Novak Djokovic: The ultimate comeback man
The recent Grand Slam-winning comeback by Novak Djokovic, after a gap of two years, has only solidified his status as the ultimate comeback man. Last time he won a Grand Slam at the French Open in 2016, he seemed to be on the top of his game and a notch above the rest.
That was further evidenced from the fact that he became just the eighth player to complete a Career Grand Slam and only the third man in history to hold them all at once. It seemed as if he always had that extra dose of energy to make a return and somehow produce a winner.
Let's trace back the career of the 13-time Grand Slam champion from its start:
Charisma and humour
Impersonations of fellow tennis players added to his charisma and charm back during his peak years from 2011- 2016. Particularly vivid in memory are those of Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova with the small habits very funnily illustrated by the Serbian champion.
Problems with diet early into his career
Complaints of lack of energy early in his career and continual losses in semi-finals and finals led him to nutritionist Igor Četojević. He identified gluten intolerance as the reason for his ailment.
He successfully shifted to a gluten-free vegan diet. There was immediate impact of the change. He won three Majors in 2011 with Pete Sampras declaring Djokovic's 2011 season as the best he has ever seen in his lifetime, calling it "one of the best achievements in all of sports."
Boris Becker, who would later on in 2013 form a successful partnership with him, called Djokovic's season "one of the very best years in tennis of all time".
The German also added that it "may not be the best statistically, but he's beaten Federer, he's beaten Nadal, he's beaten everybody that came around to challenge him in the biggest tournaments in the world".
He had his personal trials and tribulations with diet, personal life and coaches. But no one could have fathomed his dramatic fall from the top in the next two years. He started looking mediocre in the subsequent Grand Slams. His groundstrokes were not deep and penetrating enough as they used to be.
Start of the downfall
The second round loss at the 2017 Australian Open to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan was the beginning of a downward trend. A split with long-team coach Mariàn Vajda and the fitness team the same year added to his woes.
Before the 2017 French Open, Andre Agassi was enthroned as the new coach and the duo were helmed as a team who had the air of invincibility. But a quarter-final exit in the French Open and a sudden elbow injury cut short their journey as a team. He would miss the entire season after Wimbledon and would need to have surgery before the start of the 2018 season.
Reuniting with Mariàn Vajda at 2018 Monte Carlo Masters
He gradually returned to form after yet another minor surgery at the start of 2018 and declared that it was in two years that he was able to play without pain. He reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 French Open, but this didn't seem enough for the man who had won 12 Grand Slam titles
His five-set victory in an enthralling semi-final at the 2018 Wimbledon over familiar foe Rafael Nadal, who himself had his struggles with injury, was an epitome of his comeback spirit. Later he went on to win his 13th Grand Slam title with a win over Kevin Anderson in the final, culminating his comeback journey with a well-deserved fourth Wimbledon title. The image of him biting the grass was a treat to the eye.
Is this the restart of his dominance?
The comeback was complete and gave even a Nadal fanatic like me goosebumps. Somewhere there was a feeling of satisfaction seeing he had reclaimed his place in glory and most importantly his peace of mind. This could well be the start of the dominance earlier shown by him especially during the 2011 and 2015 seasons when he won three Majors in each season.
With Nadal and Federer regaining their form back successfully and staging their own comebacks in the last two years and now with Djokovic doing the same, let us hope that Andy Murray recovers from his injury and stages a similar comeback to reclaim his place as the fourth member of arguably the top four greatest players of the past decade.
But, at the present moment, let us rejoice in the victory of the comedic stuntman and our most beloved Novak. Here's to hoping that he continues to give us more moments of joy, both on and off the court, with his humorous impersonations also making a comeback.