Djokovic’s Remarkable 2015 US Open Final Victory

I can already hear you thinking ‘I’ve heard enough of this Djokovic praise from Ru-an. Didn’t he do enough of that in his last two posts?’. And the answer is yes and no. I did give Djokovic a fair amount of praise in my last couple of posts, but this is the single most remarkable title run by Djokovic I have seen from anyone ever. And I have watched a lot of tennis. I don’t want to sell Djokovic short.

But it is also the boring and outworn Federer hype from rabid fanboys and the media which causes me to make this post. And of course, the rabid Federer hooligan crowd in the US Open final. I cannot emphasize enough what a difficult situation that was for Djokovic and how well he did to win the title under immense pressure. Here is how he did it:

“What I was actually doing was trying to play a mind game with myself,” he said in an interview on Monday. “They would scream, ‘Roger!’ and I would imagine they were screaming, ‘Novak!’ ”

You do what you gotta do to get the job done. Personally I would have used the crowd’s bias against me to make me stronger and motivate me even more, and maybe that was the case with Djokovic and he didn’t want to mention it, but the above method sounds just as effective. Even Federer’s coach had to admit Djokovic did a tremendous job:

“Hats off to Djokovic for handling that, because frankly it’s not easy in terms of the nerves,” said Severin Luthi, Federer’s co-coach.

But the most telling part of the article is probably this:

“I go through a lot of emotions on the court, like anybody else,” Djokovic said. “I just think, over the time, I’ve managed to learn how to use the experience and how to handle and cope with this pressure in tough moments. But I also think a lot comes from my character and from the fact that I grew up in circumstances which were not very ordinary and maybe not the circumstances that most of the guys grew up in. They have shaped me and my character, and those memories give me that bit of strength that I use in occasions like the one last night.”

This is the crux of the matter as far as I’m concerned. I think Djokovic had it much tougher than Federer growing up which is exactly why he handles the pressure better than Federer. It’s telling that Federer with something like 90% of the biggest tennis stadium in the world behind him and 23 break points still could not pull through. Djokovic, on the other hand, with almost half the break point opportunities(13) and a Federer hooligan crowd against him got the job done.

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How on earth is that possible?! I’ll tell you how. Adversity makes a person strong. Privilege weakens you. It’s like that line in The Dark Knight Rises from Bane when he tells Batman ‘Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you!‘, and then proceeds to give Batman the beating of his life. Of course, in this situation a scene from the Joker may have been fitting too but I think Bane’s words illustrate my point better.

If you take a lot of beatings in life and rise back up you come back stronger than ever. You become almost invincible. Only after Batman rose back up from the adversity of a beating from Bane and the hell of ‘The Pit’ did he have the strength to defeat Bane. It’s just a story, but it illustrates my point perfectly. Djokovic fought himself out of a war-ravaged Serbia and economic hardship to the pinnacle of the tennis world.

Now take the circumstances Federer grew up in and you find almost the exact opposite. Federer grew up in a peaceful country Switzerland and they never had economic hardship as far as I’m aware of. Peace has indeed cost him his strength, and victory did indeed defeat him. For too long did victory come too easily until a Spaniard came along who disturbed his peace and spoiled his victory.

Federer was not used to being challenged this way and he didn’t feel like adapting, until Nadal one day gave him the beating of his life in the 2009 Australian Open final from which I don’t think Federer ever truly recovered. It seems Federer never returned from ‘The Pit’ because the beatings only got worse and worse at the hands of his tormentor since then. Sad but true.

Fortunately for Federer his tormentor is having some struggles of his own, but now there is a new tormentor in town. The demons don’t go away until you face them head on, and I suspect that ship sailed back in 2009 already. Where Nadal left off Djokovic took over. But enough of Federer. This post was supposed to be about Djokovic’s heroic US Open title run. He needed it badly to remain in the GOAT debate and he got it.

Asked whether he is thinking of Federer’s 17 slam titles he said this:

“I would not be truthful to you if I would say I’m not thinking about it,” Djokovic said. “Of course I am.”

There you have it, folks. He has Federer’s record in his sights. And who would bet against him getting it? But what about his age you ask. There is an answer for that too:

“If I keep taking care of my body and have this kind of a mind-set where I keep the same lifestyle, I think it will give me longevity, and if it gives me longevity, I think I have a fair chance to fight for a few more Grand Slams,” he said.

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I like how he almost downplays his chances with ‘I think I have a fair chance to fight for a few more Grand Slams’. It wouldn’t be wise to add any unnecessary pressure on himself. There will be enough as it is. I won’t be surprised if he gets it. But I have also said he would be smack bang in the middle of the GOAT debate if he wins 15 slams which include a French Open title, because he doesn’t have the damaging flaw of Federer that his main rivals own him.

I think Djokovic is doing all the right things anyway and I think he can have good longevity. He is a kind of health fanatic and stretches so much that he almost never gets injured. He has also changed his game to a more attacking style under Becker which will serve him in the long run. It’s always difficult to say, but I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think he can win four slams in the next two years.

It could be more, it could be less. But let’s say four then he only needs to win one more past the age of 30 to get to 15. Assuming one of them is the French Open, he’d already have a GOAT claim. And it’s not out of the question he can have Federer’s kind of longevity and win even more slams after that. He won’t decline mentally as much as Federer that’s for sure. He’d still be out there beating the youngsters with sheer mental strength.

He also understands what it takes to be appreciated in the long term:

“Honestly, I think, first of all, it’s about enduring,” he said. “True tennis fans respect somebody that shows commitment to the sport — not just shows results, but shows his passion for tennis and respects them, the tournaments, the opponents and the sport in general. I think it’s also about what you represent. Are you respecting the true life’s values, and are you a man of conscience that plays tennis but also gives back?

“I think the whole package is important. That’s what I try to do. It’s how I’ve been brought up, and I hope the crowd recognizes that. But in the circumstances, when I’m playing against Roger at this point, I cannot expect something else.”

Source

These statements show a lot of maturity from Djokovic and will also help him to achieve longevity. So to summarize, I think Djokovic showed immense mental strength and maturity to win the US Open against a rampant Federer, an even more rampant hooligan crowd, and a poor finals history in New York. This was without a doubt a defining victory for Djokovic. He proved once and for all that he is the real deal and must be taken extremely seriously.

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To get to double digits in slam titles is no small feat and Djokovic is compiling a season that may even surpass Federer’s incredible 2006 season. I was never convinced when people said Djokovic is back in 2011 form. But he may even surpass his remarkable 2011 season now. You can view the comparison so far here. Of course, this year he made the French Open final as opposed to losing in the semis in 2011.

But he also won Dubai, Madrid, and Montreal in 2011 which he didn’t do this year. His winning percentage was also better in 2011 at the current stage of the season and he had that incredible 43-match winning streak which was the third longest winning streak in the open era. That said, after the US Open in 2011 he was burned out and lost five more matches including a retirement and a withdrawal.

I don’t think his opponents will be so lucky this time around. In 2011, he was playing a much more physical game and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins Beijing, Shanghai, and London. Paris is in his schedule, but it may be wise to skip it again. If he wins those three events he may well top his 2011 season and even Federer’s 2006 season because Federer won four Masters so Djokovic needs just one more to top that.

It’s gonna be difficult but not impossible. I’m very much looking forward to the final chapter of this season to see how Djokovic performs compared to 2011 and to see if he can top 2011. That in itself would be a monumental achievement. Then there is also the possibility of completing the Djoker slam next year if he wins in Melbourne and Paris. He missed out on the calendar slam this year by a couple of sets, but the Djoker slam would be almost identical.

If he does that then he would already be in the GOAT debate so we may be in for a very interesting first six months next year…

  • A Little ‘Fun’

The is in your court.

Posted in Grand Slams, US Open.

22 Comments

  1. Fair enough overall analysis, but I must say I don’t agree the part about Fed where you said he was ‘rampant’. Rampant was what Stan was in FO final. Moreover, the whole world agreed that Fed lost the match mainly because he ‘choked’, never mind being rampant.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi, Nakul. I think Federer was rampant since the Wimby SF vs Murray all the way through to the USO final. Yes, he choked against Djokovic but just because you play one bad match doesn’t mean you weren’t ‘rampant’, especially if it happens only against one opponent.

    If you are an objective tennis analyst then you start asking the question why it only happens against that one player while he doesn’t drop one single set against everyone else. And the answer must be either the other opposition is weak or Djokovic is just that good.

    It is probably a combination of the two. It’s like the 2004-07 era which many people call a weak era. How was Federer so dominant in that era and when Nadal and Djokovic came around they started beating him? Did you know he is 0-7 vs Djokodal in slam finals since 2008?

    And you have to ask why that is the case. It cannot be simply due to decline. Federer is still playing at an incredibly high level by his own admittance and many others including myself. Djokodal caused his ‘decline’. Did they not show up Federer would have continued to dominate the way he did in 2004-07.

    To sum up, Federer was rampant and he choked.

    [Reply]

    IWC2015 Reply:

    Hi Ruan,

    Good analysis of yours.
    The truth hurts, does it? Federer is still my most favourite player – past, present and future, no one can take away his achievements.

    However, without the constant challenge of Nadal or Doker, tennis will be boring , as Federer would have won 25 slams and retired by now.
    Instead, he’s stalled with 17. Nadal is 14 but he can’t be totally written off yet. Doker is catching up rapidly in the last 2 years or so. Too, he can slow down next year too or he could win a career slam, nobody knows. Nothing is certain, just like how Stan beat him brutally in the FO final.

    One thing for certain, Doker is mentally and physically stronger, being 6 years younger has an extra edge too. If Fed is the same age as Doker , result can be different as their h2h has always been very close. Against, Nadal, it’s a different story. Nadal completely owns and kills him most of the time, fed had no solution.

    2016 will be another interesting year.
    Would Doker win a career slam and finally the FO?
    Would Fed finally win his 18th GS?
    Would Nadal come back stronger?
    Would someone else outside the big 5 win a GS?

    Without Fed and his namesis, tennis would not be where it is today.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good comment, IWC. You have been quite impressive on my last post as well as a Fedfan. I think Fedal are more or less in the same situation. It is unlikely for either to win another slam, but you can’t quite write it off either. And you are right, tennis would have sucked if Djokodal did not arrive.

    I have already made my views clear. I am totally fine with Federer ending with 17 slams and Nadal with 14 while Djokovic chases them down. They both have certain limitations which Djokovic may not have. My blog is evolving with tennis. It does not get stuck on any given player.

    It is a tennis blog after all not a celebrity blog. Djokovic strikes me as the player with neither the mental flaws of Federer or the adaptability and skill flaws of Nadal. I’m not writing off the possibility that he has only now hit his peak and will dominate utterly for the next few years.

    There is something pretty special about him. He is kind of the Fedal hybrid having grown up when they were dominating and he has learned from both. A Fedal hybrid is the perfect player. A tennis monster that is indestructible. But we will see how it plays out.

    We have seen that Djokovic can lose to a player like Stan this year who has raw power. That said, it is difficult to know what would have happened did Djokovic not have the brutal draw at the FO. Things could certainly have turned out differently did he have an easier draw and not have had to play three consecutive days from semis to final.

    I think Nadal will make some kind of comeback next year anyway which wouldn’t help Federer. With Nadal at an all-time low this year Federer needed to make one of the slam finals he reached count but he didn’t. Fedfans may have to wait forever for bel18ve, or bel18ve will become beLIEve.

    [Reply]

    IWC2015 Reply:

    About Doker, yes – he seem to have it all – the serve, the forehand and backhand are all reliable weapons, his net game is improving. His fitness is of course, superb. I can’t see Murray able to challenge him as he is at another level. Wawrinka is the only one who can challenge him with his brutal power but he lacks consistency.

    The good thing Fed is still around to challenge Doker as none of the younger players has make the mark yet. He just haven’t found a solution to beat Doker at a GS level yet. I think there’s nothing he can do if the flaws is mental, and I am not certain if It doesn’t help he is pushing 35 next year which is probably the final year he can compete at the highest level. I think Fed has been remarkable to sustain playing at high level so long and he is still motivated to chase his 18 GS. I have a feeling he wants to protect his legacy as he knows Nadal and Doker have the potentials to surpass his GS record.

    We have to wait and see.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good post. I agree that it is remarkable that Federer is still playing as well as he is and competing for slams. For me, as a tennis fan it will be more interesting if he remains on 17 slams and the others have a chance of chasing him down. I don’t want Nadal to chase him down, but I don’t think he will.

    I also hope Nadal makes a kind of comeback next year so Djokovic can spank him some more and to see how Federer deals with him. It would just make things more interesting at the top which is currently basically just Djokovic and Federer.

    Oh and it’s Djoker not Doker ;-)

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    There is only one kind of player I think that is the next evolution in tennis. After Djokovic, I think the next player will be someone with both a huge serve and massive groundstrokes and a good mental game. Someone like Djokovic but with a Karlovic like serve. That is my opinion on the next evolution in tennis.

    And as for Djokovic, he is probably safe at no.1 for the next 6 months to 1 year but after that who knows? It’s too far ahead to safely predict. I would give him 13-15 slams at the moment as his final total, but if he has another year similiar to this one next year then he will have a good chance at entering the GOAT debate.

    As far as Federer goes, I think he will get over this loss quickly, and I also don’t think he is done beating Djokovic at GS level. I am prepared to make an ambitious prediction here: Federer vs Djokovic Australian Open Final 2016: Federer in 5 close sets. You heard it here first.

    To be honest I don’t think there is any chance of a Nadal comeback (you can never be sure though), because his game is far more physical than Federer’s.

    As far as Federer playing his ‘best tennis ever’, I would agree (possibly) as far as technique and tactics go, but physically? No way in hell. So yes, Nadal and Djokovic are great players, but they are not his ‘main rivals’. His main rivals were Hewitt, Nalbandian, Safin, Roddick etc. and he made them all look silly. They would regularly make it to grand slam quarterfinals, semifinals and finals only to be shown up by a rampant Federer. There has never been any player in history who has been judged against the next generation of players. Borg is 59, McEnroe is 56. Sampras is 44, Agassi is 45. Becker is 47, Edberg is 49. Those are all relatively small age gaps. The reason why Federer is judged against the next generation is because he dominated his generation so thoroughly that there were almost no interesting stories to be had, and he is not doing too badly against Djokodalray either. There is no doubt in my mind that players like Hewitt, Safin and Roddick would have won at least 4-5 slams each in most other eras.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Ok Charlie you have argued Federer’s case from a Fedfan’s point of view which I am sure all Fedfans are grateful to you for, but for the sake of objectivity let me provide a different and more neutral perspective. I can see that the Djokerer rivalry is going in the same direction as the Fedal rivalry.

    It started at the Wimby 2014 final where Djokovic needed 5 sets to beat Federer. Next the 2015 Wimby final where he needed 4 sets. And the last one he had to play against a poor final history in the USO, a pro-Federer hooligan crowd, and Federer with his newly invented SABR and he still won in four sets.

    Under normal circumstances that is about the equivalent of a straight-set drubbing. The Djokerer rivalry is following the same trajectory as the Fedal rivalry therefor. First the dramatic 5-setter of the 2009 AO final, then the pretty close 4-setter in the 2012 AO SF, and finally the straight-set drubbing of the 2014 AO SF.

    Can you imagine what would happen in front of a civilised crowd in Melbourne on a slower surface? I’m surprised you think Federer would win, or even make the final for that matter. If he does manage to improve on his 3rd round exit from last year and make the final to face Djokovic I think it can get awfully ugly for him.

    There would be no hooligan crowd to hide behind this time or a fast surface to play his attacking game on. He could get utterly butchered. And that would hurt his legacy some more. He is already 0-7 vs Fedal in slam finals since 2008. He is not playing the mental and physical weaklings of the 2004-07 era anymore.

    He is now up against the real deal and they are exposing his flaws more and more. It may have been better for him to retire at the end of 2012 and it may be better for him to retire now. If he keeps playing Djokovic will most likely own him more and more like Nadal did and damage his legacy even more.

    Every loss he suffers to Djokodal exposes his flaws and makes the 2004-07 era which he dominated look weaker and weaker. If you don’t think Federer is playing at the same level as he did back in 2004-07 then you need to take it up with the man himself who keeps saying the opposite. He would know best I think.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    OK I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this one. While you may think I am biased I think you have perhaps been a little biased towards Djokovic in your recent posts. But we all have our personal biases, and I still enjoy reading this blog, and I thank you for providing the opposite perspective. And as far as what Federer says, there is always a little spin in the media. I doubt Federer is 100% truthful in interviews all the time. Let’s imagine he were playing significantly worse. What should he say? “I am not playing particularly well at the moment and I seem to be struggling for confidence in the key moments?” What message would that send?

    Respectfully,

    Charlie

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Ok, let’s agree to disagree because I think it is much more realistic to believe that Djokovic will destroy Federer if they met in the AO final than to believe Federer will win in five sets. I don’t even think Federer would last five sets with Djokovic in Melbourne for one thing, but I also think he will struggle to make the final.

    He hasn’t in 6 years and there are plenty of guys who can give him trouble on slower courts over five sets if he isn’t on his game. Remember Seppi? As for spin in the media, here are his exact words:

    I think I’m a better player now than when I was at 24 because I’ve practised for another 10 years and I’ve got 10 years more experience,” Federer said. “Maybe I don’t have the confidence level that I had at 24 when I was winning 40 matches in a row, but I feel like I hit a bigger serve, my backhand is better, my forehand is still as good as it’s ever been, I volley better than I have in the past. I think I’ve had to adapt to a new generation of players again.”

    http://www.tennis-x.com/xblog/2015-08-17/20377.php

    I think that is pretty clear cut, and his dad said the same thing I think as well as other experts. The competition caught up.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    Come on Ru-an. What you are asking me to believe here, is that someone at 34 can be a better player than at 27. I don’t care what Federer did or didn’t say. Indulge this statistic:”Only 10.3 percent of majors have been won after age 29 and a mere 3.3 percent after age 31″ (Source: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/happy-birthday-nadal-youre-probably-too-old-to-pass-federer/). Does the competition catch up in every single era Ru-an? Oh and crowd support doesn’t mean Federer would have got demolished under normal conditions. Federer was winning the second set all the way through and Djokovic did very well to hold on for as long as he did, so it was going to four sets minimum. In fact, I think Federer has a better chance at the AO because there is less pressure on him to win.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Look, I’m just going by what Federer himself and many others say. And aside from that I can tell with my own eyes that he is still playing extremely well. In fact, I am shocked by how well he is still playing. He is still destroying the entire field in straight sets outside of Djokovic. It blows my mind.

    The only difference is that when he comes up against Djokovic he is up against one of the greatest ever who has a game and mentality that he can’t defeat. Yes, the field is quite poor, but Djokovic is also that good. He has spanked Federer in three straight slam finals now and the beatings will only get worse.

    Compared to the Wimbledon final Djokovic was very poor in NY, and he still defeated Federer in four sets. And that in conditions and a crowd that favored Federer. You don’t think Djokovic looked extremely nervous and that he was clearly affected by what went on around him? If not then I call definite bias. I also think you are being biased to think Federer can actually defeat Djokovic in Melbourne or that he can win the title.

    That is not how I know you. But ok let’s wait and see. Your best hope lies in the saying ‘Stranger things have happened’, because honestly from the current facts that we have Djokovic is going to butcher Federer if he dares to show up in another Australian Open final.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    It’s just this weak era point I have a problem with. It has always annoyed me. There is no objective way of saying that any era is stronger than any other. And I will post highlights of two ‘god mode Federer’ matches below if you don’t believe he has slowed down in terms of changing direction and running speed.

    Wimbledon 2006 SF:
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2rpmok

    Wimbledon 2015 SF:
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2xntdm_andy-murray-vs-roger-federer-highlights-wimbledon-2015-semifinal-ateeksheikh_tv

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    By the way just wondering why the above comment showed as requiring moderation. Is it just that I didn’t refresh the page? It no longer says that now, and not accusing you of anything but just wondering.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    OK this comment doesn’t show as awaiting moderation, forget what I said above.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    When you post multiple links my settings will require the comment to be moderated. It helps to keep spam out.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    Thanks for the heads up Ruan.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    No problemo.

    [Reply]

    IWC2015 Reply:

    Hi,

    No doubt Federer has slowed down in his footwork, judging by the number of unforced errors he played against Djoker the Wimbledon and USO finals.

    He uses his superior serve and net game to win points these days than winning from the back of the court. Unfortunately, it did not work well against Djoker cos he is at a different level. That’s where his mental strength come into play.

    [Reply]

  2. Interesting this: Federer covered more court than Djoko at both Wimby & USO !? – http://www.menstennisforums.com/2-general-messages/708521-federer-covered-more-court-than-djoko-both-wimby-uso.html

    Shows you how much more of an attacking player Djokovic has become. He is now dominating the baseline against Federer.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    Remember that some of that will be the forward movement from Federer as well. Not just side to side along the baseline.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    True. He did come to the net about twice as much as Djokovic. Just thought it was an interesting stat. When I watched the highlights and focused only on their movement I was surprised by how much Federer moved as opposed to Djokovic.

    [Reply]

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