Pete Bodo seems to think so.
I'm divided. For one thing I want Novak to play, but only if he's fit 100%, otherwise losing more matches due to pain/injuries would put a sour note to his spotless season that it's completely innecessary. Nole doesn't need to prove anything anymore and he should concentrate on defending all those whopping points the next season. Playing unfit and risking his health further is just bad on all accounts. What he could possibly achieve playing the rest of the season? His lead in the rankings is astronomical, he will end up the year as nº1 with 3 slams and 10 MS. He doesn't need the points nor the glory.
Pull the Plug, Novak
As I write this, Novak Djokovic's participation in the last two events of the year, the Paris Indoors and the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, remains in doubt. My guess is that he's out of Paris for sure, and doing a cost-benefit analysis of skipping the season finale as well.
Djokovic can afford to miss both, given his whopping lead in the rankings—he has roughly 50 percent more points than No. 2 Rafael Nadal, which is nothing short of remarkable. The No. 3, Andy Murray, has issues: mainly that he can't (or hasn't) win a major. And even though No. 4 Roger Federer was twice within one swing of his racquet—or one miss by Djokovic—of knocking the Serb out of the U.S. Open, much as he had bounced Djokovic out of the French Open, the celebrated Swiss has won just two events this year (neither of them a major or Masters 1000), and is so far behind Djokovic in the rankings points race that you needn't bother doing the math.
So my advice to Djokovic in light of recent events is somewhat heretical: Go ahead and pull the plug on 2011. It will be an extremely short off-season if you do not, and you don't even want to know what you will have to defend come the dawning of 2012. Literally, there will be nowhere to go but down.
Djokovic lost the fourth match of his landmark year a few days ago in Basel, to the tough Japanese digger, Kei NIshikori. Djokovic started with a bang, leaping to a 5-1 advantage, but was soon receiving treatment for a bum right shoulder—the same shoulder, incidentally, that caused him to abandon the Cincinnati final to Andy Murray (his second loss of 2011) in August. Not to be confused with the bad back that forced Djokovic to retire during his Davis Cup tussle with Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in September.
I don't much like weighing the importance of injuries in specific matches; I prefer the old Aussie maxim, "If you're fit enough to step on court to play a match, you're not injured." I'm also a realist, and know that players often play hurt, and lose because they're hurt. But it's almost impossible to quantify the degree to which an injury affects the outcome of a match. Djokovic lost the third set to Nishikori, 6-0. About all I feel comfortable saying is that it sure didn't look like the Djokovic to whom we've grown accustomed.
Djokovic's present situation is, well, extraordinary. Absorbing just four losses by this stage in any year is a remarkable feat; only Federer, Jimmy Connors, and John McEnroe have done that (in fact, McEnroe lost just three in his record year of 1984). The mind-blowing part is that injury may well have played a significant role in three of those losses. The percentage of losses Djokovic suffered this year due to retirement (in addition to any other factor) is a whopping 50 percent. That's one record that, should it remain unchanged, will never be broken.
The situation also suggests that Djokovic's remarkable run in 2011 has left him with too little left in the tank, physically and perhaps even emotionally, to play it out. It would be a pity to see Djokovic quit. It would be even worse to see him retire yet again, or lose two or more matches this year because he's not fit. Remember, the World Tour Finals is a round-robin event; he could lose three matches there alone.
Some critics will undoubtedly scoff and say that showing the white flag would be a downer. Others might suggest that the present situation reminds them nothing more than early Djokovic—the young Gluten-woffing guy who sometimes seemed a borderline hypochondriac with his relentless and assorted injuries and allergies. Up to and including the U.S. Open, Djokovic made a persuasive case for having re-invented himself as an iron man, thanks to coping with his allergies and the benefits of his gluten-free diet. But did he run his body into ruin just because he could, taking a giddy emotional, mental and physical ride that was as unsustainable as it was brillliant? It can happen, you know. Horses have been known to run themselves to death. Did Djokovic become . . . too fit?
We don't really know the answer to that. Djokovic and his camp may not know it, either. McEnroe, Connors, Federer and others have been able to sustain comparable levels of excellence through the entire year, playing more matches than Djokovic is on track to log. But everyone is different, and the circumstances and conditions are all unique.
At this point it's fair to wonder if the "new" Novak Djokovic can really be as different from the old, as he seemed to be for most of 2011. It would be unfair and callous to second-guess the nature or degree of Djokovic's injuries and ailments, but there's nothing wrong with contemplating another option at this crossroads. Maybe Novak should pack it in before he does himself serious damage, or finds himself looking at a very short off-season and an impossibly long 2012.