One of the most interesting stories on the ATP world tour right now is if Novak Djokovic can come back to the top. His start in 2018 has left lots of questions about his future on the tour.
Can Novak Djokovic come back to the top? Well, like I mentioned in this post about his new racquet setup, he has not started 2018 in very a positive way. In fact, Djokovic has posted the worst start he has to a year since he turned pro. Sportscaster Ravi Ubha listed Djokovic’s first ten matches per year here.
But yes, he is rusty, so maybe we should not expect more either? The problem for Novak is that tennis is a confidence game and the more matches he loses, the less confident he will be for upcoming ones. At the time of writing he is playing against Kei Nishikori in the first round of the Madrid masters and he is playing pretty well. It is not an easy draw in the first round of a Masters tournament, but Djokovic is down to 12 in the rankings now, so these things will happen.
Can Novak Djokovic come back to the top? His old team is a good start.
I think one logical decision to make if he wants to “turn back time”, is trying to reset the way things were back when he was dominating the tour. And in a way he is doing that by firing his new team with Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek and getting back with his old fitness trainer (Gebhard Phil-Gritsch) as well as his coach, Marjan Vajda. The one “new” thing that stands out is his new racquet setup.
Was it a good idea to change the racquet? Well, if he needed to do so due to his elbow, yes. But if he wanted to add some extra power or dimension to his game, it might have been too soon since he is trying to recreate that environment of success with the rest of his team. There is of course a risk that the racquet becomes a thing that starts weighing on his mind too much and starts bothering him mentally during matches (us racquetholics know all about this feeling).
Can Novak Djokovic come back to the top? It is all mental. Or is it?
Federer came back to dominate tennis once again at 35 years old. The current world number one, Rafael Nadal is 32. Djokovic is one year younger than Rafa so when you see the success of Federer and Rafa, you would think Djokovic has no reason to worry about his body as long as he stays fit and healthy, right? What about his mental state then?
Djokovic has had issues with his marriage, stemming from earlier infidelity (not sure if these are only rumours or not) and he has been going to the tennis “guru” Pepe Imaz for “long hugs and meditation sessions” according to the Telegraph. Whether the sessions with Pepe Imaz affects him in a good or bad way is impossible to say, but the results on the tennis court has not been very good. There is even a petition online for Djokovic to stop going to Pepe Imaz!
The main idea behind the Pepe Imaz academy is to act more balanced on court, stop critizing your own game during matches and to be in a positive frame of mind. Fist-beating and big celebrations of a point is not really in line with the Imaz line of thinking. It will be interesting to see if Djokovic is trying to take back more of his “old self” this year (which was intent on fighting alone on court and pumping himself up), instead of the Imaz ideology.
Can Novak Djokovic come back to the top? It’s all about the W.
I personally believe that Djokovic can come back to a very high level. Maybe not the highest and maybe not number one in the world, but definitely top 5. It is all about boosting that confidence by winning some tough matches against good players. If he can get a streak going, I think he could be a candidate for hard court masters and the US Open later this year. For the French Open and Wimbledon, I still think he has some way to go.
It will be interesting to hear your opinion about Djokovic and his chances to come back to the top. Please comment below!