Djokovic's Summer of Discontent
The late summer brought some doubts about Novak Djokovic's grip on the No. 1 position in men's tennis. More than that, it left us wondering if he's any longer dependable as a solid favorite in tennis betting.
Summer Shines on A Hitch
After he won his first French Open, in July, everyone was penciling him into the finals of every tournament he entered. But he stumbled in the third round at Wimbledon, and we wondered. Then he blanked in the first round of the Olympics, and we doubted. But the consensus was, "Hey, it's Novak! He'll pop back - just wait 'til the U.S. Open." The U.S. Open arrived, and Djoker cruised, almost literally. He got wins over two players who retired and another in a walkover. By the time he got to the semifinals, he simply had not played the amount of tennis needed in a Grand Slam event for anyone to get a good look at him. He took Gael Monfils in four sets in the semis and we were reassured that he was on track. But in the finals against Stan Wawarinka, Djokovic was not himself. After winning the first set in a tiebreaker, he lost the next three sets and the title, later admitting that Wawrinka was more "mentally prepared."
Maybe that was the clue we had not discovered all along. We knew that he had a problem with his left wrist going into the tournament, but that didn't seem to be the source of his uncharacteristic play. He had also alluded to "personal" issues, which may be closer to the source. Djokovic later admitted: "Somehow I lost it along the way after Paris and the French Open. I felt that over the last couple of months it was difficult for me to re-engage myself."
A Chance at Renewal
Excuse? Perhaps. But Djokovic still has a chance to reassert himself, with two remaining Masters events in Shanghai in mid October, and Paris (Oct. 31-Nov. 6). Then comes the season-ending World Tour Finals in London in mid-November. Maybe the current break in action will give him a chance to retool his mental state and come back firing. I'm willing to predict that by the end of the year, Djokovic will be as dependable in men's tennis betting as he was at mid-summer.
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