Novak Djokovic -- heart of a champion (?)
Now this is an attempt to have a serious discussion about Djokovic's prospects. Decide for yourself whether this is for you. Besides, I know you are all cool and tough and know plentiful swearwords; not need to prove it here.
When Djokovic burst on the scene a couple of years ago I was impressed. Here was a skinny kid with a "can-do" attitude who seemed not in awe of Federer and Nadal. Who wasn't resigned to playing second fiddle and being an also-ran. Who wore his confidence on his sleeves which made him seem a bit cocky, but so what. Also, while his game had neither Federer's elegance nor Nadal's physical intensity, he could play almost every strike in the book, and his groundstrokes had a precision and aggresiveness that took his opponents constantly out of their comfort zones. His versatility allowed him to play smart, adjust tactics in the middle of a match. When he won the Australian Open last year -- following a lost US Open final that owed more to nerves than the superiority of his opponent -- I reckoned this kid could become really great.
One year later, Djokovic is still one of the most dangerous players on the tour, but clearly his status isn't the same. His cockiness and confidence are still there, but instead of aiming at surpassing the top dogs with consitently outstanding performances -- the only way to do it -- he seems to be content to beat them every now and then and otherwise be the #3 player of the world (this is what seems to matter to him -- he got quite upset when it was suggested there may be a "big 4" now).
Maybe this is in recognition that he isn't far enough yet to serially produce the needed results, but it also seems an attitude thing. Most disturbing is his tendency to throw matches. It's one thing to retire every now and then, another to make a habit of it and call it quits because of discomfort or minor injuries. Compare this to Federer, who played through the 2008 Australian Open with mononucelosis (if you ever had mono yourself and experienced the all-numbing fatigue that comes with it, you'll appreciate the effort), or to Nadal, who's suffering from chronic tendinitis in his knees and for whom every hard court tournament must be an ordeal. It also seems that there is a self-destructive trait in Djokovic to make fuss about himself, act like a diva (not unlike his compatriot, Ms. Jankovic), which detracts him from doing this job.
If he goes on like this, Djokovic will fail to exploit his potential. I guess at some point he will need to take a step back and think through with a sober mind what he wants to achieve in the game. Maybe a little maturing is all he needs. But for now it looks as if his path to greatness would be at least be delayed.
Current sanyaku ranked players:
Yokozuna: Novak Djokovic (Dai-Y), Roger Federer (Dai-Y), Rafael Nadal (Dai-Y)
Ozeki: Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray (kadoban)
Sekiwake: Marin Cilic (ex-Ozeki), Richard Gasquet
Komusubi: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (ex-Sekiwake)
Active ex-sanyaku ranked players: Ozeki: Del Potro, Hewitt, Berdych, Ferrer. Sekiwake: Baghdatis, Haas, Raonic, Nishikori. Komusubi: Robredo, Ginepri, Gasquet, Verdasco, Melzer, Monfils, Youzhny, Janowicz, Dimitrov, Gulbis, Kyrgios
Last edited by Henry Kaspar; 01-29-2009 at 06:06 PM.