By Chris Oddo | Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Novak Djokovic has had his doubts about his prospects of late. But after winning Indian Wells he may getting his mojo back.
Photo Source: Corleve
Momentum is a fickle mistress when it comes to tennis. One minute you are the cat's meow, the next you are the kitty litter. If you checked with many experts a few days ago they probably would have told you that Novak Djokovic is in big trouble in 2014. He chose the wrong celebrity coach, they'd say, and he's not clutch anymore.
>>> Djokovic Finds a Way against Federer to Win Third Indian Wells Title
Are they right?
Nobody is really sure about Boris Becker's role in Djokovic's future (well, except for Djokovic, who is adamant that things between he and the German are going swimmingly), and after he failed to serve out matches three times in three tries over the weekend at Indian Wells, we're not so sure if he still has that match-point-saving nerve that he possessed a few years ago. But we do know that Djokovic can still play with fire—and, as he proved last weekend, he can still win prestigious titles.
So where does that leave the six-time Grand Slam champion as 2014 turns the corner and makes way for the European clay-court swing? At this time last year, many (myself included) thought Djokovic was a lock to win double-digit Slams in the not-too-distant future, but after coming up titleless in the last four Slams (and winning only one of the last eight), the jury is still out on where Djokovic will eventually sit with regard to the rest of the tennis pantheon.
After his Indian Wells triumph, one that featured many roller coaster rides and a lot of nerve-wracking moments, Djokovic is feeling upbeat about the future. But there were doubts coming in to Indian Wells.
“Considering the fact that I came into the American hard court season without a trophy, first time in many years, it was a different feel,” he said after defeating Roger Federer in three sets in the final. “I know I play well on the court, but not winning a title and coming here, there were certain doubts.”
Pundits who were in awe of Djokovic's near perfect form in 2011 and 2012 have wondered if it will ever be possible for the Serb to return to that form. Djokovic, too, has wondered. Hence the doubts. But he's wondering less after finally notching his first title of 2014.
“I had ups and downs in my concentration in opening rounds,” he said, “but I managed to stay, as I said before, mentally strong and have that self-belief. I carried that all the way through to the title. That's something that definitely makes this title very special to me, and it's going to mean a lot for what's coming up.”
So could this uptick mean the beginning of another run for Djokovic? It's a good question. With Rafael Nadal off his game just a touch do to his lingering back issues, and Andy Murray still not quite back to form after his back surgery, this could be the perfect time for Djokovic to find the “perfect storm” in his game once again.
Djokovic knows that the next wave of great players is coming, and he said so himself on Sunday. “I really think it's good for the sport to have a new player winning a Grand Slam trophy, you know, after many years,” he said of Stan Wawrinka's Australian Open title. “It's going to make our sport a little bit more interesting. It's going to give more belief to the other lower-ranked players that they can challenge the top guys and be contenders to win the majors.”
But Djokovic, like Nadal and Federer and Murray, hopes it comes later rather than sooner. That way, he'll have more time to rack up titles, and hopefully more Grand Slams.
“It's going to come sooner or later,” he said. “I can't predict what's going to happen in the future, but the new generation of tennis players is coming. You have the names like Raonic, Dimitrov, Gulbis, you know, these kind of guys who are definitely showing some great skills and they are improving as players.”
He'll turn 27 at the French Open this year, and though he's still young in tennis terms, Djokovic knows that the window to solidify his legacy is closing, slowly but surely. Having only won one Grand Slam title in the last eight, Djokovic certainly does have something to prove. Does he still have the magic? Can he still battle through those deep, dark emotions and physically grueling matches like he did during his finest hours?
Only time will tell. For now, he can be happy that things appear to be turning in his direction. “The way I won this title is something that makes me very happy and gives me mentally a lot of satisfaction,” he said, “because I have had specifically these three matches against Cilic and yesterday's semifinal [against John Isner] and today's final [against Roger Federer], situations where I played three sets where it was very tense, very emotional. A few points really here and there could go either way, and then it went my way... I stayed mentally tough, and that, for me, is something that gives me a lot of encouragement and hopefully a confidence boost for the rest of the season.”