of the year and faced one of the all-time greats Nadal in the Australian Open final the following year. We all know what happened then. He defeated Nadal in one of the all-time great major finals.

Back in 2011 Djokovic didn’t even qualify for the semis in London winning only one match in his group. I would argue he is much better prepared this time and with Doha before Melbourne he will get some more matches to make sure he is in peak form.

  • The Return of Federer and Nadal

In my last post, I talked about the absence of Federer and Nadal toward the end of the year after Becker said Djokovic ran out of opponents. I think their return will be another big motivating factor for Djokovic.

They are his two biggest rivals that motivated him to become an all-time great himself. The tour just feels more familiar for him with them in the mix and they bring out the best in him.

Murray, on the other hand, doesn’t have the greatest of records against them and their return could have the opposite effect on him. Either way, I think the stage is set for Djokovic to play his very best tennis in Melbourne again.

And he needs to because I can’t help but feel like that will be quite a critical tournament for him. Melbourne is his turf where he needs to make a stand and let Murray know that he is still the real number one.

dd

Djokovic let things slip a bit since he won the French Open this year but things aren’t critical yet. If he allows Murray or someone else to win the title on his turf then there is more reason for his fans to be concerned about his future.

But for now, as a fan myself, I am not concerned. There is no need to have a fatalistic outlook. Everyone has setbacks and slumps in life. What makes the difference between winners and losers is how they deal with it.

Whatever the case may be, the Australian Open next year promises to be another exciting installment of which is probably my favorite slam nowadays.

With Murray, Wawrinka, Del Potro, and the return of Federer and Nadal there will be plenty of exciting matches and plenty of challenges for the reigning Australian Open champ.

Who is the 2017 Australian Open favorite?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Becker: “Djokovic Didn’t Have Any Opponents Anymore”

I found the above interview with Becker quite inspirational and on point.

“His time was with [Rafael] Nadal, with [Roger] Federer. Andy was always the fourth guy. So he lost a little bit of his opponents. Murray is showing something he hasn’t shown before.”

Becker bringing up Federer and Nadal’s absence is not something new to me. It is something I have thought about and I agree that their absence had an impact on Djokovic. Federer was his main competition from Wimbledon 2014 to the Australian Open of 2016.

During that time they met in three slam finals and a slam semi-final. That rivalry really motivated Djokovic but also the rivalry with Nadal. Federer and Nadal were always Djokovic’s main competition so I think their absence played a role in his slump.

That is not the only reason. The fact that Djokovic won the personal slam and finally won that elusive French Open, coupled with the absence of Federer and Nadal doesn’t make it all that surprising that he struggled with motivation.

But let’s be honest, the World Tour Finals loss did hurt which is not necessarily a bad thing.

“This could potentially be a turnaround for Novak Djokovic’s 2017,” he said. “As much as this loss is going to hurt him, it’s probably going to inspire him to be re-motivated, re-energized for next year. Maybe it was a good thing in the end.”

I think Becker makes a very good point here. These kinds of losses can make a player stronger and more motivated depending on how they handle it. Failure is sometimes better than success because you learn from it and it makes you stronger if you rise above it.

Like is always the case in the tennis world, there is currently a lot of hype about Djokovic’s so-called decline after the final loss to Murray in London. I’ve been in the tennis business for too long to take it seriously.

For one thing, there are legions of Federer and Nadal fans who desperately want to see Djokovic decline so that he doesn’t catch up with their heroes. This is not a rational reason to believe that Djokovic is declining.

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 24: Novak Djokovic of Serbia talks with coach Boris Becker during previews for the US Open tennis at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 24, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

As the hype goes, Djokovic is now finished and he may as well retire because he is just too damn old and over the hill to win any more significant titles. And yet, if he wins the Australian Open next year he is all of a sudden going to pass Federer again.

That is how the hype goes. All I can say is that Djokovic was back to his best in London except for the final and I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes out next year looking very motivated and playing very well.

The final loss in London may well serve as a wake-up call for Djokovic that he let things slip and that could motivate him to come back really strong next year. Federer and Nadal will also be back so I can easily see him being his old self.

He may  have lost the most important match in London but he will take a lot of confidence from the other matches into next year. Once he gets a few more wins under his belt at his favorite slam I can certainly see him going all the way.

Ps. I really hope Djokovic doesn’t split with Becker because in this instance the problem was with Djokovic, not the coaching and I think Becker’s presence is invaluable the way Lendl’s presence is for Murray. I also think Becker is a smart guy and that he plays the most ingenious and entertaining mind games with Djokovic’s opponents, the media, and fans. It would be a tremendous shame and mistake if Djokovic gets rid of him I think.

Murray Wins First World Tour Finals Title To End the Year Number One

Congrats to Murray for defeating Djokovic 6-3, 6-4 yesterday to win his first World Tour Finals title and thereby finishing the year as the number one ranked player in the world. It’s been an impressive run from him since Wimbledon and clearly having Lendl in his corner is of major importance to him.

Unfortunately, the final didn’t quite live up to the expectations because Djokovic was far from his best but at least he got one break back in the second set to make the match competitive.

At that point, he started looking like the old Djokovic as he started making fewer errors and started hitting his backhand down the line much better but by then it was too late.

Everything looked good at the start for Djokovic as he didn’t drop a point in his first two service games. But then in his next service game at 2-3 things already started coming apart for him as he let a return of serve from Murray go which dropped in.

He also made one of those shocking overheads which he is well-known for. He somehow got out of that service game but dropped serve at 3-4 and the first set was gone.

To make things worse, he dropped serve in the opening game of the second set. And as if that was not enough, he dropped serve again at 1-3 to go a double break down. I think it was in that game that Djokovic missed an absolute shocker drive volley where he set up the point perfectly and had the whole court open.

It was clear that it was not going  to be his day. It was one of the worst matches I ever saw him play. At least he added some respectability to the scoreline by getting one break back but like I said the damage was done.

Djokovic simply made way too many unforced errors and was way too passive. It was only at the end when it was too late that he started to resemble the Djokovic which usually beats Murray.

I think Djokovic did a great job up until the final but the fact that Murray has done a lot more winning than him of late was the difference. I was surprised that Murray showed no signs of fatigue this week but Djokovic didn’t even test him by pushing him to a third set.

m

Djokovic did better in the tournament than I thought he would but I think the lack of winning in recent times is what cost him in the final. The last final he played was at the US Open and he lost that match.

Winning is a habit and Murray had won four tournaments in a row before London. It’s all about that momentum which in the end proved to be one too many to stop even for Djokovic.

I don’t think anyone is stupid enough to conclude that he was anywhere near his best but I am glad that he started gaining some momentum again before the beginning of 2017. I can’t ask for more as a fan.

It was an incredible year where he became the first player in history to win four majors consecutively on three different surfaces. The French Open was the big one and after he won that I really couldn’t care much about the rest of the year.

Sure, it would have been nice if he won a 6th World Tour Finals and ended the year as number one for the 5th time, but there is plenty of time left for those things. The old Djokovic is pretty much back. He just needs to build some more momentum.

I still don’t see how Murray will stop him from winning slams once he plays his best tennis. And he is now very close to being back to his best. In January he will be back at his favorite slam where he will already be very hard to stop.

It’s true that Murray could be at number one for some time to come now due to the number of points Djokovic has to defend at the beginning of next year but Djokovic’s focus won’t be on that.

The number two ranking will make no difference in his slam draws and he will have plenty of opportunities to get back to number one in the second half of the year. The main thing for him will be to continue to build up the momentum he started in London.

Once he gets into the winning habit he will become an unstoppable winning machine again. Not even the new version of Murray will be able to stop him.