CRI­SIS POINT

Djokovic un­sure he ’ll play Wim­ble­don

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS -

No­vak Djokovic is fac­ing the gravest cri­sis of his ca­reer af­ter a shock French Open de­feat to Ital­ian jour­ney­man Marco Cecchi­nato left him con­tem­plat­ing miss­ing Wim­ble­don to re­build his game and re­boot his state of mind.

The 31-year-old Serb slumped to an epic 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 7-6 (13/11) quar­ter­fi­nal loss to world No.72 Cecchi­nato, a player who had never won a match at the ma­jors be­fore this year’s Roland Gar­ros.

Djokovic, a for­mer world No.1 and 12time Grand Slam ti­tle win­ner, had pre­vi­ously only been beaten by a player ranked lower than 25-year-old Cecchi­nato at the ma­jors on two oc­ca­sions – Marat Safin at Wim­ble­don in 2008 when the mav­er­ick Rus­sian was at 78 and 117th-ranked De­nis Is­tomin at last year’s Aus­tralian Open.

Tues­day’s de­feat left Djokovic shell­shocked, so much so that he threat­ened to skip the forth­com­ing grass-court sea­son and, by ex­ten­sion, Wim­ble­don where he is a three-time cham­pion.

“I don’t know if I’m go­ing to play on grass – I’m just not think­ing about ten­nis at the mo­ment,” said Djokovic who opted to con­duct his post-match me­dia du­ties on Tues­day in a mi­nor con­fer­ence room, which had al­ready been shut up for the evening, far away from the wait­ing cam­eras.

His ca­reer statis­tics which used to sing of record-break­ing feats now make grim read­ing.

The last of his 12 ma­jors was se­cured at Roland Gar­ros in 2016 when he com­pleted a ca­reer Grand Slam.

That was the year he also be­came the first player to break through the ca­reer $100 mil­lion prize money bar­rier.

But his last run to a semi­fi­nal at the Slams was when he went on to fin­ish run­nerup at the 2016 US Open.

The Djokovic re­sume lists 68 ca­reer ti­tles but he’s only won four since his French Open tri­umph in 2016.

That Paris win came af­ter three fi­nal de­feats in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Plagued by in­juries

What was par­tic­u­larly frus­trat­ing for Djokovic on Tues­day was the man­ner of his de­feat. He may have had to call two med­i­cal time­outs for a neck and right leg in­jury, but chance af­ter chance was squan­dered. Three set points came and went in the 12th game of the sec­ond set, three break points were wasted in the sixth game of the fourth be­fore he blew the chance to level the tie at two sets apiece in the ninth game.

He had another three set points in the grip­ping fourth-set tiebreaker, the third of which flew into the Paris evening sky off an ugly bal­looned fore­hand.

There was still a hint of the old Djokovic magic as he des­per­ately clung on, sav­ing one match point with a no-look back­hand vol­ley.

Djokovic, at­tempt­ing to reach a 32nd Grand Slam semi­fi­nal, knows there are lin­ger­ing prob­lems in his game.

A rank­ing of 22 is the low­est for 12 years, a con­se­quence of his long-stand­ing el­bow prob­lems and in­dif­fer­ent form.

He hasn’t made the fi­nal of a tour­na­ment since win­ning the Wim­ble­don warmup at East­bourne last sum­mer.

He won just two ti­tles in 2017 com­pared to seven in 2016 and 11 in 2015. This year too has been a roller coaster. He was knocked out of the Aus­tralian Open in the last 16 by Chung Hyeon, then ranked at 58.

Taro Daniel, the 109-ranked Ja­panese player, stunned him in In­dian Wells be­fore Benoit Paire, at 47 in the rank­ings, knocked him out in Mi­ami.

In what was be­com­ing a fa­mil­iar tale, Martin Kl­izan, at 140, stunned him in Barcelona be­fore there were signs of life with a semi­fi­nal run at Rome where it took Rafael Nadal to snuff out his chal­lenge in the semi­fi­nals.

“It is dif­fi­cult. Many things in life are dif­fi­cult,” said Djokovic.

“Any de­feat is dif­fi­cult in the Grand Slams, es­pe­cially the one that, you know, came from months of buildup.

“And I thought I had a great chance to get at least a step fur­ther, but wasn’t to be. That’s the way it is.”

At least Djokovic can look to old ri­val Roger Fed­erer for in­spi­ra­tion.

It may be two years since Djokovic’s last Grand Slam tri­umph, but Fed­erer went al­most five years from Wim­ble­don in 2012 un­til the 2017 Aus­tralian Open be­fore he added to his ma­jors col­lec­tion.

Photo: VCG

No­vak Djokovic re­acts dur­ing his match against Marco Cecchi­nato at the French Open on Wed­nes­day in Paris.

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