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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Posted in Grand Slams, US Open.

16 Comments

  1. Djokovic also spoke of some “private” issues that he had during Wimbledon. He didn’t elaborate on what these issues were, but, if one’s personal life is a mess, then it takes a toll on their professional life as well. One of the reasons, why someone as temperamental as Federer survived and eventually excelled in the tough grind of the tour was Mirka’s and his parents’ support throughout. Remember, how Nadal’s season derailed in the middle of 2009? Apart from Tendinitis (Patellar) in both knees, his parents went through a divorce and the guy was in pieces.

    With top players, temperament is so critical. On the surface, tennis comes across as a tough, physical sport which is all about brawn. But, the best players are like finely tuned watches. One cog out of sync, the machine falls apart and consequently, the time goes haywire. To excel, both physical prowess as well as sound temperament are needed. Murray has lacked this rhythm and hence doesn’t have the same results as Federer, Djokovic and Nadal (Although, He primarily clicked into gear more on clay than other surfaces).

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good comment, Siddarth. Yes, there are many things that go into being a successful tennis player. The support system is obviously an important part of that. Who knows how much Djokovic’s private issues affected him. But I think he was burned out anyway and still haven’t fully recovered.

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  2. “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.”

    Nah, that would bring the total tally of Slams won on hardcourts to 9 for Djokovic (7 AOs and 2 USOs). Fed already has 9 (4 AOs and 5 USOs) and he has a more balanced resume on Slams won on hardcourts (Plexicushion, that green hardcourt at the USO 2004, blue hardcourt at today’s USO and the Rebound Ace at the AO 2004-2007). It could make Djokovic the Plexicushion GOAT if something like that exists.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    He will surpass Federer anyway. Already won three more Masters than Federer on hard, only one behind him in WTF titles, and 9 behind him in overall titles on hard. Just a question of time.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    We can add slam finals on hard here as well as they are also significant. Djokovic made 5 USO finals, Federer 2 USO finals, and 1 AO final. If Djokovic wins Shanghai or Paris, the WTF and the AO next year he will be perceived by most as the HC GOAT. The kind of hard court is not important. We are not talking about the fast HC or slow HC GOAT. We are talking about HC GOAT overall. And like I said, Djokovic has made the same number of USO finals as Federer. He is not far behind there.

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    Siddharth Reply:

    But, his conversion rate in the US open is quite poor. He has made 10 semis, 6 or 7 finals and won twice…. Would it still be justified to not consider hard court surfaces?

    He is the master on Plexicushion.. But hasn’t had the same impact on the hard courts of the US open. Would be interesting to see him win Cincinnati though.. Would have won all the masters 1000 (including all on hard courts )

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah, I don’t want to get into too many details. Believe me, there is no end to it. Djokovic did three IW/Miami doubles as opposed to Federer’s two, 5-4 in IW titles and 6-2 in Miami titles. So Federer hasn’t had the same impact on the hard courts of IW/Miami. Obviously, Federer prefers faster surfaces and Djokovic slower ones. Everyone knows that.

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    Yup.. Perhaps there is a slow hard court GOAT and a fast hard court GOAT…

    You are right. There is absolutely no end to this… So many stats to conside. The sheer number of variables/scenarios is overwhelming.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah, same with the GOAT debate. It is impossible to determine. You can make a case that is all. But I don’t think it is necessary to break it up into fast and slow HC GOAT. You can if you want but that is something different from overall HC GOAT. Anyway in my view Nole will surpass Federer as the HC GOAT.

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    Most probably.. Has plenty of time to do it… By the time the dust settles, the picture will look quite funny. Djokovic – the HC GOAT, Nadal – the Clay GOAT and Sampras – the Grass GOAT (never lost a Wimbledon final; Roger has lost 3)

    Where will Federer feature is hard to tell. He’s my favourite player and for me the GOAT for various reasons. But …. There are just so many buts :-)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    See there comes the subjectivity with too much discussion of these things. Isn’t making a final and losing not better than not making the final? Of course, it is! So by that measure, Federer is greater than Sampras on grass. He has also won more overall tournaments on grass. Federer is the greatest to me on grass, Nadal on clay, and just a question of time before Djokovic is on hard 👍

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    Making finals is great. But winning them is what defines a player IMO. Anyway, this is too subjective a topic. I am happier when reading and discussing individual matches and tournaments .. Liked the analysis in this post :-)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    At least you are not blindly claiming that Federer is the grass GOAT just because he is your favorite player and I think that is great. Most Fedfans won’t hesitate for a second to call him the grass GOAT.

    Btw I don’t know why I have to keep approving your comments. The settings are such that I only have to approve the same commenter once and it works for the others! Sorry about that.

    [Reply]

    siddharth Reply:

    No worries. You don’t have to apologize for what appears to be a technical glitch.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I see this comment is from another IP address which will cause me to have to approve you again. Maybe that is what is throwing the other comments off as well.

    [Reply]

    siddharth Reply:

    No worries. Must be a technical glitch.

    [Reply]

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