Between helplessness, strategic withdrawal and worries behind the scenes: Djokovic’s curious black hole

Did Novak Djokovic use his joker? Beyond the pun (perhaps too easy), hides a reality specific to the Masters and for which the world number 1 is absolutely not responsible: as demanding as it is, the format of this elite tournament gives the right to error. Like his rival Rafael Nadal the day before, the Serbian lost on Wednesday, but it is still possible that the two best players on the planet will meet Sunday for an explanation at the top. Because like the Spaniard against Stéfanos Tsitsipas on Thursday, Djokovic will play Friday against Alexander Zverev for 2nd place in his qualifying group for the last four.

But the comparison stops there. Because if Nadal competed to the end against Dominic Thiem (7-6, 7-6) in a high performance match, the resistance of the world number 1 lasted only 7 games, the time to be broken by a Daniil Medvedev in metronome mode. The following ? A score perfectly played by the Russian and a black hole on the Serbian side. From 2-3 to 6-3, 3-0, the 4th player in the world has scored 7 games in a row against the boss of the circuit. A nightmare series and rare enough for the five-time winner of the event to be reported.

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Did the “Djoker” spare himself an unnecessary fight?

The attitude of Djokovic, unable to revolt, challenged. So much so that our consultant Nicolas Escudé wondered in Eurosport Tennis Club if the person had not let the game slip away to save energy for the future. “Djokovic knew that to qualify on Wednesday he had to win in straight sets. From the moment he loses this first set, it calls into question a lot of things. He probably did not give himself all the means to get this match because he knows he can go for the qualification against Alexander Zverev against whom he has more certainties“, he supposed.

Djokovic would therefore have, consciously or unconsciously, faced with the magnitude of the task, decided not to force. The recent precedent against Lorenzo Sonego in the quarterfinals in Vienna – he had expressed a lack of motivation once the world first place at the end of the year assured – has the merit of existing to accredit the thesis. But Arnaud Di Pasquale, he does not share this observation. He preferred to highlight the performance of Daniil Medvedev who, by his coverage of the field and his astounding regularity in the baseline, posed insoluble problems for the world number 1.

In a somewhat naive way, I find it difficult to subscribe to this reasoning, knowing that he has a day off and that, physically, he is a very armed player. The victory remains important, two sets or three, qualifying or not. For me, he flexes because in front, it’s a wall that makes the perfect match. He has no solutions. He cracks in the second set because Medvedev is simply stronger“, underlined our consultant. The theory is just as relevant, because it can take advantage of a recent example too: the final of Roland-Garros here is a little more than a month where the desire of the Serbian to win a 18th Grand Slam title clearly could not be called into question.

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I can’t afford to let this stuff happen when I’m playing against one of the best players in the world

Stunned from the outset Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic then seemed knocked out. standing on the Philippe-Chatrier court, even clearly refusing the fight from the bottom by multiplying the amortizations. This blow, he also used it in sequences this Wednesday evening in London, for an equally starving success rate, as an admission of helplessness. The Serb did not look for any excuse. “Those seven games that I lost back to back were really bad… I can’t afford to let this stuff happen when I’m playing against one of the best players in the world. He was just better than mebut I could and should have done better. “

Still, this gaze into space, this way of losing interest almost at times in the outcome of the match does not resemble the world number 1. It makes you wonder if Djokovic’s mind is not occupied by other problems than just his performance on the court, and among them the future of the circuit. The Serbian, who has created a new players’ association (the PTPA), also confirmed at a press conference that his application to return to the ATP Players Council had indeed been filed.

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Much energy left behind the scenes: ATP opposes his return to the Council

But he stressed that it was not his fault and that several of his colleagues had urged him to return to the body to influence the decision-making. This candidacy has no chance of success, according to the world number 1, who also revealed that the ATP had changed its statutes, prohibiting a member of the new PTPA from being part of the Players Council. All in all, there is an intense power struggle going on behind the scenes at the moment and it seems entirely conceivable (and understandable) that Djokovic has left a considerable amount of energy in there.

Earlier today, the Serbian had received support from Diego Schwartzman, also involved in the PTPA. “I want to be clear: I am not fighting ATP. Novak and Vasek want to be on the Council because there we will have a voice. We’re just trying to work and make tennis a better sport for everyone“, had thus pleaded the Argentine. Still, if Djokovic wants to equal Roger Federer’s record and his 6 Masters titles, he will not be able to afford to fight several fights at the same time, this week at least. on the other side of the net, Alexander Zverev, too, will have the semi-finals in his sights on Friday.

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