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On 29th January 2023, Novak Djokovic lifted his tenth Australian Open title in Melbourne. Since the beginning of the fortnight, the victory seemed to be his. The only obstacle standing on his way to his 22nd Grand Slam was his own leg. At the end of the tournament, Craig Tiley – head of the Australian Open – stated that Novak Djokovic had a 3cm-tear in his hamstring. Despite this physical setback, he showed a total control during all his matches.

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Novak Djokovic, invincible

Unbeaten in Australia since 2018, Novak Djokovic arrived in Melbourne as the big favorite. Nevertheless, no one could have imagined such a domination. During some encounters, the gap of level between the two players was blatant. It was unconceivable for the Serbian to lose the match.

His superiority is prominent against the players who use the same patterns of play as him. In the fourth round, Novak Djokovic faced Alex De Minaur who enjoys long rallies from the back of the court. His main qualities are his speed and his court coverage. However, he lacks explosiveness to multiply winners. This style of play looks like Novak Djokovic’s one – but less impactful. The Serbian is a master in endless rallies from the back of the court because he can make the difference with a forehand acceleration or an uncrossed backhand. This match ended in less than two hours with the score of 6/2 6/1 6/1. Novak Djokovic showed the extent of his talent.

Australian Open : Novak Djokovic defeats Alex De Minaur

An insurmountable pressure

The great domination of Novak Djokovic doesn’t let his opponents untouched. Many of them have been defeated multiple times with a disconcerting ease. When losses pile up, the confidence fades. The fear to lose again leads them to outplay. The two most obvious assets of Novak Djokovic are his returns and his court coverage. His rivals tend to take too many risks on their first serves and to search winners on the line. This strategy usually leads to more unforced errors – and not a win.

In the quarterfinals, Novak Djokovic played against Andrey Rublev. The latter only won once against him – when he lacked matches at the beginning of the 2022 season in Belgrade. Mentally frail, the Russian didn’t know how to fight against Novak Djokovic. Lacking first serves and efficiency after the second one, he got broken early. While the games passed by Andrey Rublev’s eyes, he didn’t know how to stop the leak. He made too many unforced errors and forgot his game patterns. Under pressure, he couldn’t find the level of play of his previous games. Depressed, he caved in 1/6 2/6 4/6.  

Australian Open : Andrey Rublev deprived against Novak Djokovic

A decisive mental dimension

Rafael Nadal is the most likely to beat Novak Djokovic. In addition to his outstanding level of tennis throughout the years, the mental strength of the ‘Manacor Bull’ is one of the key to victory. No matter his physical state, the conditions or the score, Rafael Nadal doesn’t give up. His unfailing abnegation and his focus enable him to find solutions. To demand the other players to play as well as ‘Rafa’ is unrealistic. Nevertheless, to ignore the player who’s at the other side of the net is doable. To have a chance to beat Novak Djokovic, the players have to focus on themselves and to remember their efficient game patterns. Rafael Nadal also benefits from a balanced Head-to-Head: 29 wins for 30 loses. These numbers are a big asset.

Carlos Alcaraz is also in this situation. He won their only match in the semi-finals of the Masters 1000 in Madrid. Even if this advantage might end soon, it will allow him to play their next encounter with confidence. If the former world number one remains in full possession of him means, he’s talented enough to beat Novak Djokovic. To believe to be able to win is necessary to even have a chance ; to have done it before is a start.

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The perfect player

In 2023, no player has been able to compete with the level of play that Novak Djokovic demonstrated at the Australian Open. So, let’s imagine the perfect player to beat him. Sebastian Korda’s serve can disturb the Serbian. The young American surprises his opponents thanks to his variations. His match point – unconverted – in the final of the Adelaide Open is the proof. During the long duels from the back of the court, Daniil Medvedev is able to hold the rally without making errors. This consistency is a huge asset. However, his lack of agility at the net is a weakness. Carlos Alcaraz’ ability to play a constructed-forward tennis can be useful. His dropshots and his serves-and-volleys force Novak Djokovic to be on the lookout. Stefanos Tsitsipas forehand is a fearsome weapon. To be able to make a winner after a few strikes is a big strength. Those easy points are precious in a long match. Alexander Zverev’s backhand completes this perfect imaginary player. As he can hit it at shoulder-height or hip-height, he can return every serve. Also, Sasha Zverev’s ability to play down-the-line or cross court can surprise the Serbian.  

Novak Djokovic is unsure to be able to compete at the American tournaments. This impediment should motivate him to excel everywhere else. If he keeps on showing this level of tennis, to beat him is almost impossible.

Marnie Abbou

2 thoughts on “Can anyone beat Novak Djokovic ?

  1. Josephine Helin dit :

    Great article !

  2. Lili Fontaine dit :

    Bravo! Les articles sont toujours aussi percutants!

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