Friday was quarterfinals day in Montreal, with Andy Murray advancing over Nikolay Davydenko, del Potro showing Rafael Nadal the door and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga winning a game of choking chicken against Roger Federer. Sure, Roger’s loss was a shocker, but the result that really struck me was Andy Roddick’s straight set win over Novak Djokovic: 6-4, 7-6(4).
It wasn’t so much the loss, but the inevitable, routine nature of it that made me wonder: What the heck’s wrong with Novak Djokovic?
The Djoker “yoked” earlier this week that he was “born in the wrong era.” Right now, he could mean the Andy Roddick Era, since he’s lost all three of their meetings this year. But most armchair pundits look back further to pinpoint when the stripping Serbian started to slide. Like all the way back to the 2008 clay court season, when Novak failed to beat Nadal in Hamburg or Roland Garros, therefore losing two chances to overtake the Spainiard as World No. 2. He lost to Rafa again in the Queens Club final that year before crashing out to Safin in the second round of Wimbledon.
Some say Nole’s never been the same since last summer’s Beijing Olympics, when Nadal beat him in the semifinals. Nole lost the three set match, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, flubbing an easy overhead on the final point. He left the court in tears.
Ironically, it could be one of Djokovic’s most impressive stretches of play that eventually broke him down. It came during this year’s clay court season, when after losing to Nadal in back-to-back Masters finals in Monte Carlo and Rome, he played the match of his life against Rafa in the Madrid semis. He held three match points. And he still lost 7-6 (9) in the third set after over four hours on court. Starting to see a pattern here?
Oh, and in the midst of his red hot ride on the red stuff, Nole lost the No. 3 ranking to Andy “hard court demon” Murray, a spot he’d held for 81 weeks. Djokovic still went into Roland Garros as the second favorite, but was upset by Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round. Then he lost to Tommy Haas twice in a row – in the finals of Halle and the quarters of Wimbledon.
Geeze, now I’m starting to feel depressed. . .
I’m also thinking Nadal better watch his back (and his knees) when he takes the court with his new doubles partner** next week in Cincy (click here). After what he’s done to Nole’s career and confidence over the past two years, Rafa would be wise to keep his distance from the guy – by staying on opposite sides of the net!
**Maybe Rafa has taken my advice – it appears the Rafa/Nole dream team is a no-go in Cincy. (Updated 8/16)
But Nole and his fans shouldn’t despair. Just think of Andy “The Real No. 4” Roddick or Roger “Crybaby-turned-GOAT” Federer. Nowadays, a slump is just a harbinger of great things to come.
It’s Andy Murray vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Roddick vs Juan Martin del Potro on Saturday in the Montreal semis. Click here for the TV schedule.