The big hoax about Novak’s dominance over tennis world

Can anyone stop Novak Djokovic? That is the question heading into tonight’s Australian Open final. Find out what is going on inside the Serb’s head.

You wouldn’t think it by looking at him, but even Novak Djokovic is feeling the weight of history and expectation.

Of all the weapons and tricks that Djokovic has in his arsenal, his most valuable is the way he disguises his fears.

Because his life seems like an endless soap drama, the Serbian makes playing tennis look easy, appearing almost oblivious to the pressure and self doubts other players experience.

But it’s a hoax because he’s got the same anxieties as everyone else, and this year is no different even though he’s been playing it cool and demolishing his opponents.

“Of course, I feel it,” he said. “I feel pressure. I feel stress, as any other player.

“I feel nerves. I feel excitement. There‘s a lot of different emotions that go through.”

Djokovic rarely gets any credit for the way he’s able to block out all the white noise around him and produce his best on the court.

It’s not always pretty but it’s part of the reason why he’s won so many grand slams and will likely win plenty more.

It will be a major shock if he doesn’t capture his 10th Australian Open title on Sunday and regain the world No. 1 ranking.

His opponent Stefanos Tsitsipas is in career best touch and desperate to claim his first grand slam title but Djokovic holds all the aces and if he plays to his best, he should win again.

“I think that the experience of being in this particular situation and circumstances before helps,” Djokovic said.

“I think also the fact that I never lost the Australian Open finals definitely serves as a great confidence booster.

“Of course, still the job needs to be done on the court. I‘m going to play against Tsitsipas, who is in great shape, great form, and has been playing some of his best tennis. I’m sure that he’s going to be very motivated to win his first Grand Slam title.

“I know his game pretty well. He knows my game well. We’ve played several times on different surfaces. We played in one Grand Slam final, on clay though, at Roland Garros some years ago.”

That was at the 2021 French Open final when Djokovic came from two sets down to beat his Greek rival in a five-set thriller.

Although Tsitsipas has beaten Djokovic twice before, in 2018 and 2019, the Serb has gotten the better of him on 10 other occasions, and the prospect of equalling Rafael Nadal’s all-time record of 22 grand slams titles is the added incentive that will prevent any complacency setting in.

“I know what‘s ahead of me and I’m excited,” Djokovic said.

“Fortunately for me at this stage of my career, because of all the achievements, it is always basically every match or every tournament there is always something on the line, particularly when the Grand Slams are played.

“I‘m privileged to be in this position, and I’m hoping for the best.”

It would be fitting if Djokovic did equal the grand slam record in Melbourne because the Australian Open has always been his best tournament.

He claimed his first grand slam in Australia in 2008 before his 21st birthday, becoming one of the youngest ever winners. Now, as a father in his mid 30s, he’s on track to become one of the oldest champions.

Australian tennis fans should savour the moment and every appearance at Rod Laver Arena he makes from now on. Although he has no intention of quitting soon, even Djokovic knows it won’t last forever.

“I played professional tennis for several different reasons. Some personal reason is that I feel on the tennis court I always have an opportunity to learn something new about myself, I guess I fight with my own demons that I guess we all have. When we‘re on the tennis court in the midst of a battle, some of the things surface, and I have to deal with it. So it’s a great school of life for me,” he said.

“Then at the same time, of course, I have professional goals and ambitions. Those are Grand Slams and being No. 1 in the world. Those two probably pinnacles of the professional tennis world have always been there as goals for me. So I do want to make more history of this sport, no doubt.

“I feel game-wise physically I still can sustain and maintain the top level. So as long as that‘s the case, why not keep going?”


Scott Gullan

Stefanos Tsitsipas’ first memory of the Australian Open was as an eight-year-old watching Roger Federer defeat Fernando Gonzalez in the 2007 final.

Gonzalez, a big-hitting Chilean clay-courter, was his favourite player and he recalls gathering around the TV early in the morning with friends to watch him in his only grand slam final.

“I just liked his explosivity, the way he was able to hit the ball,” Tsitsipas explains.

Tsitsipas had tennis in his blood. His mother Julia was a former world No. 1 junior who had a career-high WTA ranking inside the top 200 while his father, Apostolos, was a tennis coach in Athens.

Eight years after his first viewing of the Australian Open, Tsitsipas travelled to Melbourne Park to play in the juniors where he reached the quarter-finals. He would finish the 2015 season ranked No. 14 in the world, improving that to No. 1 the following year.

The seed was well and truly sewn, the young kid from Greece wanted to be on Rod Laver Arena on the last Sunday.

“I remember watching it on TV saying to myself, I want to be there one day myself. I want to recreate that feeling for me,” he said.

“I knew that‘s a very long journey to get there. There are certain steps you have to take to give yourself the chance to be competing for something like this.

“But I very much believed it. I very much believed it. First of all, it’s your ego that speaks. You either have it or not, you know? As a kid, I was very confident. Thank God I was good in my country.

“Starting from that, I knew if I’m able to get out of my country and compete in other countries, European leagues, European tours, I proved myself over and over again that I’m actually good. I did finish as a junior No. 1. Now I want to do it in the men’s side, in the men’s professional tennis.

“So being in the finals here means a lot. Having started here as one of my first junior Grand Slams, and being now in the finals of the men‘s event, is as important as my very first steps that I took on the tennis court.

“I‘m going to grasp this opportunity and get myself ready for this big day.”

Funnily enough, Tsitsipas’ memory is very good about his early days in Australia but apparently he can’t remember his only other grand slam final appearance, in the 2021 French Open where he led Novak Djokovic two sets to love only to lose the match in five 6-7 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4.

This is more mind games at play given Djokovic seemingly forgot about it this week when referring to Tsitsipas having not previously reached the final two at a grand slam.

After his semi-final victory over Karen Khachanov, Tsitsipas joined in the subterfuge: “I don‘t remember either (the 2021 final).”

Hmmm. OK so while we all find that hard to believe, what we do know is that the Greek No. 3 seed is a completely different player to the one who had previously failed to go past the semi-final stage three times at Melbourne Park.

The 24-year-old has also added an Aussie flavour to his team with Mark Philippoussis coming on board for the Australian Open.

“I‘m playing great tennis. I’m enjoying myself. I just see no downside or negativity in what I’m trying to do out there,” he said. ”Even if it doesn’t work, I’m very optimistic and positive about any outcome, any opponent that I have to face.

“This is something that has been sort of lacking in my game. I genuinely believe in what I’m able to produce. That is more than enough. I go about this way, I strive for it every single day. It might not go the way I want it to, but I put 110% out there.

“I have a good relationship with myself on the court right now.”

Former world No. 4 Tim Henman, a six-time grand slam semi-finalist, believes the 2023 version of Tsitsipas is ready to make the progression and claim the No. 1 world ranking by taking down Djokovic.

“I was a bit frustrated last year because Stefanos won so many matches, being so consistent, but we felt that in grand slams, except at the Australian Open, it was a bit more difficult,” Henman told Eurosport.

“I was saying that maybe he played too much, season after season, and that he also had to plan his goals.

“I think he learned a lot from last year, I feel like he wants to benefit from his experience and the lessons that come from it.

“We can feel that Stefanos has something different in this tournament. We feel that he really wants to go to the final of a grand slam. He wants to win, we feel it and he shows it.”

Originally published as Australian Open 2023: Novak Djokovic to take on Stefanos Tsitsipas in the men’s final

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *