Friday, September 22, 2023

Djokovic: perfection as a path and goal to be the best in history

Daniil Medvedev is not only one of the best players in the world, as confirmed by his number 3 and the tennis he has displayed in this edition of the US Open, although it failed him in the final match against the unstoppable machine that is Novak Djokovic.

The 27-year-old Muscovite is also one of the most insightful and fun tennis players in his statements. And on Sunday, his first words to the almost 24,000 viewers of Arthur Ashe That they just saw him submitted to the Serbian as he took another step 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) and 6-3 in his unmatched and still unfinished story was a hoot:“What are you still doing here?”? Come on… (…) I don’t know when you plan to take your foot off the accelerator a little. I feel that I don’t have a bad career and I have 20 titles and you have 24 great ones.”

The Serbian tennis player is the only player who has won all the majors at least three times

Margaret Court’s 24

Medvedev hit the target again. Because those questions, those comments, are the questions that Djokovic continues to raise in 2023. To the 36 years, the tennis player who raised his first big one back in 2008, not only still on the slopes, but dominating it, if not everything, almost everything. with his fourth title in New York After those of 2011, 2015 and 2018, it not only becomes the oldest winner in Flushing Meadowsbut he has taken his honors of greats until those 24 that in the history of sport had only reached Australian Margaret Court.

Djokovic gets ready with two grand more than the 22 of Rafael Nadal, now injured, and four more than Roger Federer, already retired. The same year in which he has obtained a unprecedented tenth title in Australiahas also added its third Roland Garros. And only Carlos Alcaraz left him without his eighth Wimbledon and, like Medvedev in New York in 2021, without the Grand Slam on the calendar. Even so, he is already the only player in the annals who has won all the greats at least three times and the first one to win on four occasions, three of them in the same year (2022, 2015, 2021 and 2023). And this Monday, again, he has returned to number 1, displacing the one from El Palmar from the top of a podium where he has also been, more weeks than anyone else (390 starts).

“I don’t want to quit if I’m at the top, if I’m playing at the level I’m playing. Eventually one day I’ll quit tennis, in about 23 or 24 years.”

“You’ll see me a little more”

“I ask myself those questions too,” Djokovic admitted to the press. “But knowing that I still play at such a high level and that I win the biggest tournaments in the sport… I don’t want to leave it if I’m up, If I’m playing at the level I’m playing. Eventually one day I will leave tennis, in about 23 or 24 years,” he said, laughing, “and new young players will appear… But until then I assume you will see me a little more.”

Judging by what Goran Ivanisevic, his coach, explained to journalists shortly before, that “little” will not be. Because Djokovic has his eyes on the Los Angeles Olympic Gamesand we talk about 2028. And “if he wins on the 25th he will think, why not the 26th?” Because with Djokovic, as the Croatian knows, who defines him as “a born winner”, “It is always one more, something more. (…) And when you tell him he can’t do something it’s even worse. Because he’s going to show you that she can. There are no excuses”.

Novak Djokovic celebrates the US Open with his family. EFE

a perfectionist

What the numbers or the confessed goal of organizing his calendar in search of those greats do not explain is something more ethereal but fundamental to understanding what motivates Djokovic, what he aspires to. And there we must introduce the work of someone who defines himself as “a perfectionist“, from a tennis player who works by hitting reinvention and that compensates for the disadvantages that the age and the inexorable passage of time (as seen in several moments of the epic and grueling second set against Medvedev on Sunday, which lasted one hour and 44 minutes) with a surgical precision with which he exploits that game and that head that have no comparison. Not for nothing half of his grand has won them after turning 30.

“There are always changes“Literally every week or every month, with how I approach training, recovery, mental preparation… There is always something that I try to add to improve my performance in my game, at least a minimum percentage,” he explained. “It’s a constant process of trying to be better, try to implement things that work for you and find that formula. And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that even when you find it, it’s no guarantee and it probably won’t work next year. You need to reinvent yourself because the rest does it. And it is a constant process of evolution to obtain things that give me an advantage over young people”.

The new rivalries

As the rivalry with Nadal and Federer fades, which led the ‘Big Three’ to push their limits and raise their game to never-before-seen heights, Djokovic now embrace new rivalries, especially the one that has been created with Alcaraz and the one that is also maintained with Medvedev. And he assures that he seeks the “appropriate balance between motivation that allows you to be inspired to play the best tennis and compete with young people and at the same time maintain fun and passion for sport.”

The Serbian, who this week will be in Valencia competing for Serbia in the Davis Cup, also continues to learn. If the defeat against Medvedev in 2021 is largely attributed to a diminished performance under the weight imposed by taking over from Rod Laver as the only man with a Grand Slam on the calendar in the Open era, now he affirms that he has decided not allowing the importance of the moments and historical milestones at stake to get into your head.

The triumph in NYwhere Nole has lived some of the dark moments of a career that has been peppered with outbursts of rage and arrogance, It also has others sweet aftertastes. He has been able to return to compete in the USA after not having been able to do it in 2021 for not being vaccinated against Covid (and that the main sponsor of the final day was the pharmaceutical company Moderna was not without irony). And throughout his three hours and 17 minutes of play he received a unusual and energetic support from the New York public, who, eager to witness history, gave Djokovic the love that he craves so much and that eludes him so much.


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