While the rest of the players continue trying to unravel the mysteries of the grass, Novak Djokovic puffs out his chest and balances on a swing, in front of a lake and reflective, waiting for the collective attack on the green to arrive. The almighty Nole comes to say: yes, here I command, here I wait for you all. “I don’t need Carlos to be [Alcaraz] nor any other to find that impulse and that extra motivation that the Grand Slams give me. I know that there are seven games to be champion, so whoever the opponent I have to face, there is no difference for me. I need to do what I have to do. Most of my attention is focused on my body and my mind, on my game, trying to bring it to the optimal state in which I am right now ”, warns the man from Belgrade, the man everyone points to. That’s right.
Historically recognized as a gifted on concrete, Nole has quietly appropriated the surface that the great Roger Federer made his own. The Swiss stepped aside last year, but three years earlier he had already received the final blow when Djokovic himself annulled two championship balls and vindicated himself as an accomplished specialist on the grass, traditionally associated with other tennis players with a more advanced profile. specific. Without the mystique of Björn Borg or Rod Laver, Federer’s gold or the recognition given to great symbols such as John McEnroe, Boris Becker or Pete Sampras, his youthful idol, the man from Belgrade has been loading with reasons and records to surpass them all they. By his own right, Djokovic is already one of the benchmarks.
This is how the Frenchman Patrick Mouratoglou, a prestigious coach, the shadow of Serena Williams in the best years of the American, understands it. “Beating Novak at Wimbledon is the biggest mountain any tennis player can face,” says the coach in one of the episodes of break point, the series produced by Netflix, while from some sectors the Frenchman is reminded of the pairing of Rafael Nadal and Roland Garros. The Balkan is still far from the hegemony of the Mallorcan on clay, but the numbers point to a solid and growing dominance, each more evident in a territory in which only the legendary Borg (from 1976 to 1980) and Federer (from 2003 to 2007) have so far been able to sign five consecutive gimped ones; Sampras held his seven titles between 1993 and 2000, but spike halfway (1996) against the Dutchman Richard Kajicek.
Aim to match them now Nole, champion of the last four editions and six times in the last decade, in which nine editions of the major British following the cancellation of 2020 due to the pandemic. With 86 wins and only 10 losses, the last of which was in 2017 —in the quarterfinals, against the Czech Tomas Berdych—, the average of the current number two (85.8%) imposes and makes the difference. Despite the fact that the great Federer has yet to find a comparison —eight titles and an 86.9% effectiveness rate in his garden— Djokovic expresses himself above historical totems such as McEnroe (85.8%), Rod Laver (84.8% ), Sampras (83.6%), Borg (83.7), Jimmy Connors (82.8%), Becker (82.3%) or Rafael Nadal (79.2%).
Court’s Big 24
“I don’t feel more relaxed,” he replies when asked how he faces this assault on Wimbledon, after having won the Australian Open in January and Roland Garros five months later, already with 23 greats in his bag and, therefore, a single step away from reaching the record of records, the 24 of the Australian Margaret Court. “I still feel hungry for success, for more Grand Slams, for more victories. As long as that drive exists, I know I can compete at the highest level; if it goes down, then it will be different. A few days after Roland Garros, I was already thinking about how to prepare for this new challenge”, remarks Nole, who will debut on Monday (1:30 p.m., Movistar Deportes) against the Argentine Pedro Cachin (67th in the world) and whom they last performed at 2016, since the mentioned 2017 episode has an asterisk.
Then, the elbow that gave her so many headaches at that time forced her to give up against Berdych, so to find the last adversary who managed to knock her out, you have to go back to the previous year, when the American Sam Querrey (already retired). ) surpassed him in four sleeves. From that unfortunate double episode, 28 successive victories; an indisputable authority increasingly reinforced by the consolidation of his skill and by the progressive disappearance of the specialist capable of putting a stop to it, a figure in extinction. It is not the case of him, from less to more, in permanent evolution.
“Actually, I had never played on a grass court before I was 17 years old. I always dreamed of winning Wimbledon, that was always a goal. I arrived to top-100 for the first time here [en abril de 2007], so this tournament is also very important statistically for me. But then, for several years, I had trouble really taking my game to the next level because I like to slide, and on grass it’s different. I had to learn how to move, how to walk, how to play and how to read the boat. Unlike 40, 50 or 60 years ago, this is the strangest surface for us, but lately I have managed to adapt very quickly. When I enter Center Court, something awakens inside of me”, he continues.
Today, nobody shines in the Cathedral of the racket like him, who accumulates more wins than the 19 remaining members of the top-20 (85) and defeated only at Wimbledon by the Scotsman Andy Murray among the 127 tennis players that complete the table. “I still feel like that young Novak [36 anos ahora] who dreamed of winning this tournament, the biggest of all”, he emphasizes. Here, once again, all roads lead to him, firm before the effervescence of Alcaraz and the push of youth and age. Questioned in the preamble to Paris, no one questions Djokovic’s hierarchy today.
You can follow EL PAIS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
Source: EL PAIS