Thursday, February 11, 2010

Philosophical Tennis: What Makes Djokovic Tick?

I think that I may have stumbled upon what makes Djokovic tick. We all know that there is something about the guy, there is no denying that. But what is it? For me I think it is the stylish flair of Novak Djokovic's strokes - he can be a real Picasso out there - and the robust quality of his athleticism that make him simultaneously endearing and alluring to me.

Anyway, here are my philosophical musings on Djokovic:

I think that Djokovic derives so much thrill from hitting with perfect technique — we've all seen that machine-like side of Djokovic, when his brain is on auto-pilot and he is molesting the ball — that when he finds himself fatigued, and therefore can no longer produce his classic European technique with the same level of perfection, his mind shifts from autopilot to oh-my-god-I-want to-get-off-this-court-because-I-don't-feel-so-good.

And when he does that he suffers mightily.

In other words, the game seems to lose its lustre to Novak — this is my theory, so at least let me finish the piece before you barge in and tell me what an idiot I am — when he is tired.

And when the act of striking the ball has lost its lustre to Novak that little extra something goes missing from his game. Suddenly the dominator is being dominated.

Every tennis player has elements of this duality embedded in their psyche, but Novak seems to be more plagued by his split personalities than the other top-5 guys.

Keep in mind that we are talking about one of the best 5 tennis players in the world at the moment, and don't mistake this for a scathing criticism of the Djokovic body of work. This is just a little friendly diagnosis that I wanted to throw out there for the sharks to feed on. Please tell me what you think in the comments section.

We are talking here about a small sliver of the mental game of tennis, but if it creates small cracks in the armor of Djokovic's stroke production it could have more implications than we know.

If I was Djokovic's coach, I wouldn't be sitting court side with a notebook like Todd Martin while Novak plays. I'd be begging him to relocate the unquenchable desire that burned him up inside in 2008. That is what made Djokovic tick back then. He was insatiable when it came to victory. He played like a man possessed then. Watching that semifinal I got the impression that he was like a boxer coming out of the corner.

Will he ever play with that kind of desire again?

What do you think?

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