Because the clichés have a hard tooth, because the reality of things changes faster than mentalities, Novak Djokovic resembles almost everything except the idea that we generally have of the typical grass player: namely a big server, a big volleyball player, and even a big volleyball player. Baseline player par excellence, a priori rather considered (still) better on hard court, the Serb has become over the years an immense grass player, now one of the greatest in history with his seven Wimbledons which make him the equal of Pete Sampras, one unit off Roger Federer’s record, two players more in tune with traditional herbivore standards.
Of course, Novak Djokovic is above all a reflection of his time, the slowing down of the grass and the general evolution of the game towards the baseline. His seven Wimbledon victories do not compare so much to the five of Björn Borg, who forced his nature by following his first ball to the net most of the time. Nor to the “one shot” of Andre Agassi, one of the rare players – perhaps the only one – to have won on the grass of yesteryear by remaining essentially camped on his line. If the grass had not been changed in 2002, it is possible that the Serb would not have won seven times in the Temple, even if he would certainly have ended up triumphing there one day, as he is so strong.
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Then there was the decisive game of a 4th set during which the servers ruled, up to 6-6, therefore. In a tie-break, it is often said that the best servers have an advantage. Maybe, but they are mostly the ones who manage to keep their nerves the best. Djokovic achieved this perfectly by leading this tie-break masterfully, without the slightest apparent emotion on his face despite the enormity of the stakes, unlike Kyrgios whose brain, it was visible, was in boiling, despite his commendable efforts to remain wise.
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Djokovic wins serve-return dialogue
It’s a fact proven a thousand times over, Novak Djokovic is a cold-blooded reptile, who suffocates his victims slowly like a boa constrictor, more than he blasts them without leaving them the slightest chance of salvation. . Afterwards, of course, it might be a little reductive to sum up his general dominance to the two brief moments we talked about. If we take a closer look at the statistics, the Serb dominated THE key factor in the game on grass: the serve-return dialogue.
That Kyrgios is a better server than Djokovic, everyone will probably agree. That Djokovic is a better raiser, we should not find many people to dispute it either. It remained to be seen which of the two would be the best in the combination of these two shots. And for that, there is only one reliable indicator: the percentage of points won behind the first and behind the second ball. Djokovic dominated these two sectors: 83% (against 70) behind his first, and 61% (against 53) behind his second. From there, curtain: the match was folded.
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If Kyrgios hasn’t managed to raise his percentage a little more, it’s not because he hasn’t served well enough, quite the contrary. He served the lead, himself said so. It is rather because Djokovic, faithful to his legend, was able to read it better and better over the match. And if the Serb, for his part, declared that he could have served better (he committed 7 double faults, like his opponent, but half as many aces, 15 to 30), he nevertheless highlighted the relative weak point of Kyrgios in return, especially in forehand return.
Four in a row, a first for “Djoko”
How ? By varying his commitment perfectly and by using in particular two types of service which proved to be extremely effective against the Australian, namely the small service sliced outside on the equality side, and the service to the body. Without ever looking for speed, he accumulated a lot of free points and this in important moments. His serve is perhaps today what best sums up his whole game: it is not necessarily “flashy” at first glance, but it is absolutely admirable in intelligence and efficiency.
Then, alongside this service-return dialogue that he won, Djoko made Djoko. He limited the fouls (17 to 33 in all). “From the baseline, in the last three sets, I didn’t miss muchrejoiced the winner in front of the press. It was part of the strategy.” In tennis, everyone’s strategy is to miss as little as possible. But nobody does it as well as Djokovic.
With these three key weapons, which are service, return and composure, Novak Djokovic has gradually evolved into the ultimate grass player. Here he is now at the head of a treasure trove of seven Wimbledons, including four in a row, a performance he had not achieved at any other Grand Slam. And again, the 2020 edition has been canceled, otherwise he might today be at the head of a double record of 22 Grand Slams including eight Wimbledon. Wimbledon, the tournament that made him dream being small, today more than ever has become his garden, and even his (almost) impregnable fortress.
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