Tennis - Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic, the man of quiet lifts

Tennis – Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic, the man of quiet lifts

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By dint of force, one would almost end up believing that he does it on purpose to play with his adversaries – especially the youngest -, like a big feline that likes to leave a little hope to its most naive prey. As he did last year at Roland-Garros against Lorenzo Musetti in the round of 16 (6-7, 6-7, 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 ab.), then against Stefanos Tsitsipas in final (6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4), Novak Djokovic came back victoriously two sets behind. This time, against Jannik Sinner, this Tuesday in the Wimbledon quarter-finals (5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2). With an ultra-similar scenario each time: two disturbing first sets, and three following one-sided.

Implacable, then shaken, Djokovic ended up burying the hopes of “coming back” from Tsitsipas

But above all, each time with the same impression: that this scenario of the “remontada” has something implacable, obvious limit. Admit that you all said the same thing more or less from the first exchanges of the 3rd set: “Novak Djokovic will come back…” And he came back. If we dare say, it felt from the locker room, this cool break that the Serb, as always now when his back to the wall, granted himself at the end of the 2nd set.

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But what could he possibly have done during those few seconds of solitude in the intimacy of a room at the All England Club, to come out of it so pumped up and totally transformed? “Well, know that I had a little chat with myself in front of the mirror”revealed smiling – but not joking – the world No. 1. Sometimes, in this kind of match, you have to go through it: a little break, time to recover, regroup your thoughts and rebuild the puzzle.

In this case, he rebuilt everything in minutes. And this was seen as soon as he returned to the Center Court. To his body-language, to his general attitude. The classic posture of a player down two sets to nothing is that of a player who looks at his shoes, frowns or complains to the four winds. Novak Djokovic, he returned with swollen pecs, a serene look and a look on the lookout. It felt like the game was starting. In fact, more exactly, that another match was starting. And this one, we quickly understood that the six-time winner of Wimbledon was quickly going to dominate it.

“I was lucky to start the 3rd set well and it gave me a boost, explained the player again during an interesting post-match interview. At the same time, I saw that doubt was starting to creep into his game, into his rhythm.” In fact, Djokovic applied the same “technique” against Sinner as against Musetti and Tsitsipas last year at Roland-Garros: the technique of putting pressure on from the start of the 3rd set, rewarded with a quick break (from Sinner’s second service game on Tuesday).

In this kind of situation, the inner fight is the most difficult to win.

This is what characterizes these “remontada” with Djokovic sauce compared to the usual scenarios of these ascents from hell, often marked by a tipping point at the end of the 3rd set before the progressive implementation of vases communicators. There, no communicating vessel. We have two matches in one, each time. And that’s what makes it quite fascinating.

In total, it is therefore the 7th time in his career that Novak Djokovic has made a comeback after being led two sets to nothing. The list below also shows that his first feats in this area featured a more “classic” scenario, that of a player who came very close to defeat at one time or another:

  • Wimbledon 2005 (2nd round): b. Garcia-Lopez 3-6, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4
  • US Open 2011 (1/2 final): b. Federer 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5
  • Roland-Garros 2012 (8th final): b Seppi 4-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3
  • Wimbledon 2015 (8th final): b. Anderson 6-7, 6-7, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5
  • Roland-Garros 2021 (8th final): b. Musetti 6-7, 6-7, 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 abs.
  • Roland-Garros 2021 (final): b. Tsitsipas 6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
  • Wimbledon 2022 (1/4 final): b. Sinner 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2

Not bad for a player whose physical and even mental qualities were not necessarily those that were most highlighted at the start of his career. That said, Novak Djokovic is not yet at the level of the best “repairers” that are, in the modern history of tennis, players like Aaron Krickstein, Boris Becker as well as his rivals from the Big Four, Roger Federer and Andy Murray ( 10 each).

“Djokovic plays his entire season at this Wimbledon, a significant weight for him”

However, none has made it his signature as Novak Djokovic seems to be doing, with his unique ability to go from player in distress to steamroller on a mission in an instant. “For 20 years of playing tennis at the highest level, I know that in this kind of situation, the inner fight is the most difficult to win. The pivotal moment may indeed have been the toilet break. But no matter what, I always believed that I could turn this game around in my favour.” It sounds so easy, put like that…

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