Monday, 4 April 2011

Today Sport's : Tennis/ Joker Djokovic takes Centrestage

Novak Djokovic has mowed down all comers in the opening quarter of 2011. Can he carry his form into the clay and grass court seasons?

It is difficult to take Djokovic seriously. If you've checked out some of his mimicry clips on YouTube ( the one in which he copies Maria Sharapova is priceless), you'll understand why.

But when a man wins 24 matches on the trot, making it the best start to a season in 25 years - Ivan Lendl won 25 successive matches back in 1986 - there is certainly more to him than a talent for imitation.

Djokovic has been part of the Tour for more than five years now, but until recently, suffered the same fate as all of his contemporaries in as much as he was seen as an irritating obstacle on the way to the match-up everyone wanted desperately: Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal.

Even when he won the Australian Open back in 2008, the question everyone asked was "What went wrong with Federer?" or "Was Nadal fully fit?" For a 20-year-old who had just won his first Grand Slam, it must have been quite disappointing. Imagine if you'd just topped your class and instead of congratulating you, people asked if the neighbour's boy had been sick during the examinations.

But unlike, say Andy Roddick, who has faded away since Federer and Nadal came on to the scene, Nole has bided his time in the wings, honing his game - making sure he was around in the last stages of the major tournaments (his Grand Slam showing for 2010 was two quarter-finals, one semi-final and a final) and finally, he has received his just desserts.

His showing in 2011 includes three wins over Federer and two over Nadal - a stunning statistic given how dominant the duo has been over the past few years. Those who claimed the Serb could win only when either of the two had an off day may now help themselves to a generous serving of humble pie.

He has already stamped his authority on this year, but if he is to be held in the same regard as the Swiss and the Spaniard, he must come through two incredibly tough tests that lie ahead.

First up is the clay court season that begins on April 9 with the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Last season, Nadal swept all before him on way to his fifth French Open title. Beating the world number one on his favourite surface will be a huge challenge for the Serb.

Given the way the ATP world rankings work (Nadal has a huge number of ranking points to defend given his dominant showing last season), Djokovic has a great chance to close the gap between himself and Nadal at the top of the rankings with a good showing in the weeks leading up to and including Roland Garros.

And then there is Wimbledon - never the best friend of baseline sluggers. Djokovic reached the semis last year where he lost to Tomas Berdych in straight sets, but must aim higher this time.

The greatest players, Federer, Nadal, Agassi, Borg and Laver have always managed to transcend the vast difference between clay and grass  (Lendl's immortal mutter that "grass is for cows" notwithstanding) and for Djokovic to join that elite, consistently good performances on the two surfaces are necessary.

If he manages to get the better of Nadal on clay and beat Federer on grass this season - tennis fans will be in for a treat. After all, what's better than two immensely talented players battling it out for the top spot in tennis? The answer? Three immensely talented players battling it out for the top spot in tennis!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...