Among the many barely loopy stats that escorted Novak Djokovic’s victory on the ATP Finals, there may be this one: the Serb is the one participant in historical past to have received the “Masters” in three completely different many years. Between his first success in Shanghai in 2008 and that of Turin in 2022, fourteen years have handed. And nothing says that the story will finish there. At 35, Djokovic appeared hungrier than ever in his quest for titles and data following his closing in opposition to Casper Ruud. He has each purpose on this planet to understand how fortunate he’s to play tennis at this stage and by no means quit.
In bulk: he’s inhabited by this sport and its historical past, he was disadvantaged of 40% of the season due to his vaccination standing, his kids like to comply with him on the Tour, and even the cash (he has simply received the largest prize cash within the historical past of tennis at greater than 4 million euros) isn’t a impartial issue for somebody “whose household has identified moments with zero on the desk, given the context (of struggle in Serbia, editor’s be aware) during which (he) grew up”.
The concept that the top of his and Nadal’s dominance of males’s tennis will come to an finish due to their age took successful this week in Turin. Definitely, the competitors is denser than it has ever been. The bar has been set very excessive by youngsters Carlos Alcaraz (final Grand Slam winner) and Holger Rune (the one participant to have disadvantaged Djokovic of a trophy since Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros), and the peloton chasing them has a uncommon density. Definitely, the 2 males won’t get any youthful. However, every in their very own means, they invited us to distance ourselves from previous habits based on which the over 35s had been shortly approaching competitions for veterans.
Djokovic and Nadal within the footsteps of Federer
Till this fall, the usual of “how does he do it” was carried by Roger Federer. The Swiss at 20 Grand Slams retired at 41, he was aggressive on the high till 39, he was within the Wimbledon closing at 38 and world primary at 36. Extraordinary passing occasions in historical past skilled tennis, within the twenty first century the place successful Grand Slams at 32 (like Sampras) or 33 (like Agassi) was rarer than retiring at 30 or 31.
Roger Federer’s coach informed Tennis Majors in September: “Roger needed to play tennis till he was 100 years previous. Nobody was going to get him to give up on his personal. Due to this fact, all that would occur was for him to play till the second he was prevented from doing so by damage. »
All the pieces signifies that the identical will occur for Nadal and Djokovic. Federer has pushed the bar to a top that they don’t chorus from exceeding in flip. Nadal, who’s 13 months older than Djokovic, 36 years and 5 months on the time of writing, is the one of many two who’s extra conscious of the boundaries that his physique can impose on him, on account of his recurring accidents, particularly within the second half of the season. “I do not know if I can get again to my (finest stage), however I am able to die for it,” he mentioned on the night of his elimination in opposition to Félix Auger-Aliassime within the swimming pools.
I’m satisfied that the boundaries are people who your thoughts
Nadal is extra conscious of enjoying in opposition to the clock than Djokovic, however his angle has by no means deviated from an “absolute” line, which led him in 2022 to realize his finest season since 2019: so long as he’s aggressive on the highest stage, he’ll play. A line that would lead the present world quantity two to start out Roland-Garros 2023 as a reputable candidate for a fifteenth title, at 37 years previous. Older than Roger Federer at Melbourne in 2018. Barely youthful than Ken Rosewall on the 1972 Australian Open – document of its variety.
Djokovic doesn’t validate this concept. The Serb has been loyal to questions on his bodily situation in current Masters matches. However the apparent put on and tear during which Daniil Medvedev positioned him within the group stage, his lack of velocity in opposition to Taylor Fritz within the semi-finals, his gasping extra typically than standard within the closing in opposition to Casper Ruud, all this apprehensive extra those that noticed him with shaky arms at aspect adjustments than Djokovic himself.
“You may’t say that I drew from each sport. We will say that it was not straightforward to get better after the match (3:20) in opposition to Medvedev, sure. I’ve my routines to get better nicely, physio, I’m nicely surrounded and I imagine that the one limits are people who we set ourselves. It is a type of inner dialogue between your dangerous man and your good man. The dangerous man who tells you that you simply’re in ache, that this morning it is actually arduous to stand up; and the great man it’s a must to result in take over the opposite. Straightforward to say and tougher to do, I say. However I’m satisfied that the boundaries are people who your thoughts, your coronary heart, your life intuition units for you. »
Djokovic has no intention of quitting anytime quickly
With out the slightest query being requested about his age, Djokovic indicated, when requested concerning the total imaginative and prescient he had of his profession and his vocation in tennis, to think about that there was “no finish on paper » for him, translation that we provide for « no finish zone ». “No concept crosses my thoughts that’s straight or not directly associated to the top of my profession, finish of profession expressed when it comes to after I would really like it to finish. If I had in thoughts one thing like ‘right here is the purpose, and when I’ve reached it, I’ll put the racket down’, I might let you know. However I haven’t got that. »
Djokovic has made solely two departures from this rule in his current declarations. First to see that Federer’s exit from the stage had given him concepts concerning the huge day of his retirement. “I too wish to be surrounded by my best rivals,” he mentioned in September, a phrase that alarmed the primary rank of his followers, accustomed to Djokovic by no means speaking about retirement.
Then, Sunday after the ultimate, in reference to his household. “You by no means know what the long run holds after all. I’ve two kids aged eight and 5. Possibly in some unspecified time in the future they may specific new expectations of me, to which I must commit time, to assist them in occasions of their lives which will name for much less tennis at dwelling. However at this level, although all of us have our dangerous days and our dangerous weeks, my feeling is great. »
Goran Ivanisevic welcomed as virtually pointless a query on the event of the coaching he needed to perform to maintain an athlete who’s now not 22 years previous on the high. “Novak is coaching even tougher than when he was 22, which is exactly why he’s so aggressive. He takes care of his physique in an unimaginable means and he’s extremely recent. Djokovic has simply damaged the document for the oldest winner within the historical past of the match, which brings collectively the eight gamers on this planet, by 5 years. It shouldn’t be shocking if he duplicates this sort of document sooner or later, these of Federer, these of Nadal, or his personal.
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