We’ve reached the point where when Novak Djokovic drops two sets in a major tournament, it’s going to be much bigger than that. the favorite than it was at the start of the game. If not already.
For the seventh time in his career, Djokovic accomplished the feat yesterday at Wimbledon, tricking future star Yannick Sener into the charlatan of Hope before taking him away at 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. The semi-finals. Djokovic appeared to have spent the second set after taking a 4-1 lead in the first set. It’s rare for him to look tired and lost of some sort, given that he’s some of the fittest people on the planet. You can always count on Djokovic to get through most things, even if his shot stops simmering for a bit. But that wasn’t the case in the second set, when he already looked thirty-five, giving everyone at that age a glimmer of hope that he had really come for everyone.
The look of lethargy wasn’t supposed to deceive us, and Sinner probably knew what was going to happen because even though he was playing very well, he got nervous in the third set. Everyone seems to be doing it when they play with Djokovic, wondering where the bear trap is as they lead the way. Each step becomes more careful the closer they get to victory. It is another state of mind that the Serb throws at his opponents. Sinner will be a big thing someday, with his elephant pistol of forehand and hopping. But that day continues to be dragged by Djokovic and Nadal in the toughest tease in tennis as they refuse to concede the game to anyone else.
The other cast, and the reason Djokovic is willing to make these kinds of comebacks, is that his game in general doesn’t need a lot of tweaking to get back on track. While others may need to reclaim a lot of ground to rediscover their shot-making, striking lines and abundance of winners, or someone like Nadal will have to tap into the reserve of energy and fury that may not always be physically present, Djokovic’s game is not built on that foundation. He’s capable of all that, but Djokovic’s greatness rests on his being clean and unpretentious, with a combination of ground kicks that land a foot or so below the baseline and simply push his opponents off the field or lure them into taking a risky shot. off the bounce. This leads to a lot of shanks, sprays and short balls that Djokovic can pounce on.
Djokovic was clean in a more stifling fashion in the last three sets of the match, with only three fouls in the third and fifth sets. When Djokovic is clean, gatherings pull, muscles burn, the mind flattens, and Djoker grows stronger as he feels the slack through the net from him. And then he runs into everything, switching from defense to offense instantly when he does so.
There’s also the issue of being the best return ever, so there are no easy points anywhere to be found, and you can feel the opponent sink in between all the shots they have to hit. Sinner had one ace in the last two sets, which may help explain how he broke it twice in each.
Djokovic is able to come back simply because he stayed standing there. Even when things are going right for someone for two sets, the next three sets will be filled with shots returning to him within close range of his feet until he is pushed back to stomp on the lines of his toes. Regardless of what opponents come up with, Djokovic reaches for him and takes him back deep. You can shoot everything at him with everything you have for as long as you can, and when the dust has faded, he’s still there, where he was, flicking his shoulder. No matter how he looks down at times, he’s one game or one shot away from finding the level of the constant object he’s been at for a decade or more.
Coming back from two sets it looks like a major turn and turn the match upside down, for Djokovic it’s just a simple disc tweak. It’s a mod, an alert, which is why it’s most likely to do so. And now his opponents know he’s coming, which means Djokovic is either ahead or behind in the match, and his opponent’s knees are knocking. They know as much as we do that it is no more than an arm’s length from finding it and being there, unshakable and impenetrable.