Novak Djokovic beat Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in the Roland Garros quarterfinals on Wednesday. Djokovic's movement and foot speed were particularly impressive during the high-quality encounter, despite the fact that he seemed to have overextended his knee while sliding in the third set tiebreak.
Against that background, Mats Wilander and Mischa Zverev came together on Eurosport to discuss Novak Djokovic's movement on clay. Zverev likened Djokovic to a 'supercomputer' due to the way he anticipates his opponents' shots. Wilander, meanwhile, expressed surprise that the Serb doesn't injure himself more often given the way he throws himself on the court.
The Swede also asked Mischa Zverev if Novak Djokovic's otherworldly anticipation levels help him defend as well on clay as he does on hardcourts.
"Well, I mean the way he (Novak Djokovic) moves I'm surprised that he doesn't hurt himself more," Wilander said. "But Mischa I have to ask you this - Novak moving on a claycourt, he has to anticipate a little more than on a hardcourt because he's always gonna slip and slide but somehow he seems to be able to handle the pace of Berrettini's serve, forehands. Is it because he is so good at reading the game, he can get to everything even on a clay court?"
In response, Mischa Zverev pointed out how - as explained by former pro Fabrice Santoro - studying the opponent's movement can make you a better defender. The German believes Novak Djokovic is employing a similar tactic, looking at the stance of the opponent before calculating his next move.
"So, I think - many years ago I talked to Fabrice Santoro and he said, 'if you wanna be a good defender don't look at the ball, look at the opponent, look where he stands, look at his body-shoulder rotation and that will tell you where he is gonna play'," Zverev said. "I feel like maybe Novak is doing the same, not looking at the ball only, he's looking at the stance of Berrettini (or any other player)."
"It's like math," Zverev added. "What is the percentage of him going crosscourt, what's the percentage of him going down the line, and then combining all these facts and all these information. It's like a supercomputer - he can anticipate really fast and just go in the right direction super early."
"The emotion at the end, that’s what Novak Djokovic is holding in the whole time" - Mats Wilander
Novak Djokovic, who will next play Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, had a lot of emotional outbursts on Wednesday - particularly during the closing stages of the match, when he squandered a couple of match points. The Serb angrily swiped his racket towards his box, bellowed in rage and also kicked an advertising board to vent his frustration.
Naturally, Novak Djokovic's reactions have drawn widespread criticism on social media. Mats Wilander, however, defended the Serb's actions by stressing how emotional the sport of tennis can be.
"The emotion at the end, that’s what he is holding in the whole time," Wilander said. "That’s why I am so impressed and proud to be part of the sport of professional tennis because these players have gone through very, very difficult times and they are holding a lot of emotion in. You see there with Novak that it is emotional for these guys."