Mikhail Youzhny recently talked about how Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal displayed contrasting reactions to the stop-start nature of the 2020 season. According to Youzhny, Nadal timed his return well and played to his strengths by focusing primarily on the French Open. When it comes to Djokovic, however, Youzhny believes that the Serb wasn’t mentally prepared to deal with the pandemic-induced protocols - or even with his default from the US Open.
During an interview with Championat, Mikhail Youzhny highlighted the difference in how Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic fared after being away from the sport for close to six months. While Nadal romped to a record-extending 13th Roland Garros title, Djokovic was left dazed by his US Open disaster - which Youzhny believes was the first in a series of mental lapses by the World No. 1.
"This incident of his at the US Open happened already in the first set," Youzhny said. "This is only the first set, and how painfully he reacted to all this. What does this show? That Djokovic’s mind was not ready to take it and switch like that (after the resumption of the tour). This is what we are talking about now about the best player in the world, that he had a breakdown at the US Open."
The Russian claimed that Novak Djokovic was on edge throughout his match against Pablo Carreno Busta in New York, even before the 'accident'. Djokovic was also unusually subdued in the Roland Garros final against Rafael Nadal, and Youzhny asserted the Serb was 'not himself'.
"Yes, you can say as long as you like that it was an accident, that the ball might not have hit," Youzhny added. "But I rarely saw Novak throw balls in the first set, whatever the situation. I rarely saw Novak shout at the judge in the first set, as he did in Rome. And certainly, none of us have ever seen Novak in the final of Roland Garros was like this - not himself."
Mikhail Youzhny is a lot more impressed with how Rafael Nadal dealt with the long break from the game. The 38-year-old believes Nadal's decision-making served him well upon his return, and that he was right to have a focused approach towards the French Open.
"Nadal felt that it would be harmful for him to go to America, and did not go," Youzhny said. "This is what sets Nadal apart from the others. 'Yes, I haven't played in almost half a year, but I want to play well at Roland Garros, so I will miss the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati and the Grand Slam of the US Open.' I kind of understand it well from the inside, how it happens, and why he made such a decision. And as it turned out, he did the right thing."
Look at how much emotion it cost him: Mikhail Youzhny on Novak Djokovic's Rome win
Mikhail Youzhny then tried to delve deeper into Novak Djokovic’s mental state post his US Open default. The Russian believes the World No. 1 had to expend a lot more emotional energy than usual to bounce back and win the Rome Masters title.
"Yes. What happened at the US Open happened," Youzhny continued. "But if you look closely at his psychological state, though he later won the Masters in Rome, but how much emotion it cost him."
The Russian also implied that Novak Djokovic tanked his Vienna Open match against Lorenzo Sonego, since he had already secured the year-end No. 1 ranking by then.
"Novak Djokovic really wanted to end the year with the first racket of the world and (he) secured all this already in Vienna," Youzhny said. "But when he achieved this, one might say, he played these two matches on his teeth, how he then played against Sonego. He just didn't play this match anymore."Published 28 Dec 2020, 22:37 IST