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Sports Then and Now



Novak Djokovic: 2010 Starts Now 5

Posted on November 16, 2009 by Rob York
  Novak Djokovic celebrates match point in the Final match against Gael Monfils.

Novak Djokovic celebrates match point in the Final match against Gael Monfils.

How will Novak Djokovic look back on 2009?

As things stand now, it would seem a letdown from the prior year, when he captured his first major title at the 2008 Australian Open, then threw in a couple of Master’s Shields and the year-ending Master’s Cup for good measure.

In contrast with last year – and even with 2007, when he was clearly on the rise – Djokovic’s 2009 campaign bore the marks of a highly gifted young man unsure of where he belonged in the world of tennis. The Serbian, who turned 22 in May, has endured varying degrees of disappointment at this year’s majors.

His title defense in Melbourne was derailed when he withdrew due to heat exhaustion. A heartbreaking loss to Rafael Nadal in Madrid contributed to a flat third-round exit from Paris. While regaining his form at Wimbledon he was surprised by the resurgence of Tommy Haas, and even when his play (and fun-loving demeanor) had returned, it wasn’t quite enough against Roger Federer in New York.

What’s more, the solid play of fellow 22-year-old Andy Murray and the stunning rise of now 21-year-old Juan Martin del Potro made it clear that the Serb was no longer the youngest of the young guns in tennis.

But as Djokovic’s winning ways began being spoken of in past tense, the fall indoor season shows that he has not stopped believing in his own talent. While he is not the cerebral tactician that Murray is, and while he may no single shot as brutally effective as del Potro’s forehand, Djokovic is still arguably a better athlete than either. And this year he’s doing what some of us advised him last year: take advantage of the fall, when your competition has been beaten down by the rigors of the tour.

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