Novak Djokovic’s stunning four-set victory over Rafael Nadal in today’s Wimbledon final, not to mention his overtaking of the No. 1 ranking, his ridiculous 47-1 record for the year, eyebrow-raising winning streak of five finals in a row vs. Rafa – on hard, clay and grass surfaces no less – and general kick ass mojo, has changed the conversation in men’s tennis.
Novak’s mother, Dijana, puts it this way (via the NYTimes):
“For four years it was Roger, Rafa, Rafa, Roger,” said Djokovic’s mother. “Now it is Novak, Novak, Novak, Novak.”
This coming from the woman who declared Nole the new King of tennis after his 2008 Australian Open title – she is his mother, after all – but before you jump down her throat consider this background from Pete Bodo.
A reporter who spoke with Djokovic’s mother [after Serbia won Davis Cup last year] told him that she had said that Davis Cup triumph finally taught Djokovic to “play without fear.”
“Well, if my mother says that, then it’s like that, you know. There is nothing else I can say.” Djokovic laughed along with everyone else at his analysis. But he went on in serious vein. “No, really, it is. . . After the Davis Cup win I was full of life, full of energy, eager to come back to the tennis court, eager to play some more, win some other tournaments. In a sentence, I lost my fear. I believed in my abilities more than ever. Australia was one of the best tournaments I played in my life.”
And as for the “Roger, Rafa, Rafa, Roger” stuff, Novak thinks there’s been more than enough said on that topic (via Tennis.com):
“Well, we all know the careers of Nadal and Federer. We don’t need to spend words again. They have been the two most dominant players in the world the last five years.
“I have full respect for those two guys, what they have done. Anytime I play them, I mean, it’s a great match. But the mental approach has to be positive. You know, (you tell yourself) I have to win this match. There’s no other way.”
Nole’s no fear approach has led to a string of consecutive victories over Rafael Nadal this season. It’s been Rafa left with self-doubt and nerves – he admitted after the final that he struggled mentally against his Serbian rival. But he also balks at the idea that his own dominance is going the way of the serve-and-volley specialist. Via ESPN:
“Find solutions, that’s what I have to try and that’s what I’m going to try [to beat Nole]. Seriously, I lose because I am playing against the best player of the moment. My experience says this level is not forever. Even for me, when I was last year winning three Grand Slams, my level of last year was not forever. Probably the level of Novak of today is not forever. I’m going to be here fighting all the time, waiting my moment.”
As for Roger Federer, he made his biggest statement of the season so far by beating Novak in the semis of Roland Garros. Sure, winning a Major is still paramount, but that big win in Paris has kept Roger relevant in the media and therefore still in the conversation.
Right now there’s a fascinating game of rock/paper/scissors being played amongst Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. I doubt Dijana’s all-Novak-all-the-time prediction will come true, but there’s no doubt that Nole – more than any other player over the past few years or so – has changed the dynamic and the conversation at the top of men’s tennis.
Anyone else already looking forward to the US Open?