Category Archives: Novak Djokovic

FRENCH OPEN: Rafael Nadal on Red Clay, Greatest Force in Sports Ever

(June 12, 2012) Three minutes before he took the court at Roland Garros on Monday, Rafael Nadal wasn’t ready. It had been a rough night, he said. A day earlier, he was putting Novak Djokovic away in the French Open final, and then Djokovic started rolling over him the way he had done all last year.

The match was stopped for the night because of rain. But think of what Nadal went through after that: Djokovic had beaten him in the finals of the past three majors. Djokovic had gotten inside Nadal’s head. Djokovic, for the past year, had been the immovable force in tennis.

Well, forget all that, because in those final three minutes before taking the court Monday, Nadal felt the comfort of home. His home: Roland Garros. Nadal won his record seventh French Open, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. Djokovic is not the immovable force of tennis, after all. Nadal on red clay is.

In fact, Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is the greatest, most dominant individual force in sports today, maybe ever.

Tiger Woods at the Masters? No. Mike Tyson? No. Maybe Usain Bolt. Maybe Michael Phelps, but that was a one-time thing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. We’ll see how they do this summer in London.

Please read the rest of my column on FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Greed Costs Nadal, Djokovic, Tennis Great Moment in History

 

You can’t force history to happen. But you sure can stop it with greed, stupidity, recklessness. Tennis ruined a great moment Sunday, just sold it out to broadcasters, to NBC.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, two all-time greats, were both going for historic heights in the French Open final. It was a dream buildup in a great, new rivalry for a sport that needs as many big moments as it can find. But it rained the whole match, and officials, trying to keep broadcasters happy, kept letting the match go on and on, anyway.

What happened? Not historic greatness, that’s for sure. The showcase was ruined. Everyone lost. Fans saw a crummy match, and it never even finished. Nadal led two sets to one, and trailed 2-1 in the fourth when the match was finally stopped because, well, it’s hard to say why it was stopped, really.

Nothing had changed over the final hour of the match. It just kept drizzling. Maybe officials realized that their greed over TV money, their desperation to make broadcasters happy, had stolen Nadal’s magic and was turning their party into a disaster.

Well, the match is supposed to start up again at 7 a.m. (ET) Monday. But the forecast in Paris calls for more rain. This could drag on for a while.

It comes down to this: They never should have played that match Sunday.

Please read the rest of the column on FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Djokovic, Federer Playing the Mind Games of Champions

This is what makes a champion in tennis, one who can last through history. It wasn’t just that Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were both about to lose, and made great escapes at the same time Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the French Open.

It was that they both won marathons that weren’t about endurance or fitness.

Frankly, as US tennis players once again just sit and watch the world’s best fight it out for a major championship, Federer and Djokovic won because of things that American tennis coaches don’t teach.

It was doubly enforced because you could see it in stereo.

Late in a five-set match that came after another five-set marathon in his previous match, wasn’t Djokovic exhausted?

“I guess at that stage,’’ he said in an on-court interview with the Tennis Channel, “you’re not really thinking if your body is tired or not.’’

Tennis might be the most cerebral sport.

Please read the rest of this column on FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Feats of Clay. Moments in History Coming Together for Djokovic, Nadal, Federer

Great sports arguments work backward through history, step by step, impossible to resolve.

Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus? Jack Nicklaus or Ben Hogan? Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis? Joe Louis or Jack Dempsey? John Elway or Joe Montana or Johnny Unitas?

Somehow, we’ve all been convinced by opinion makers and SportsCenter, who can only sell the Greatest Of All-Time (GOAT), that what we’re seeing now is better than what we saw before. The only way to prove it, of course, would be to get those people through history together in their prime.

That’s what’s different about the place men’s tennis is in now.

“A very special time,’’ Roger Federer said.

Unless opinion-makers are just at it again, working their magic, this might be the moment when the three all-time best meet. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer go into the French Open this weekend aiming for a different and defining spot in history.

Please read the rest of the column at TheDaily.com


AFTER OZ: Novak Djokovic Now Has Signature Moment, Moves on to Fight Through History

 

Every athlete needs a signature moment to make history. Titles and championships and stats are needed too, of course. Something has to fill the record books. But the moment adds pictures and memories and oohs and aahs to the words and numbers.

Muhammad Ali had the Thrilla in Manilla, and another one in Zaire. John Elway had The Drive, and Joe Montana The Catch, and Willie Mays the over-the-shoulder nab. Babe Ruth pointed (supposedly) to the bleachers. Michael Jordan? Well, he had a bunch of them.

So after Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in 5 hours, 53 minutes in the final of the Australian Open Sunday, he took the microphone and told Nadal over the PA system: “We made history tonight.’’ He was talking about it being the longest major final ever.

The truth is, Djokovic moved into history because of the match itself.

A classic. An epic. It might have been the greatest match ever played, though I’m still putting Nadal’s moment – the win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon – ahead of it, as well as at least one of the Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe Wimbledon finals.

But this was the greatest example of two athletes reaching their absolute physical, mental and emotional limits, giving every last drop.

 

Please read the rest of my column at FoxSports.com


Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. . .All-time Greats Going Head-to-Head. GOAT Debate Just Gets More Confusing

 

Rod Laver and Rafael Nadal. Who would have won?

Tennis’ favorite argument, the GOAT debate, is now, officially, a mess. Who is the Greatest Of All Time? Tennis might not have a best player ever.

At this point, for this second, and willing to change soon, I’m still going with Rafael Nadal as all-time best, though he’s not even the best now, having lost to Novak Djokovic Sunday in the Wimbledon final. He also hasn’t won nearly as many majors as Roger Federer.

It’s not easy making an argument that sounds ridiculous to yourself when you’re making it.

But I can’t take Federer, because he always loses to Nadal. And I can’t take Djokovic, because he has only been great for seven to 10 months.

In retirement, Pete Sampras is working his way back into this argument.

You can’t judge accurately through history. Would Rod Laver have beaten Bill Tilden?  I think so, but how do I know for sure? So you can only go on how well someone did against his own generation, and then try to decide how good that generation was. Or maybe you just use the eye-test.

The dream, in any sport really, is to see all-time greats actually playing against each other in their primes. Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus coming up 18 together at Augusta, tied, or maybe Muhammad Ali against Joe Louis. Then it could all be settled.

Well, something close to that is happening now in tennis, and it’s just making things more confusing. Continue reading


WIMBLEDON: Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal to Become King. Will Casual Fan Accept end of Nadal-Federer?

 

 

Novak Djokovic wins Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic dropped to Wimbledon’s Centre Court in celebration and then. . .ate some blades of grass. “Well-kept,’’ he said. A few months ago, when he won the Australian Open, he started taking off clothes, throwing them into the crowd, then taking off more. Knowing him, he wasn’t sure to stop before it got embarrassing. But he did.

The thing is, Djokovic isn’t just for comic relief anymore. He is the king of tennis after beating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 Sunday to win Wimbledon.

Djokovic has been crushing everyone, including Nadal and Roger Federer, all year. But you don’t prove that you’re best in Rome or Madrid, Indian Wells or Miami. It happens at Wimbledon (or the U.S. Open). He is now 48-1 this year, winning two of three majors and beating Nadal five times with no losses.

He officially earned the computer No. 1 ranking on Friday, but proved Sunday that he deserved it.

“Couple good days at the office, yeah,’’ he said, not just holding the trophy, but sort of hugging it. “Really, honestly, the big day of my life.’’

What kind of a day is it for tennis? It is a changing-moment. The game had been led by the greatest individual rivalry in sports: Federer and Nadal. That’s what the casual sports fan wanted to see. Tennis has been living on it since Nadal’s classic Wimbledon win over Federer in 2008.

The tennis world already accepts Djokovic and knows he has ruled the game this year. But without Nadal-Federer at the top, will tennis still sell to anyone outside the club? Continue reading


WIMBLEDON: Best 2 Players, Best Court, Best Moment. Who’s Real No. 1? Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal?

Novak Djokovic reaches his first Wimbledon final, moves to No. 1

Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic. The best two players on the best court in the best moment. For tennis, The New Rivalry gets its big day Sunday in the Wimbledon final. Sure, Nadal already beat Djokovic in the U.S. Open final in September, and that will count when people tally up this rivalry years later. But Djokovic wasn’t at Nadal’s level yet. He still might not be, to be honest, but here’s his chance.

This moment could be to Djokovic what Nadal’s classic win over Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final meant to him. On the other hand, if Nadal wins, he will be the champ of five of the past six majors, and on one of the most dominant runs in tennis history.

Amazing how one match can change things so much. How perfect that it will happen at Centre Court, Wimbledon. It is the ideal way to build interest in the game, too, among Average Joe sports fans who aren’t into tennis otherwise.

Both players won their semifinal matches Friday. Djokovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-7 (11-9), 6-3, and Nadal beat Andy Murray 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.

Whoever wins Sunday is the best player in the world, even though Djokovic will move to No. 1 no matter what. That’s right, even if No. 1 Nadal beats No. 2 Djokovic, the next day the rankings will read 1 Djokovic, 2 Nadal.

Dumb. Continue reading


WIMBLEDON: When Superstars Play Like Kids in a Park. Remembering Novak Djokovic, Robin Soderling, Others

Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova on the Wimbledon practice courts

It’s the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, and everyone takes the day off. I decided to follow their example. But if you want to know that the place is like, here’s what I wrote from the practice courts on the middle Sunday last year, where the world’s best players either worked hard or messed around. It was like a tennis playground for superstars. This column ran in AOL FanHouse on June 27, 2010:

WIMBLEDON, England — Just two guys out playing tennis at the All England Club Sunday. Sure, their names happened to be Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling, and it’s very possible that seven days from now, those two won’t be on practice court No. 1, but instead a few hundred yards away, on Centre Court, playing in the Wimbledon final in the most important tennis match of the year.

But not today.

“I’m so nervous,” Djokovic said, teasing Soderling, who was about to serve. “It’s unbelievable.”

Soderling served, and then ran Djokovic around the court, back and forth, until Soderling finally crushed a forehand winner. When the ball got past Djokovic, who was on a full-out run, he wound up and threw his racquet all the way across the open court next to them.

“I mean, come on,” he said. “Really.”

The second Monday at Wimbledon, tomorrow, is the most exciting day of the year for tennis, with only the U.S. Open’s Super Saturday as competition. But on Monday, all of the final 16 men and 16 women will be playing. So the order of play includes Sharapova vs. Serena Williams, Henin vs. Clijsters, and also Federer, Nadal, Murray, Roddick.

So much tension, so much at stake.

On Sunday, it was the same characters, different setting. Continue reading


WIMBLEDON WEEK: Caroline Wozniacki Crashes Novak Djokovic’ Press Conference, asks about 1-Match Slump

 

Djokovic, Wozniacki

 

Novak Djokovic has lost one match all year. One. True, it was his most recent one, to Roger Federer at the French Open. So leave it to the typical, negative media to come to his pre-Wimbledon press conference asking about his one-match losing streak.

“Novak, I’m sorry if you’ve been asked this question before, since I’m a bit late,’’ the reporter said.

“Where are you from?’’ he asked.

“I am from the Monaco newspaper on Avenue Princess Grace.’’

“Oh, OK,’’ Djokovic said. “I’ll be glad to answer.’’

“You know, you had this little losing streak of one, so what are you going to do to change that.’’

The reporter was Caroline Wozniacki, who popped in during Djokovic’ press conference Saturday and started asking questions. She and Djokovic are neighbors in Monaco. Djokovic likes to joke around pretty much everywhere. Wozniacki made up some strange story in her Australian Open press conferences about being attacked by a kangaroo, then showed up at a later press conference with boxing gloves and a balloon-kangaroo.

No one said they were the best comedians. But as far as comedians go, they are the best tennis players in the world. And for your typical tennis player, they are laugh riots. Here’s how the interview went after Wozniacki’s question about Djokovic’ losing streak.

“Well, you know what?  I will try to look up to some women players who have been so consistent with their wins, for example like Caroline Wozniacki,’’ Djokovic said. “I don’t know if you’ve heard about her.  She’s been winning so much.  She’s become a role model for all of us ATP players.  So I’m going to try to look (at) some of her matches and try to break this losing streak of one, you know, try to get on the right path.’’

Wozniacki: “So who is your favorite women’s tennis player?  Is that her, as well?’’

Djokovic: “Well, we’ll have to keep that a secret.’’

Wozniacki: “Oh, c’mon.’’

Djokovic: “I think I already discovered one of my favorite women’s players.  I just said her name.  She’s actually my neighbor, as well.’’

Wozniacki: “Really?

Djokovic: “She actually lives in the street where you come from.’’

Wozniacki: “Oh, really?

Djokovic: “Yes. From time to time we have coffee there on the beach and just relax and have lunch, have a jog.

Wozniacki: “I’m sure she must be a really, really nice girl.’’

Djokovic: “She is a really, really nice girl.  She’s a great entertainer; No. 1.  You never heard about her?’’

Wozniacki: “The No. 1 actually drinks coffee on the beach with someone who actually almost never lose a match?’’

Djokovic: “Yes. That’s a winning ‑‑  excuse me. . .’’

Wozniacki: “I cannot even talk anymore.  They’re pulling me.’’

Djokovic: “Yeah, I know.  Monaco press is very popular nowadays.

Wozniacki: “Monaco press is unbelievable.’’

Djokovic: “You see.  This is what I’m talking about.’’