”Djokovic is really going to struggle the first six months of next year – he’s really knocked himself out,”
”He’s just won so many matches, and it’s been pretty obvious, even at the US Open, he was struggling. I even thought he was struggling at Wimbledon against Bernard [Tomic], but he was able to pull himself together.
”He was very lucky to win the US Open, because Roger should never have lost that match from where he was. And now since the US Open, there’s injuries, a sore shoulder, a sore back, and when you watch him playing, he’s running on three cylinders, so I’d say that his body, it’s given in.
”It’s not a lot of time to suddenly suck it up and start the year again and defend everything that he won last year, so I think it will be a superhuman effort for him to repeat the six months that he had. It was an amazing run, and that is very hard to defend. It’s not going to surprise me if, by the end of July next year, Roger is very close to being No.1 again.”
‘With Rafa, it’s like the heavyweight champion of the world that’s never been knocked out, and suddenly, gets knocked out six times within the space of six months by Djokovic,”
”He doesn’t have the same self-belief any more. All of a sudden he’s having to face things, questions, that he’s never doubted. So it’s a question of can he get his head around this whole thing, and come back to where he was?”
Some interesting words by seven-time grand slam champ John Newcombe here that I just wanted to run by you. Newcombe thinks Roger can rise to number one in the world for a third time. I don’t know if that has ever been done before, but if anyone can it would be Roger. The first six months of last year certainly took a lot out of Djokovic. As Newcombe points out, the decline may have already started at Wimbledon. Also the loss in the French Open loss against Roger may have started the decline. Up until that point Djokovic was invincible. Djokovic got a shoulder injury in the final of Cincinnati, and he actually did well to win the US Open. I don’t necessarily agree with Newcombe that Roger should not have lost that semi to Djokovic. Sure he was two sets to love up and sure he had two match points, but that return from Djokovic was just too good and took the wind out of Roger’s sails.
You just gotta say too good in moments like that, and you have to admit as a Fedfan that Roger did not handle that loss well in the press afterwards. In the final Djokovic had problems with his shoulder again in the fourth set, yet he still breadsticked Nadal. But that was really the end of his impressive run. Even after taking a long time off his shoulder had not recovered, as he struggled with it in Basel, Paris, and London too. I think Djokovic should have skipped Basel and Paris, but I suppose that’s easy to say in hindsight. But now he has aggravated that shoulder injury. How will that affect his preparation for next year, and will his shoulder recover in time? That looks like something that could be long term. I wasn’t so sure at first, but I think Newcombe may have a point about Djokovic struggling in the first six months of 2012.
That first six months of this year was maybe the best six months by a player in the history of tennis, but then towards the end of the year Djokovic never really took enough time to recover. That may well affect his start to next year. He is just not like R0ger who plays an economical game that can be recovered from fast. The way he plays puts a lot of physical and mental strain on him. It is impossible that he will repeat the first six months of this year. The question is whether he will have a strong start again. If not then that could open the door for Roger to win a record fifth Australian Open. Now that would be the absolute best start in 2012 for our man, and open the door for him to take back that number one rank to finally pass Sampras’ record amount of weeks at number one. Those are big dreams though. We are yet to see how Roger’s strong finish this year affects his form going into 2012.
You would expect it will be good. Last year Roger started off by winning Doha but then ran into a rampant Djokovic in Melbourne. Was his form the best up until that point? I’m not convinced. He looked fragile against Simon and lost a set to Robredo of all people. Against Djokovic he didn’t play a bad match, but losing in straight sets is losing in straight sets. So for me Roger’s form towards the end of this year is not a clear indicator that he will me in top form come Melbourne. The Australian Open is very different conditions from indoors anyway. The hot weather plays a big part and the conditions is slower too. I think Djokovic will be Roger’s main opposition in Australia anyway. He remains tough to beat there. Next on the list is Nadal. The slower courts and hot conditions makes him a tough opponent in Australia as well.
He will certainly be looking to start the year off with a bang after the disappointments of 2011. The question is can he? I like the way Newcombe puts it. He equates Nadal to a heavyweight boxer who has never been knocked out and then gets knocked out six times in the space of six months. I wouldn’t necessarily say the first four were knock outs. More like knock downs. But the two major final losses were knock outs. The question is whether Nadal can recover from those knock outs. If anyone can it is probably him, but the knocks he has taken at the hands of Djokovic may have been the beginning of the end for him. You can only recover from so many knockdowns, and the heavier you are the harder you fall. Nadal is a heavyweight and therefor he fell hard. And lets not forget that Roger also cashed in at the Masters Cup when he manhandled Nadal.
Nadal may have gotten some confidence back by helping his country towards another Davis Cup title, but I was not all that impressed by him. He beat Monaco easily which was to be expected, but against Del Potro he was far from his best. He lost the first set 6-1 and if Del Potro was fitter and higher on confidence, I think he would have pulled off the win. I mean we are talking about a Del Potro who is far from his best yet and he loses 7-5 in the fourth to Nadal on his favorite surface, in front of his home crowd. Nadal has a lot of work to do in the off season. I saw today on Twitter that he is already training his ass off. I guess he doesn’t need much rest at all after yet another grueling season. Whether he is doing something illegal or not, he has to do something and do it fast. I think he can get his act together next year, but it also depends on Djokovic.
If Djokovic struggles it may just give him the window of opportunity to win some slams and get back to number one. But if he loses more to Djokovic in big finals I think it will be all over for him. There is a very interesting dynamic going on between the big three. If Djokovic struggles it opens the door for Nadal, which is not necessarily the best thing for Roger. According to Newcombe both Djokovic and Nadal will struggle, which will indeed open the door for Roger. I’m not so sure it will be that simple though. If Roger is going to win a slam it is highly unlikely that he will have to face neither Djokovic nor Nadal. He will probably have to go through at least one of them. But at least both of them could be vulnerable. Having manhandled Nadal in London and having competed very closely with Djokovic in slams this year, Roger will like his chances against both.
If either of them is slightly off then Roger can take advantage. If he does this at the Australian Open then I feel his chances will be good at taking back the number one ranking. It will just be a big boost, while Djokovic will have so many points to defend. So I think Roger will have a fair chance of reclaiming the number one spot, but a lot will depend on his result in Melbourne. I think he must make at least the final there. Semis or earlier rounds won’t do. What do you think? Can he do it? Let me know your thoughts.
Ps: I have started a forum of my blog now. You can find the link on the top bar or click here. We will see how it works out. I just started it and it needs a lot of work. I am aware that some of you may be content to just leave comments and don’t need any other discussion. But it may come in handy when I am not making any posts. I will also create a non-tennis section where we can just chat with each other about non-tennis stuff. So feel free to join, fill up your profiles, start topics, and mingle. If we are going to make it work people must participate. I have also added a picture of myself to the ‘about‘ section for those of you who don’t know what I look like yet.