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.

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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.

The Dream Final in London is On: Djokovic and Murray Will Meet With Everything On the Line

This highly entertaining edition of the World Tour Finals will come to a fitting conclusion today when for the first time in history two players will meet in the final to decide who ends the year as the number one player in the world.

We have already seen some great matches in London this year and now we will get the final many people have been expecting and hoping for.

Yesterday we have two more incredible matches in the semis when Murray defeated Raonic 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9) in 318 minutes and Djokovic walked all over Nishikori 6-1 6-1 in 66 minutes. Two incredible matches for two very different reasons.

After setting the record for the longest three-set match in ATP Finals history against Nishikori on Wednesday, Murray broke the record again yesterday with an absolute marathon against Raonic where he served twice for the match in the third set but couldn’t close it out.

In the end, he did very well to outlast a tenacious Raonic who just wouldn’t go away. The final set tiebreak was a fitting climax, full of drama and tension. Certainly, it was one of the matches of the year.

Next Djokovic took the court and delivered one of the performances of the year. The 6-1, 6-1 drubbing of Nishikori was a display of baseline mastery the likes of which only Djokovic can deliver.

This is now without a doubt the old Djokovic but there is still one match left with everything on the line.

  • Final Preview

One wonders what went through Murray’s mind watching Djokovic put on a clinic against Nishikori or hearing the result. Murray will play today for the third day in a row and has already broken the record for the longest three-set match in ATP Finals history twice this week.

He has also played an awful lot of tennis since the beginning of October winning Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna, and Paris. Murray never seems to get tired but given the fact that Djokovic is now back to his best I don’t think all that tennis Murray played is going to help.

Sure he is in the winning habit but he will deal with a different kind of opponent altogether from what he has faced since losing to Djokovic in the French Open final.

And it will be the real test of his new number one status. If he wins no one can say he doesn’t deserve to be number one. If he loses it will be clear that he only got to number one because of weakened competition.

Personally, I am just delighted to see Djokovic back to his best because I have felt all along that he deserves to end the year number one after winning more slams and masters than Murray. And now he will have the chance to prove it.

I had serious doubts as to whether Djokovic would be able to get over his slump before the end of the year but as I watched him since the match against Thiem I saw an immediate improvement and started realizing how much was on the line in London.

Djokovic needed to rise to the occasions one more time or he could risk losing his grip on the tour indefinitely. He needed to send the tennis world a reminder why he won the personal slam this year or he could risk losing his aura of invincibility.

Things have been slipping for him since the French Open and although I wasn’t one of those who bought into the decline talk at all he did need to send the critics a reminder before the end of the year so he could start 2017 as the undisputed best tennis player in the world.

Of course, he hasn’t done that yet this week but he has already put the critics on notice that he means business. And if he does win today he would have shut their mouths in convincing fashion the way only he can.

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As a fan, it will be unbelievably sweet if he shuts down all this decline talk and the western media who is always trying to instigate something. So far this week their instigation has only served to motivate Djokovic and make him better.

If Djokovic wins a 6th World Tour finals and ends the year as number one for the 5th time I am once again going to be very grateful to them for their support and role in motivating Djokovic. They never seem to learn.

As for Murray, he certainly can’t be underestimated. He still seems like a different player with Lendl in his corner. He looks a lot more offensive in the pressure moments as opposed to becoming passive like in the past.

This makes him a different animal to deal with and this will be the first meeting between the two since Lendl is back for Murray. That said, I like Djokovic’s chances. He has taken advantage of his draw and schedule while Murray has not been clinical enough against Nishikori and Raonic.

I still see a difference in the two players’ ability to defeat the quality opposition clinically. Djokovic does so with ease when the time is right while Murray gets involved in long drawn-out matches. Even this new version of Murray is not as good as Djokovic at his best.

Djokovic just takes tennis to an unbelievable level which has never before been witnessed in the sport. There is also the fatigue factor for Murray. Djokovic could get it done in straight sets but when it goes to three sets Djokovic surely becomes the favorite.

If Djokovic wins the first set it becomes very difficult indeed for Murray. I mean how much can you play before you simply have no choice but to become tired?

I have to say I like Djokovic’s chances given that I still think his best is better than Murray’s best, the fact that he is by far the fresher of the two, and his performance against Nishikori yesterday.

I’m certainly not writing off Murray’s chances but Djokovic is the favorite to me.