Todd Martin is gone - does that mean that the real Novak Djokovic is back?
Novak Djokovic, to his credit, has never been one to stubbornly resist change. After all, we are talking about the guy who abandoned his favorite Wilson K-Factor stick for a lucrative new deal with Head after winning his one and only Grand-Slam title.
We are talking about a guy who used to warm down after a match by ridiculing the on court idiosyncrasies of his competition. He now resists the temptation, even as the masses grovel for it.
So it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Djokovic hired Todd Martin last August to become the third wheel in a coaching arrangement that was designed to help the Serb develop strategical components of his game, along with his serve.
Martin, who has spent two and a half years working with Mardy Fish in the past, was anxious to help Djokovic tap a potential that he felt was virtually limitless. Immediately after he was hired he was seen courtside, diligently observing Djokovic play while jotting entries into his little black book. Martin believed that the Serb would benefit from a more aggressive posture that featured more net play and better volleys. As the relationship continued, Martin reportedly suggested that Djokovic tinker with his serving motion in order to reduce stress to a shoulder that had become fatigued in the past.
While it was a sign of willingness to improve - usually a good thing for a player who has reached a temporary plateau - many believed that the relationship was doomed from the start, as Marian Vajda stayed on board as Djokovic's head coach, effectively limiting Martin's influence in the camp.
Eventually, as many expected, the relationship did fail, and Martin was sent packing.
Now that the two have parted ways with nothing but kind words for one another, I can't help but wonder if the exceptionally talented Djokovic will benefit from the fact that the terminated relationship represents a statement of independence more than a failure to improve. And maybe that declaration of independence will help the Serb to become the problem solver (and server) on the court that he once was.
Kudos to Novak for having the courage to try new things. Many a brilliant tennis player has failed to reach his or her potential because of an unwillingness to adjust, and Djokovic, by reaching out to Martin, deserves credit for tirelessly looking to improve.
Even though his experiment did not come to a successful conclusion, Djokovic can now move forward with the knowledge that whatever he thought he needed to change was actually just fine in the first place. He's at a career high No. 2 in the world and he's a threat to win any event on any surface. He's 22 years old with 17 career titles and a Grand-Slam on his resume. There's really not a whole lot to feel bad about here.
By knocking at a lot of different doors, it could be that Djokovic has stumbled upon the key to his success. The capacity to be a champion has always been inside him, he just needed someone to try to change him for him to realize it was there.