Final Thoughts on the 2016 US Open: Djokovic is Suffering from Burnout

It’s always impossible to say everything I want to say after a slam final in one post so I am back with my customary final thoughts post. Thank you for the positive feedback on my last post and the good discussion as well.

First of all, let me get back to the match for a second. in the first set with Djokovic leading 5-2 and 40-15 on Stan’s serve, it looked for a while like he was running away with the match. If he takes one of those break points he wins the first set 6-2 and serves first in the second set.

But that’s where Djokovic poor break point conversion rate for the match of 3/17(17.7%) began. That is about the same break point conversion rate Federer had in last year’s final of 4/23(17.4%) although Federer had more chances.


It is very unusual for Djokovic to have that poor a break point conversion rate while it is normal for Federer. That is the first clue that Djokovic may not have been mentally as solid as he usual is. Someone commented that Djokovic lacked the ‘animal instinct’ after my last post and I have to agree with that.

Sure it’s harder to be positive when you are getting blown off the court but it was a close match after all with only a few points making the difference. The main reason for my thinking that Djokovic was not at his mental peak was the poor break point conversion rate.

He is normally very clinical in this area.

  • Always Keep Your Perspective

I think I have given Stan enough praise for it not to look like I am trying to make excuses. I am happy for Stan and in many ways I think it is a good thing that he won.

You don’t want one guy to win everything. It is great for you as the fan of that player but it is selfish in terms of tennis as a whole. Imagine what it would have been like if Djokovic won the calendar slam and thereby completed six consecutive slams.


Me myself as a fan was getting bored of Djokovic’s dominance after the French Open. What would it have been like for people who were not a fan of Djokovic? It is always important not to be selfish and to remember that your player wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for tennis.

So you can’t always just think of your player. You have to think about the health of the sport as a whole. And in terms of that, I think Murray and Stan’s recent runs have been great. I think it makes tennis healthy and interesting.

  • Djokovic’s Run From the Beginning of 2015 Took Its Toll

Djokovic’s run from the beginning of 2015 until he won the French Open this year was the most dominant spell of tennis we have seen in the history of the sport. Here is what he did:

  • Grand slam titles: 5/6
  • World Tour Finals titles: 1/1
  • Masters Series titles: 9/13
  • ATP 500 titles: 1/3
  • ATP 250 titles: 1/2
  • Win-loss record: 126-9

That is an astonishing amount of tennis that included four consecutive slam titles which is something that hasn’t been done since 1969. Djokovic must be burned out after that or he is not human.

And the climax of this whole run was the French Open. That was the most important title for Djokovic of all of them and it was a tremendous challenge for him. The ultimate challenge until that point in his career.

It was a monster that he slew but it would inevitably come at a price. In hindsight, the calendar slam talk was ridiculous. It always is but somehow I fell for it this time. It was clear that Djokovic was a very burned out player at Wimbledon.

His next event was in Toronto where he won the title but it was hardly a sign that he was back to the peak of his powers given the absence of so many of the top players. At the Olympics, he lost first round again and then skipped Cincinnati.


This time, it was physical problems that kept him out. He was even in doubt for the US Open but decided to play. The universe conspired in his favor with the draw but I don’t think even that was enough to help him.

Djokovic won’t talk about it but I think he may well have a shoulder problem still because his serve seemed off, even before the final. Those double faults against Tsonga were strange and then in the final again as well as the low first serve percentage.

Add the physical and mental burnout for Djokovic together and all of a sudden the US Open final becomes another great result. To have beaten Stan Djokovic had to be at peak physical and mental condition and he simply wasn’t.

The margins are very small in a match like that and the struggle with the serve or the lack of killer instinct due to mental burnout can make all the difference. I think Djokovic will take until the beginning of next year to fully recover from his run since the beginning of 2015.

He has some more rest time now before the indoor season but the accumulated fatigue in mind and body takes a long time to go away. It is really not just the accumulated fatigue since the beginning of the year but since the beginning of last year.

So although I expect another good indoor season from Djokovic I think it will take until next year to fully reset and recover in mind and body.

  • A Good Thing for the Overall Health of Men’s Tennis

So like I said I think things are working out just right. Djokovic is still easily the best and his number one ranking is not threatened but Murray and Stan have announced themselves as serious rivals and threats.

This is also good for the overall health of the sport. It works out for us Djokovic fans and for the other fans as well because for us Djokovic is not under serious threat while at the same time he is not dominating the sport in such a fashion that he is basically killing the sport.


I think he will be refreshed at the beginning of next year and be determined to win a 7th Australian Open which will probably establish him as the hard court GOAT. The Plexicushion is where he is most comfortable but Stan and Murray are both very effective there as well.

From here on he will look to win a couple of slams per year to surpass Federer’s record. It certainly won’t be an easy task but starting with an Australian Open title next year sure won’t hurt his case.

He will be well rested by then so he needs to make a statement at his best slam after Murray and Stan’s latest successes.

Is Djokovic still burned out?

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Wawrinka Wins 2016 US Open

Congrats to Stan the man on a well-deserved first US Open title. He was too good for Djokovic on the day and showed that the 2015 French Open final was no fluke. This is his third slam title and he only needs Wimbledon now to complete the career slam.

Quite an interesting development after Murray looked to be the one who is making a move. All of a sudden Stan has equaled him on slam titles and is now closer to the career slam than him. Not exactly the best moment for Murray fans but a very good one for Wawrinka fans.


You gotta hand it to Stan. The guy defeated Del Potro, Nishikori, and Djokovic consecutively all in four sets to win the title and all these guys were playing great tennis. When he is on his game he is simply unplayable.

Admittedly, that doesn’t seem to happen very often but he may be getting more consistent over time. I wouldn’t put winning Wimbledon beyond him either. He has now made the adjustment to faster surfaces and Wimbledon may be the next step.

  • The Match

So like I said, Stan was simply too good on the day and clearly the best player at this US Open. And his tennis in the final was devastating. Djokovic didn’t play badly aside from a poor first serve percentage(51%) and break point conversion rate(3/17).

I saw from the beginning that he was missing too many first serves. Against Stan, where Djokovic was winning fewer of the points the longer the rallies became it was important for him to make a lot of first serves.

Stan has too much power for Djokovic from the baseline and Djokovic needed to shorten the points and not allow Stan to settle into a rhythm from the baseline. Djokovic could have approached the net more too where he was 24/31.

I thought he did great by winning the first set 7-1 on the breaker after losing the early break in the set but Stan hit back quickly to win the second set. In the third set, Djokovic did well to come back from a break again but then serving at 5-6 was the game where he lost the match.

He needed to at least force the tiebreak there but he lost the game from 30-15 up. But again, Stan hit a winner that painted the line on the next point as he had done on so many other points. There is only so much you can do against hitting like that.

I kept thinking it can’t go on and waited for him to have one lapse but it never happened. He just kept pounding winner after winner with pinpoint accuracy and power. Just nothing you can do which is why as a Djokovic fan I don’t even feel bad about this loss.


This is the third time Stan has gone on a run like this in a slam and when he does no one can stop him, not even Djokovic. You just have to tip your hat and say too good. Djokovic didn’t quit after the third set though which was admirable.

He had to take two medical timeouts with a bleeding toe but kept battling to the bitter end. He left it all out there on the court and there were no regrets afterward. As a fan you can’t ask for more and if you do you are very hard to please.

Djokovic took the loss very well as always. There were no entitlement issues and he was gracious in defeat. Djokovic has a huge heart which is why I am such a big fan. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself or regret because that is impossible to do if you give it your all.

  • How Does This Outcome Affect Djokovic’s Year?

Like I said in my preview post, I wasn’t going to be too bothered if Djokovic doesn’t win the title. Djokovic himself said at the prizegiving ceremony that he was doubting whether he would play the US Open a few days before the event and that if someone told him he’d make the final he would have taken it any day.

The big one this year was always going to be the French Open. After chalking up the best season in tennis history in 2015 there was still a big gap in his resume that stuck out like a sore thumb and that was, of course, the French Open.

It was a cursed slam for him so to put that to bed this year was a huge deal for him which helped him to enter the GOAT debate. It was also a big bonus that he won the personal slam, something which hasn’t received enough attention in the mainstream media.

People were talking about the calendar slam for Djokovic this year and although I’m usually very reluctant to buy into such talk I actually thought for a while that was possible for him. But in hindsight, I should have known better.

It’s easy to become overly excited. No one had won four consecutive slams since Laver in 1969 so for Djokovic to have achieved that was already an astonishing achievement. In doing so he set himself apart from the two modern greats Federer and Nadal.

He was under immense pressure to win the French Open and he did so in clinical fashion despite more rain and scheduling issues. It’s easy to become greedy as a fan but that should have been enough for the year while anything else would be a bonus.


Moreover, with all the tennis Djokovic had played since the beginning of 2015, it was starting to take its toll on his body. Even after losing early at Wimbledon and the Olympics and not playing Cincinnati, he still was in doubt for the US Open.

I think he may have had more injury problems during the US Open that we were not aware of. He served a lot of double faults during the tournament and his first serve percentage was low in the final.

He already had shoulder problems at Wimbledon I think and I don’t think it has properly recovered yet. Then there was the wrist before the US Open as well. Taking all of this into account, you have to be happy with a US Open final.

Stan was too good on the day but Djokovic clearly is not completely recovered from the beating his body took over the last 21 months or so. But especially with the quarterfinal exit of Murray, this was another great result for Djokovic.

His body will get more time to recover now so that it will be ready for the indoor season where he is usually very good and where he can end another amazing year on a high.

  • How Does This Outcome Affect the Men’s Game?

The fact that Stan won the title is another interesting development in the men’s game. Is there now a big five instead of a big four? Is there only a big three with the decline of Federer and Nadal? Or is there still only one man at the top named Djokovic?

I think it is probably a combination of all of these. Clearly, Federer and Nadal have declined while Murray and Stan have stepped up their games this year. The current situation is as follows:

  • Tier 1: Djokovic
  • Tier 2: Murray and Stan
  • Tier 3: Federer and Nadal

You could argue that Nishikori is currently playing better tennis than Federer or Nadal but the first two tiers are clear I think. The proponents of the ‘weak era’ also need to come up with a new angle with Stan and Murray making big moves this year.

Then you have dangerous players like Nishikori and Del Potro and youngsters like Thiem and Pouille coming up, as well as the old guard Federer and Nadal who has won 31 slams between them and who you can’t completely write off for winning another slam either.


There is plenty of depth in the men’s game. Stan is also showing that peaking and winning slams post 30 is becoming more and more of a reality. Djokovic will take inspiration from that because he is not 30 yet which gives him several more years to win slams.

Another three slam title year would have been nice but the personal slam was better. I think things are nicely poised at the top of the men’s game now. You have Djokovic still as the top dog but with Stan and Murray as serious rivals.

If he is going to beat Federer’s slam record he needs to win an average of two slams per year over the next three years. It is certainly doable but the future of tennis is very unpredictable so who knows.

Certainly, Stan and Murray can win more slams in the coming years and so can Nishikori, Del Potro(if he stays healthy), Raonic, Thiem(at the French), and perhaps even a young guy like Pouille.

Interesting times ahead.

What is the current state of men's tennis?

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Djokovic and Wawrinka to Square Off in 2016 US Open Final

  • Nishikori Upsets Murray in Quarterfinals

Before I get to the semis and final let me take you all the way back to the bottom half quarterfinals which took place since my last post. There was a big upset when Nishikori defeated the favorite for the title of many people Murray 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

People who read this blog will know that Murray was never my favorite for the title. I thought he had a shot but he had a tough road from the quarterfinals onward. And he couldn’t even get over the first of three hurdles.

It was another amazing match in this action-packed US Open where the mini Djoker(as I like to call Nishikori) came back from a set and a break down and a seemingly hopeless situation to pull out the win 7-5 in the decider.

At 1-1 and 30-40* on Nishikori’s serve in the fourth set, there was also an incident where the PA system made a loud noise and the point had to be replayed. Nishikori ended up winning the replayed point and held serve.

The incident seemed to affect Murray though as he didn’t win another game in the set. To make matters worse for Murray, Nishikori got the break at the start of the decider as well and took a 2-0 lead.


Murray broke right back but Nishikori broke again with a beautiful backhand winner up the line. 3-2. He then also consolidated on serve and at 4-2 you thought that would be good enough to get the job done.

But no, Nishikori dropped serve at 4-3 from 40-0 up. A disaster! Nishikori was a game away from going out at 4-5 but held serve confidently to love and then broke Murray for a third time in the set with an amazing stretch volley.

Amazing drama. This time, Nishikori made no mistake as he held serve to 15 for the win. I was really happy for him because he kept believing and played positive tennis which paid off in the end.

As for Murray, another disappointing loss from him where he became too defensive and allowed things in the environment to affect him negatively. I guess he doesn’t have what it takes because at the first tournament where Djokovic features again he loses in the quarterfinals.

This loss also meant that Djokovic will hang on to the number one ranking for the foreseeable future.

  • Del Potro’s Run Ends in the Quarterfinals

This match was again at an unwatchable hour for me but I did wake up to catch the last set which contained a nice moment when the crowd started cheering loudly for Del P0tro when he was down 2-5 in the fourth set and Wawrinka was serving for the match.

The crowd started cheering the ‘Deeeeeeeelpooooooo‘ chant loudly which brought tears to Del Potro’s eyes. It was a touching moment after everything Del Potro had been through with his injuries and one which he very much appreciated.

He spoke of how much it meant to him after the match and that he didn’t care about the score in the end. It meant so much to him that he didn’t even care about the result. He just thought it was amazing to be back in the US Open quarterfinals and playing in that atmosphere again after almost quitting the sport.

I’m sad that he couldn’t go further but it was nice to see that moment and that the crowd showed their deep appreciation for him. It is also good to see that he is still healthy and this was another very positive tournament for him.

  • Djokovic Survives Bizarre Encounter with Monfils 

So yesterday was the men’s semis and finally Djokovic got to play another full match. And what a strange match it was. Djokovic was running away with it at 5-0 in the first set and served for the set at 5-1.

That’s where it all began. Monfils went into tank mode where he returned serve like he had already thrown in the towel which seemed to affect Djokovic because he played a dismal and nervous game to drop serve.

Monfils held serve and at 5-3 Djokovic went down 15-40 on his serve again. All of a sudden disaster was looming for Djokovic. Monfils was doing nothing whatsoever just pushing every ball back but it messed so much with Djokovic’s mind that he almost dropped serve again.

Had he done so it could have been an entirely different match but the champion that he is he got his act together and held serve to win the first set. Djokovic saving the two break points there was pretty much the key moment of the match.

After that Monfils was always going to struggle but the match was still far from over. Djokovic won the second set 6-2 with a double break after which Monfils limped to his chair. You feared another retirement was coming.

For those who are still doubting my ‘theory’, it was clear once again that playing against Djokovic is a tremendous burden for opponents because Monfils was basically tanking and looked on the verge of retiring like the others.

At the start of the third set when Djokovic was breaking Monfils again the New York crowd started booing Monfils which finally seemed to wake him up. Djokovic held serve to take a 2-0 lead but Monfils broke back at 1-2 to level at 2-2.

The crowd responded to Monfils and he broke again in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Then with Monfils serving for the set at 5-3 he went 0-40 down but saved all three break points and he was back in the match.

It was still nervous moments for Djokovic because in this bizarre match anything was possible. It was also very hot and humid and both players were sweating profusely out there. Monfils was also continuing his mind games by constantly leaning with his hands on his knees to look exhausted.

Djokovic stared down a dangerous break point in the opening game of the fourth set and at 2-1 he set up two break points with a tremendous forehand angled passing shot. He went on to break serve but Monfils broke right back in the next game. 3-2.

It was mental and physical torture for Djokovic out there but, as usual, he showed great mental strength as he broke again in the next game to take a 4-2 lead and consolidated for 5-2. Finally, he broke Monfils to love with a forehand return winner to win 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

It was a tiring match to watch and play I’m sure but Djokovic will still be fresh after his lack of court time and I’m glad he got tested properly before the final. It was certainly a test mentally and physically because of the heat and because of Monfils’ gamesmanship.

Monfils was a disgrace in the first couple of sets but he redeemed himself to a certain extent by winning the third set. He has also faced a lot of criticism and probably rightfully so. But that is French players for you and now you know why I don’t have much faith in them.

  • Wawrinka Overcomes Nishikori

Fortunately, the men’s semi-finals were at more humane hours due to the absence of women’s matches and I was able to catch most of the Wawrinka/Nishikori match. Nishikori started well by winning the first set 6-4 and had several chances in the second set to put Stan away but failed to take advantage as Stan edged it 7-5.

I always felt the second set was a key set and that whoever wins it would go on to win the match. Stan was starting to win the longer baseline rallies and gaining the upper hand from the baseline with his power but if Nishikori could edge the second set you figured it would be too far for Stan to come back.


But as it worked out Nishikori couldn’t finish Stan off and pulled away after the second set winning 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2. It reminded of the 2015 French Open final where Djokovic won the first set against Stan but after that Stan started gaining the upper hand from the baseline and pulled away to win in four sets.

  • Final Preview

So we are down to the final match of the 2016 US Open and what a match it promises to be. It is not the Djokovic vs Del Potro final I hoped for but it is still a great matchup and better than your usual Djokovic vs Murray slam finals.

Nishikori would have been an easier opponent for Djokovic but even as a fan, I don’t expect Djokovic to have it all his own way. I know the hardcore fans want that but I am different. I don’t mind a challenge.

The payoff is bigger if Djokovic wins and the critics have less reason to complain about Djokovic’s draw. I like to look at positives. The payoff would be bigger because Stan defeated Djokovic in the 2015 French Open final which was a bitter loss to take.

There Djokovic had no rest day between the semis and the final and had a brutal draw on top of that. This year at the French there were similar scheduling problems due to rain but Djokovic took matters into his own hands and won the all-important French Open title which gave him the career and personal slam.

So first of all, as a fan that was the big one this year. That title propelled Djokovic into the GOAT debate and set him up to make a run at Federer’s slam record. I’ve already said that everything after that is a bonus this year.

Of course, I want him to win the title but if he doesn’t it won’t be the end of the world especially since Murray is already gone. Murray was the one threatening Djokovic’s position as the world number one.

The interesting thing is that if Stan wins the title he equals Murray at three slam titles and joins Murray as Djokovic’s two main rivals. That said, I still like my man’s chances. He is much more rested than at the 2015 French Open and this is a different surface.

Stan seems to be more effective on the slower surfaces of clay and Plexicushion but he may also be ready to win a slam on a faster surface now. All I know is that last year against Federer in the semis he was pretty poor.


Or you could say Federer was just that good(Fed fans don’t like this one). There is also a third option of saying Stan bent over to Federer like he has done so often in the past. Either way when Stan finds his rhythm from the baseline he is a very difficult man to stop.

Federer didn’t give him room to breathe last year but Djokovic is a baseliner who doesn’t have the offensive capabilities of Federer. He will have to find another way. But certainly, he needs to be offensive and not allow Stan to boss him from the baseline.

Fortunately, Djokovic has improved a lot as an offensive player of late and I have noticed how often he has come to the net during this US Open. I think being offensive will be the key for him again against Stan.

Variation will be another key. He mustn’t just hang back on the baseline like he did in Paris and allow Stan to hit winner after winner. He should use drop shots, slices, and net approaches to change things up.

He must make Stan run instead of allowing Stan to make him run. I know that Djokovic just can’t wait to get revenge for the French Open loss and that he will be extremely motivated to win this.

He has already defeated Stan twice in smaller events since the French Open loss but that loss will still be fresh in his mind and he leads the head-to-head 19-4. Yes, Stan is dangerous but Djokovic is better and I still favor him.

If he doesn’t win I won’t be too disappointed because this has already been another amazing year for Djokovic where he made three of the four slam finals and now has a chance to complete a third three slam titles year to equal Federer in that department.

Who will win?

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