the rise and rise of djokovic

Posted on August 12, 2007


The long-running dominance at the top of men’s tennis by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal just got a little less cosy.

The top two men will be forced to contend with the young rising star, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. This, especially as the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, the US Open, draws closer.

Djokovic has served notice that he is the man to watch. Young, confident and talented, he upset the world’s numbers one, two and three on his way to winning the Rogers Cup championship in Montreal today.

He had been steadily improving, and drew attention as one of a trio of young Serbians (along with Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic) as the future of tennis. But he has broken through and shone brighter than other rising stars this year.

Djokovic’s service has improved tremendously just over this year, as he rips off powerful first serves, winning a good amount of aces especially during the Rogers Cup. Amazingly, his serve seems to get better during the times when he is under pressure, like when he was threatened by Nadal in the semi-finals. Undeterred, Djokovic produced aces and pin-point accurate serves to get himself out of trouble.

Djokovic’s other powerful weapon in his arsenal is an astounding forehand that he cleverly places, often in corners that are just out of reach of his opponents or blasting it past them with such ferocity that the world’s top players are left a little shell-shocked, unable to answer.

More than his obvious talent and abilities, Djokovic’s outstanding quality seems to be his mental tenacity. During the final against Federer, the 20-year old Serb showed incredible composure and nerve, never doubting his ability to beat the much-feared man across the net, even though he had never beaten Federer in their four previous meetings.

Even when he was obviously in trouble or had just been freshly broken on his serve, Djokovic was perfectly capable of putting the past behind, refusing to dwell on the should-haves, could-haves or would-haves, and moved forward aggressively.

Djokovic obviously came prepared for the match with Federer, gambling that playing to the world number one’s weaker backhand would help deliver the game to him. It paid off handsomely, as the Swiss’ backhand strokes did indeed let him down many times, with over 30 unforced errors committed on his backhand alone. Djokovic was able to get into Federer’s head and throw him off his rhythm, by mixing things around and employing an unpredictable play pattern.

By winning this tournament, Djokovic denied Federer of celebrating his fiftieth career tournament win. For Djokovic, his win in Montreal may only be his sixth career title, but how sweet it must feel, coming on the back of dispatching the world’s top three players, to clinch it.

No less than Nadal had said that Djokovic could be the future number one in tennis. With his ability to perform spectacularly on the hard courts, Djokovic will have a shot at making his way to the top position come the US Open at the end of the month.