Can Djokovic Be Stopped?

In 2015, Novak Djokovic gained 16,585 ATP points compiling a record of 82-6 with 11 titles. He was even closer than Serena Williams to completing a Grand Slam (winning all four majors in one year). With only one win away, he lost to Stan Wawrinka in the finals of Roland Garros. Based on these results, it seems as if the chances of beating Novak are slim to none. But, it gets even better. This year the Serb has won 28 out of his 29 matches, losing only to Feliciano Lopez, due to retirement. Furthermore, with the Big Four starting to fall apart (an injured Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal not playing well), it leaves Djokovic and Andy Murray ahead. Novak’s chances of having the best season of his career are rising dramatically. With 4,340 points this year alone, he already has more than double his next competitor’s total. The Serb did not drop a set in last week’s Miami Open, while breaking some records, including earning the most career prize money by passing Federer with about $98,000,000. This year seems to be set for Novak Djokovic.

While all of his success looks great on the outside, Novak Djokovic has some major flaws. The first instance of a weak Djokovic was in this year’s Australian Open Round of 16 when he played Gilles Simon. In this five setter, Novak had 100 unforced errors, his most ever in a single match.   I have never seen him play this poorly, and it shows that Novak Djokovic is vulnerable to anyone, not only players in the top 10. I believe that if Novak is upset, he will lose in the most unexpected scenarios and not necessarily against the big names. In his own country of Serbia, Novak narrowly edged out a victory in five sets against Mikhail Kukushkin in Davis Cup, where home court advantage is a huge factor. Somehow, against all odds, Kukushkin played the best player in the world and narrowly lost. Then, in the second round of Indian Wells this year, the Serb got blown away in the first set (2-6) by Bjorn Fratangelo, a young American rising star. However, being young, Fratangelo was unable to keep up his level of play and ended up losing the following two sets to the world number 1. The American is not even in the top 100, and he still found a way to give Djokovic a run for his money. Finally, in the finals of the Miami Open, Novak defeated Kei Nishikori. Though the scorecard says he won handily (6-3, 6-3), the reality is that Nishikori was up an early break in the first set and dictating the points, but was not able to keep up his level of play. Also, Novak let Kei back into the match in the second set by tightening up. Unfortunately, Kei was injured and could not capitalize on his opportunities. Time after time Djokovic shows some weaknesses, and sooner or later he will not be able to make a comeback.

After weighing the positives and negatives of Novak Djokovic’s game, I decided that he cannot be stopped by anyone on the ATP World Tour, but his biggest opponent is himself. No one will beat Novak in a five-set match for a long time because of his stellar mental strength and fitness. His last five-set loss was in the 2014 Australian Open against Wawrinka over 2 years ago. The longer the match goes, the less likely one will win. Even in shorter outings, there still is little chance of victory over the Serb because of his penetrating groundstrokes. This said, with the clay court season just underway, where he has had his least success, we might see Novak slip in this long and arduous stretch. Remember, Novak Djokovic is a human like the rest of us, and he will not win all of his 2016 matches even though there is no clear-cut player who can take down the joker.

Watch my commentary on this article here: Novak Djokovic: 2016 Season Recap + What Caused His Downfall

(4/9/16)

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