One of the round of 16 matches at the 2020 Western & Southern Open will see Tennys Sandgren taking on Novak Djokovic. This will be the third time that the duo will face each other on the ATP tour and for Sandgren, it is another opportunity to play ‘one of the all-time greats’.
In an interview with ATPtour.com, the big-hitting American expressed his joy on being able to face Novak Djokovic once again. Sandgren also spoke about the lack of crowds at that event and if it would help him against the Serbian.
Was upset that I didn’t get to play Novak Djokovic at Melbourne: Sandgren
At this year's Australian Open, Tennys Sandgren was on several occasions, just a point away from setting up a semi-final clash against the player who he reveres greatly. However, the nerves got to him against Roger Federer, who pulled off a miraculous five set victory to squash the American’s hopes of facing Novak Djokovic.
For Sandgren, this was indeed upsetting as he had worked extremely hard to find himself in a position where he could dream of playing Novak Djokovic.
“I was [upset] in Australia that I didn’t get to play [Novak Djokovic] in the semis,” Sandgren said. “I was looking forward to potentially that happening once I made it to the point where that could be a thing.”
Quite surprisingly Sandgren was once again close to narrowly missing out on a match against Novak Djokovic. This time in his way was young Canadian, Felix Auger-Aliassime who thwarted the American for much of the match. Sandgren came back from a set down and eventually won the decider in a tight tie-break. Sandgren revealed that the fears from Melbourne creeped into his head prompting him to up his game to be able to face Novak Djokovic , a man whom he considers to be ‘one of the all-time greats’.
“Today, it crossed my mind a couple of times when the match wasn’t going my way or I was down. I was thinking, ‘Dude, you are going to be [annoyed at] yourself again if you don’t find a way to pull this one out, because you are going to get another opportunity to play one of the best ever',” Sandgren said. “Any time that is on the table, I think it is enjoyable because that is why you do the training. That is why you put yourself out there, to test yourself. It is a blessing to be able to play against someone who is going to be one of the all-time greats.”
Novak Djokovic is extremely gifted at playing mental games with himself: Tennys Sandgren
For a man who has spent most of his career playing without fans, the lack of a crowd at the Cincinnati Open isn’t a major hindrance for the American. But would it affect the likes of Novak Djokovic, who seemingly thrive on the energy of the crowd? Sandgren doesn’t believe so. Top players such as Novak Djokovic are ‘magicians’ according to Sandgren. For him, the Serbian has the ability to adapt to any situation and Sandgren highlighted the fact that Djokovic was ‘gifted at playing mental games with himself’.
“We are used to playing with nobody and we are used to not having that outside stimuli of people watching you, that extra pressure of eyes on you, which is very tangible,” Sandgren said. “At the same time, those guys are also magicians at getting themselves mentally up and prepared for matches. While I think it might be easier for someone like me, someone like Novak is extremely gifted at playing mental games with himself. I don’t think he is really going to have a problem getting up for these matches.”
Sandgren concluded by saying that Novak Djokovic’s participation itself is enough to indicate the seriousness of the Serbian towards a particular match or tournament.
“Once he has committed to come and play, I think he is going to be fully in it. When you are able to hear somebody’s name and then change it to your own name in a match, I think you are probably pretty gifted at the mental side of the sport,” said Sandgren.Published 25 Aug 2020, 13:50 IST