Djokovic seeks an­swers

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

LON­DON. - Just 12 months ago, No­vak Djokovic ar­rived at Wim­ble­don with the world at his feet, but he re­turns to the All Eng­land Club with his ten­nis ca­reer in cri­sis af­ter an as­ton­ish­ing fall from grace.

Hav­ing fi­nally suc­ceeded in his quest to win the French Open last year, Djokovic ap­peared poised to join the ten­nis im­mor­tals.

The Serb was the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam ti­tles at the same time and had won Wim­ble­don in 2014 and 2015, adding to his 2011 tri­umph.

So when he strolled onto Court One to face Sam Quer­rey in the Wim­ble­don third round there ap­peared no end in sight to Djokovic’s reign as the sport’s pre­em­i­nent force.

In­stead, he gave such a cu­ri­ously lethar­gic per­for­mance that Quer­rey was able to win the rain-in­ter­rupted en­counter to end the then world num­ber one’s streak of 30 straight Grand Slam match vic­to­ries.

It was a seis­mic shock and plunged Djokovic into a tail-spin.

Djokovic has lurched from one prob­lem to an­other in 2017, los­ing to world num­ber 117 De­nis Is­tomin in the sec­ond round of the Aus­tralian Open. Hav­ing parted with coach Boris Becker at the end of last year, he has split with long-time as­so­ciate Mar­ian Va­jda.

Djokovic has also taken to con­sult­ing reg­u­larly with “spir­i­tual ad­viser” Pepe Imaz, a for­mer player who runs a ten­nis acad­emy in Spain for un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren, called “Amor y Paz” (love and peace).

In re­cent months Imaz’s in­flu­ence has been seen in Djokovic’s new habit of form­ing a heart shape with his hands and ges­tur­ing to the crowd af­ter he wins a match.

Un­for­tu­nately for Djokovic, those dis­plays of af­fec­tion have been few and far be­tween as he slumped to sur­prise de­feats against Nick Kyr­gios and Alexander Zverev, hun­gry young­sters who dis­played the drive so no­tice­ably miss­ing from his game in re­cent months.

John McEn­roe is con­cerned Djokovic’s de­sire to show the softer side of his per­son­al­ity has robbed him of the ruth­less streak needed at the high­est level.

“From an emo­tional stand­point he per­haps felt he wanted to bring in some­body who wants to give peo­ple a lot of hugs. That does not nec­es­sar­ily trans­late to hav­ing that killer in­stinct,” McEn­roe said.

“It does not au­to­mat­i­cally lose it, but you don’t want to get into a si­t­u­a­tion where it is all peace and love and then have to go out and try to stomp on some­body’s head in com­pe­ti­tion.”

De­scrib­ing the changes as “shock ther­apy”, Djokovic hired Amer­i­can leg­end An­dre Agassi as his coach in time for the French Open.

But Agassi failed to de­liver an im­me­di­ate im­prove­ment as Djokovic crashed to an em­bar­rass­ing quar­ter-final de­feat against Do­minic Thiem at Roland Gar­ros.

The 6-0 “bagel” handed to him in the third set by the Aus­trian was the first time he had suf­fered such an in­dig­nity in 12 years and he was ac­cused of giv­ing up as the de­feat be­came in­evitable.

But Djokovic is still see­ing pos­i­tives. “I was very for­tu­nate and priv­i­leged to have so much suc­cess in the last eight, nine years, and kind of en­tered most of the tour­na­ments as one of the big­gest favourites. So for a change it’s good to not be one of the top favourites,” said Djokovic. - AFP.

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