Novak Djokovic and the unrivalled passion to succeed
I decided to spend my sleepless night by paying a visit to the Arthur Ashe stadium in US where the Djoker was set to take on Argentina’s very own Delpo in the summit clash of US Open 2018. Being a fan of Rafael Nadal, the only thing that had me interested was seeing a full 5 set action. But a single man didn’t let me watch the full sets, but what he presented was tennis personified. An image of what a sportsman should represent.
From the first point, he won with the superb forehand down the right sideline of Del Potro, he was on song, knowing what to do and believing he would do it. It was a totally different personality of Novak that showed up at the court, keeping his emotions inside of him, pretending that the crowd is not there. He kept winning every point and turning away from the applause, put his head down and was getting ready for the next point. He moved around the court with purpose, approached the net with utmost preconception and slammed the ball with all his might on multiple occasions. But he kept mum, no screaming, no anger, no emotions pouring out, no feeding off the crowd, and no staring at the opponent. The guy just hit every shot with all he had and went back to his baseline, asked for the ball and was ready to get on with things.
The way he managed to remain composed as if he was listening to the soothing words of Pretty Lights in his ears that they played in Finally Moving, mesmerised me. Never ever have I witnessed this type of collective behaviour, not celebrating the breaks, no fist pumps, nothing came. In the second set, he was broken in serve due to the ball deflecting on the tape off his first shot and then a sitter of a forehand missed. A real Novak Djokovic would have talked his heart to his corner and the heavens. He would move his hands in dismay, and he would have smashed his racket down. But earlier today, all he did was put his hands on the waist, stare at the landing mark on the ball and just move on.
He defined a new aura of calm, even in set 3, the first time he pumped his fist in excitement after a long rally which had Del Potro written all over it. He ran left to right, stretched till the arms come off the body and still managed to hit a backhand near the corner of the service box. The commentator had it on point, “Are you kidding me? This is destroying the spirit of Del Potro” . Even when he hit the brilliant forehand for the championship point, his face still composed. If you just tuned in and hadn’t looked at the score and saw his face, you would say, Oh I haven’t missed much. Even when he finally won, he threw up his racket in ecstasy, lied down on the court and stared up at the night sky,. He went to the net and hugged Del Potro with all the strength he had left.
The performance from Djokovic today exemplified the meaning of calm and composed and it also exemplified perfection. He deserves every bit of respect that every tennis fan could give him, because this wasn’t meant to happen, when he underwent that elbow surgery. Staying this calm after such brilliant play is not easy. The French Open in 2016 where he completed his career grand slam was his final success that year. He lost in Wimbledon to Sam Querrey and in US to Stan Wawrinka. That was the start of the downward graph for Djoko in 2017. Losing to unknown Denis Istomin at Melbourne, to Thiem at Paris, and forced to retire from Wimbledon against Berdych. His troubling elbow put him down again and he withdrew from further competitions that year.
He gathered his courage and went to Melbourne again and lost to H Chung who was not even seeded. He underwent the elbow surgery and parted ways with coach Radek Stephanek and Andre Agassi. Who would have given him a chance at that point? Down on confidence, a troublesome elbow, no world class coaches. He still had the courage not to skip the clay, his weak point to have a break. He was troubled in clay again and again exit early for his liking, again to an unknown that was Marco Cecchinato. The frustrated man asked the crowd to be silent over the course of the game, losing composure. He walked into the press conference, fired away at the reporters and earned the bad guy reputation. Who could blame the man? Definitely not what he expects to do, not what the crowd expects him to be and who supported him?
It was a time when people were writing Djokovic: Down and Out, End of the Djoker era, Talk less and Play tough: Message to Novak. The feelings of the player who is in all sorts, with troubling physique, tough times professionally, splitting from coaches. Did anyone try and understand that man when they called him arrogant, finished, egoistic? But today he stood up to all those, to the critics, to the tennis diaspora that he can do it, for a long time ahead. He won whilst keeping his calm and letting his hand do the talking. Love him or hate him, you have no other choice but to respect Novak Djokovic. His victory is all credit to him and his work ethic and no one else. It is tough being Novak in a century dominated by Roger and Rafa. But he is one of the best physically and mentally tough players of all time. He was relentless in his path to success. His passion for the game is almost unmatched.
Congratulations Novak, enjoy the moments and give us more such in the coming times. Congrats to the 14 time Grand Slam Champion.
From a Rafael Nadal fan.