The new era of SuperNovak
Join Date: Oct 2009
Re: Player/Coach Changes (Stani/Lundgren split, Toni/Rafa speculation)
Originally Posted by Sophocles
He does. At least in the extracts I've seen. Nole Fan (I think) quoted a long passage about his "strategy" against Djokovic - the gist of which was, there was no strategy except to play exceptionally well, reminding me of T.S. Eliot's, "The only 'method' is to be very intelligent." Anyway, in that extract, every 3rd sentence was "Toni says this" & "Toni thinks that".
You mean this?
"A year younger than me, Djokovic was a hell of a player, temperamental but hugely talented. Toni and I had been talking about him and I'd been watching him in my rearview mirror, looming closer, for a while now. He'd been racing up the rankings, and I had a strong feeling that he would be neck and neck with me before too long, that it would not just be me, but me and him, against Federer. Djokovic has a strong serve and was fast and wiry and strong -often dazzling- on both forehand and backhand. Above all, I could see he had big ambitions and a winner's temperament".
"On the flight to Barcelona from Montecarlo, where I won the title, another passenger asked me whether there were any serious rivals for me out there, beyond Federer. I didn't hesitate to reply. "Novak Djokovic", I said. "He'll be challenging us hard in a couple of years' time". Already he has been giving me trouble. He'd already won a Grand Slam in January that year, the Australian Open, at the age of twenty. Everybody still had their eyes on Federer and me, but we both knew Djokovic was the up-and-coming star and that our dual dominance was going to be more at risk from him than from any other player. Disconcertingly, he was also younger than me. This was something new. This younger guy was now beating me, and even when I won, he was giving me very tough games. Federer would presumably retire before I did, assuming injury didn't do me in. Djokovic would be dogging me right to the end of my career, trying everything to jump ahead of me in the rankings".
A strong and fit Djokovic was a formidable opponent. Our match (USO 2010 final) didn't have quite the same aura as another Federer-Nadal battle, at least as far as crowds were concerned, but for me the challenge was quite daunting enough. He is a very complete player -more complete, Toni says, than I am- without any obvious weak points, and on hard surfaces, such as the one at Flushing Meadow, he'd beaten me more times than I had beaten him. His greatest strengths are his excellent sense of positioning on the court and his ability to hit the ball early, on the rise. He is as good on the backhand as on the forehand, and his vision of the ball is so sharp that he plays with time to spare, more often than not inside the court, narrowing the angles for his opponents, making the game a lot easier for himself.
With Federer, the rule is always to keep patiently plugging away, knowing you'll force him sooner or later to make mistakes. With Djokovic, there is no clear tactical plan. It is simply a question of playing at your very best, with maximum intensity and aggression, seeking to retain control of the point, because the moment you let him get the upper hand, he is unstoppable.
My impressions were confirmed as I watched his semifinal against Federer on TV, which Djokovic won after saving two match points. I thought, not for the first time, "What and incredibly tough and talented guy!". I also thought how hard it was going to be to beat him. When I watch the top players on video, I often have the feeling that they're better than me. In my case it's probably got a lot to do with Toni, who's conditioned me to believe from childhood that every match is going to be an uphill battle.
(A whole chapter is dedicated to the USO final) The secret lies in being able to do what you know you can do when you most need it. Djokovic is a fantastic player -more naturally gifted than I am, in Toni's view- but in a Grand Slam final, decided over the best of five sets, nerves and stamina count as much as talent. As for the stress of a US Open final, I'd won eight Grand Slams to his one, and that gave me the confidence of knowing that I could take it on at least as well as he. Another thing going for me was that his track record showed that he flagged physically in longer matches. He had never beaten me in a best-of-five match. He was, it was true, a player who had dazzling moments, but I was playing steadily, the diesel engine was purring. I sensed that if I won the third set, he'd be left feeling as if he had a mountain to climb.
Whatever happened next, I'd leave the game of tennis one day as someone who'd been important in the sport, as one of the best, and hopefully -for I thought this too at my moment of triumph- as someone who people considered a good person.
Novak Djokovic -or 'Nole' as i call him, as do his fans, friends and family- is all these things already. Extraordinarily gracious at a moment so bitter for him, he didn't wait for me at the net but came over to my side of the court and embraced me, congratulated me on what I had done.
In the presentation ceremony Nole was the first to speak, and once again, he behaved with great class, showering praise on me and thanking absent friends. he showed himself to be the most dignified of losers and a credit to our sport. I also made a point of acknowledging Nole's attitude in defeat, and what a great example he set to kids everywhere. I said I was sure he'd be winning this trophy very soon, as I am sure he will continue to be a fearsome rival in the years to come.
One thing is clear though: Rafa is a really sweet kid and humble to the core. I had always suspected his humility was fake, but after you read his book you realise it was forced upon him since he was very little. That also created his insecurities which he has plenty. But he's a transparent person. I don't think he's faking anything.
Now I understand why Toni criticized the way Nole and his team celebrated after the win in Madrid. Rafa confesses that they have never celebrated a single title with his family, it goes against Toni's rules. Yeah, very normal.