Why Djokovic’s Dominance is Exciting, Not Boring

Hi, folks. I’m back as usual with my follow up post after a grand slam. This one had the extra significance of course because Djokovic did something that has only been done once before in the open era.

But before I continue let me just thank you again for the recent comments and discussion. The comments dried up I think because I had to make people register to comment.

I have disabled the register for comments again and there seem to be more comments again. I enjoy the discussion with you and I never meant for it to stop.

It is, as always, an important part of my blog and with the grass court season coming up I hope we can have some interesting and lively discussions again.

Now let me get back to the tennis. What Djokovic achieved on Sunday was something very special which clearly deserves another post. He now holds all four slam titles as well as the World Tour Finals.

That is a feat that has never before been achieved. The dominance of hard courts, clay, grass, and indoor courts all at the same time.

  • Concerning the Complaints that Djokovic’s Dominance is Boring

Now I want to explore a complaint I have seen recently from some tennis fans. And that is the complaint that Djokovic is too dominant and that it is making tennis boring.

That makes me wonder how long these people have followed tennis and how knowledgeable they are about the sport. I can’t speak for others but I can tell you why I find his dominance anything but boring.

I’ve been following tennis since Becker won his first Wimbledon title and I’ve seen the dominance of the likes of Sampras and Federer. At first, I was a Sampras fan but soon got bored of his big serving on the fast courts of the 90’s.

It was like he had an unfair advantage. Whenever he was in trouble he just served an ace. Even on second serves. So I became an Agassi fan even though Sampras kept beating him in slam finals.

That wasn’t fun for me as a fan but at least now I was enjoying a very different game style and personality. I wasn’t bored anymore. Eventually, Agassi completed the career slam which set him apart from Sampras but Sampras always owned him in the head-to-head.

It was a bittersweet situation for me as a fan. Then I became a Federer fan and I never really got tired of his dominance because he was less one-dimensional than Sampras. He wasn’t just a serve backed up by great volleys.

He had another dimension to his game and personality. In recent years, however, he had to adapt his game due to aging and he became more like Sampras so his game started to bore me. He basically became a glorified serve bot.

sampras

Same as Sampras, whenever he faced a difficult situation he heavily relied on his serve. Other than that, Djokovic was manning up to Nadal and he offered something different in terms of game style and personality.

I don’t know about other people but I don’t always want the same thing in life. I want variation and in terms of being a tennis fan, there is more to appreciate than just one game style. You may find this hard to believe but I find Djokovic’s game extremely exciting.

Maybe that is because I know the game better than the average tennis fan? I think of Djokovic as an acquired taste almost. His genius is more subtle and you need a little sophistication as a tennis fan to really appreciate what he does.

On the surface, his game may not seem very interesting or spectacular, but you can trust me when I say that it is. Tennis is all about building pressure and Djokovic is an absolute master at it.

Watching how he asks his opponents impossible questions and how the pressure overwhelms them is intensely interesting. Believe me, when I say it is much more interesting than watching a serve bot serving someone off the court.

Infinitely more interesting. People who think Djokovic’s dominance is boring clearly were not around for Sampras’ dominance. They would have left tennis if they were. They probably weren’t around for Federer’s dominance either.

  • Why Djokovic’s Dominance is Exciting

Djokovic’s dominance is exciting because you are actually seeing rallies and tactics instead of serve botting and ball bashing. Sure, you need a little understanding of the sport to truly appreciate it but even his strokes are attractive.

His backhand is simply a master stroke while his returning of serve is just as special. Those are already two things someone can appreciate without knowing much about the sport. There are many similarities between Djokovic and Agassi in fact.

In a sense, Federer was the upgraded version of Sampras and now Djokovic is the upgraded version of Agassi. Agassi had a world class backhand and returns as well. Like Djokovic, he also had a very smooth forehand.

The groundstrokes of both are just so smooth that very little can go wrong with it. Djokovic just has added dimensions to his game as opposed to Agassi. He has a better serve and moves better among other things.

He is also mentally more stable. Djokovic’s mind is probably his biggest weapon. Like Agassi, Djokovic is also a showman. He has an actual personality compared to Sampras and Federer who is more your typical tennis personalities.

I like the fact that Djokovic is more unpredictable and volatile, while at the same time having it under control. There is a good balance there. But his tennis alone I find very exciting. The battles with Federer have been just superb.

Their games compliment each other very well, just like Sampras and Agassi complemented each other. You are looking at the best servers and offensive players of their times against the best returners and baseline players of their times.

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It is great matchups. Watching Djokovic slowly strangle the best offensive tennis player in history in the Wimbledon and US Open finals last year was a very special treat. I’ve watched those highlights more times than I can remember.

Tennis is all about matchups and seeing Djokovic overcome the best offensive game in tennis with unbelievable returning, defense, and baseline consistency is intensely interesting. Djokovic is an immovable object.

He sets his opponents a challenge which is impossible to overcome. How interesting is it to watch someone serve their opponent off the court? Now that is boring. If you think tennis is boring with Djokovic’s dominance you would have absolutely hated tennis in the 90’s.

Believe me, when I tell you it is much more interesting to watch rallies develop and how someone builds pressure with intelligent and efficient tennis. Tennis fans don’t realize how good they have it.

They are missing a treat but it doesn’t have to be that way. They can educate themselves to appreciate what Djokovic is doing out there. It is astonishing and unprecedented. Don’t wait until it is too late to appreciate.

You will probably never see something like this again in your life.

🎾

Posted in Uncategorized.

12 Comments

  1. I’m Serbian, so no wonder I share your excitement for Djokovic. I am a hard core fan of his, even at the time when Tipsarevic was our no. 1 and best hope at winning titles.

    Still, I have to say you need to correct your writing approach. Not the essence, just your standing point. While I agree with 95% of your observations, you are leaving me with the impression of being in constant “fight” with opposite minded readers/ fans. You keep addressing so called “Fedal” fans, as if they are danger to the rest of us :-)

    Back to the main topic, Novak’s place in history, I think that every statistic, given out of context, might be used in a wrong way.

    Imagine Roger without Rafa and Novak. Imagine them coming 10 years later, after Roger career ending, together with mature Andy in his peak. Distribution of trophies would be ridiculuos, favoring Roger, while those three would be sharing the cake, not equally, but still sharing. We can imagine numerous scenarios, with same plausability, but different outcomes.

    So rather than relying on GS and masters titles count, as they heavily depend on competition in the same age, I tend to rely on my assumption of their tennis level, both in terms of their peak level and consistency.

    It is not the fact that Novak has more wins than both of them, that he had to play record number of times against them (he is part in two biggest rivalries in history, by matches played), it is my opinion that he evolved to highest level seen, while they were all still playing their A game. If not for Novak, beating Rafa 7 consecutive times in finals (2011-12), what would history be telling us now? What would it tell us after last year, when Roger was sweaping floor with everyone else, playing the tennis of his life at WB and US Open, still to surrender without being given a real chance. For those talking of his age, Novak beat him straight sets in 2008, at AO. Novak had gluten problem, and just a part of his today’s fitness and power, back then. No real experience, either.

    It is clear they all upped their games and evolved, through the years, just Novak going further than his peers.
    While at their peak, Nadal has Roger and Novak has Rafa, nobody in the game has Novak. I will not use future statistics to heavily favor Novak (although everything goes in his direction), but will always have a strong assessment of their peak game and match-ups, which are, to me, proof of his unmatched tennis level. Game itself is telling me he is the real GOAT, and no title count will have the same weight in discussion, even if it backs Novak’s side, once they all end their careers.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    That’s cool Veljko. Fedal is just a tennis term. Don’t read anything into it. And no I don’t see Fedal fans at as a threat at all. I actually feel sorry for the hardcore ones and wrote this post to help them.

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    Veljko Reply:

    Yeah, heard “Fedal” bunch of times. Just thought you have a bit rough tone when you address those hard fans :-)

    Your point of view will have more weight to all readers, if you do not address any part of the article to specific fans, and just give your (ours :-) ) opinion.

    My two cents :-)

    Keep on with the good work!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Sure, I agree.

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  2. You put it the way I think. I always liked watching Agassi more than Sampras. With him there always more unpredictable. Funny thing is Sampras was Novak’s idol growing as a tennis player and the way he’s playing doesn’t have anything to do with him. I’m wondering would, if the age glup was bigger, Federer be his idol.
    As a Serbian, I’m definitely biased, but that boy is surprising me every single tournament. His determination and mental toughness are big contribution to his game. The way how he keeps going, win or lose, support or hendling 15000 bullies is unique. As for his game, you said it all.
    Great read Ru-an, thx

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thank you, Milica! Glad you enjoyed it 😃

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  3. Ru-an, I totally agree with you. Novak has added an extra dimension to tennis and it’s anything but boring.
    In fact if I follow tennis again nowadays it is because of Nole. I stopped watching after Guga Kuerten retired. I only watched the very occasional match because to be honest I was utterly bored with Federer winning everything. It got more excited when Rafa started really challenging Fed but unfortunately his dominance was only on clay. I liked Nole back then too and I always rooted for him but only because he was always trying to break through the other two and not because of what he had to offer himself. It wasn’t until 2010, the USO semifinal against Fed to be precise, that he really took my heart once and for all.
    This season with the career slam and the Djoker slam has sky rocketed and I’m really looking forward to what Nole will do from now on, having finally slayed the RG dragon.
    The sky’s the limit and I really hope his dominance will carry on and silence some of the haters and doubters out there. ;-)
    BTW, I love your blogs, they are so refreshing.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thank you, Marta! That 2010 USO win over Federer was big. That was kind of the beginning for him. His game and personality have evolved over time. I wasn’t always the biggest fan but he grew on me. He is by a far a better and more complete player now than he was in 2011.

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  4. Hi Ru-an, I’ve checked into your blog for opinions since the time you were a Fed fan. Always been a hardcore Sampras, Safin and since, 2007, Djokovic fan.

    I see more parallels in a young Sampras and Djokovic than most. Their games were tailormade for the majority conditions of the time, and their play was built on complete, efficient, and most importantly, athletic and explosive games. It’s hard to argue that until Federer came along, pre-1998 Sampras was the definition of a complete player. What put me off Federer for the longest time, ironically, was the elegance with which he played the game. It was almost too elegant, and I wanted more straightforward athleticism.

    I’ve seen it with Novak, and won’t hesitate to say, since mid-2015, when his timing on groundstrokes and volleys found another gear, I have never seen a more complete player. He still ha issues with his overhead, but otherwise, he’s as good as its gotten.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Mikkers, thanks for the blog follow. It’s funny because I became a full-blown Nole fan mid-2015. That was also the time his serve started to improve and he became a better offensive player.

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  5. Great post, Ru-an, like usual.

    I agree that tennis, in the nineties, was boring. The racquets were big and light, and the serve became the most important shot in the game. It was very difficult to defend, and Agassi did a great job back then. But with the strings revolution, everything changed. The spin allowed better defense, more control, and the syndrome of the “surface” unification is the direct consequence of the change in strings. There is an excellent article on fogmountain tennis about this.

    And yes, Novak is a great player. Unfortunately, his racquet is not optimal for volleying. But you can’t have swing weight, wrist weight and precision at the net.

    Unfortunately, I have noticed that just a few authors (Laurent Vergne, Steve Flink, you) emphasized Novak’s non calendar slam. You rightly pointed that he won the WTF in the meantime too. It’s an unbelievable feat.

    I hope that Novak will continue to play well and to improve. The future is not ours to see, but if he continues working, we can hope for a few great results more.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thank, Mat! It is incredible how Novak just keeps improving. I don’t think anyone thought he would top his 2011 level and then he did that in 2015. Now he is topping his 2015 level in 2016. Truly astonishing. But that is what he does. He never gets complacent and always look for new and different ways to improve.

    In the FO final, for instance, he had great volley stats. I definitely think he can keep winning slams and big events. He is still miles ahead of the rest of the field. It gets to a point where you think somewhere he has to falter but then you realize how far the rest of the field is still behind him.

    [Reply]

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