Finishing at number 2 for 2019 is Novak Djokovic. Unbelievably, this by his standards seems a little disappointing. After being in the number 1 spot heading into the final phase of the season, he finished poorly at the ATP finals leaving the way for Rafa to take year-end number 1. Novak is far from my favourite player, however you can’t help but respect his incredible consistency on the court and his year in year out winning ways. This year was no different, and he was flawless in the final at AO to start the year. In the final against Rafa, he hit an impressive 34 winners and even more impressively only gave up nine unforced. It is impossible to see him slipping outside the top tier again next year. His final rank, like with Rafa, will depend on how much if at all, those below him improve.
When I think of the Djoker words that come to mind are a machine, boring, wall and nightmare. Interesting set of words, so let’s check them out.
Machine: By this I mean he churns out win after win with machine-like precision and is rarely tested in early rounds of a tournament (special mention to Philipp Kohlschreiber who achieved it). He is machine like also in the way he can seem to autopilot through matches against lower-ranked opponents with his proven game style which leads me to the next word.
Boring: Novak bores lower-ranked opponents to death like a Boa constrictor strangling its prey. His relentless depth of rally ball never lets the opponent breath and they often eventually error out of the point.
Wall: It must feel like playing a wall sometimes for opponents, such is the level of his defence. When he is not dull, he is defending and getting good shots back time after time. He’ll do this until he can get control of the rally again or his man over the net makes an error going for too much because they know it has to be red hot to get past him (Federer is sometimes guilty of this). Look at most of the players that beat him this year – they played light outs tennis.
Nightmare: Which is the combination of machine, boring and wall. Players would think what a nightmare he is to beat because he makes so few errors and gives you so little to attack. Not only that, he can do it for hours on end.
So, in summary, here are my likes, dislikes and areas for improvement:
Likes: He is plant-based. Incredible consistent length of rally ball (would be my number 2 desired asset after Federer’s serve) and return of serve. Best in the business on the stretch – think full stretch 2hbh up the line. The crazy flexible positions he gets into and can still make a great shot. His involvement with the Game Changer film. The time he called out a fan for being an idiot. Oh, and his Lacoste gear is usually very stylish.
Dislikes: When he goes full eye-popping ballistic and primal screams (although we tend not to see this as much anymore) — whining to his box when things are going against him (a huge pet peeve of mine with any player – Murray I’m looking at you 😊). The pitiful little grunt he has recently developed when struggling to stay in a point as if to say this is so unfair. The hair (petty I know) it makes him look like a Lego character to me. I agree with Nick Kyrgios regarding the boob wave (this is his celebration to the crowd after a win). I’m also not a fan of his style, which is to wait for an error from the opponent. If you think I’m harsh check out these top 5 reasons a lot of fans do not like Novak.
Areas for improvement: The overhead smash and any ball above his shoulders. His homework for the offseason is to watch Federer hit smashes on YouTube then go out with his coach Vajda and practice them. While on YouTube take in some Fed slices too, since his slice is quite average for an elite player. After doing that he needs to go and see a good hairstylist.
Finally, yes, he is a champion, just doesn’t come to mind quickly.