Djokovic at His Best When He's at His Worst

AP Photo

Imagine if, after the First Battle of the Marne, the Allies and Central Powers had girded their loins for the long trench battle ahead, only for the United States to surprise everyone with an all-out assault that overwhelmed both forces and turned Europe into a collection of American puppet regimes. It’s a ridiculous premise, of course, but also roughly analogous to what happened in 2011 when Novak Djokovic overtook Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to become Supreme Ruler of men’s tennis. His dominance didn’t come out of nowhere—he won the Australian Open in 2008 and had been a regular in Grand Slam semifinals for years—yet it was expected he’d spend at least a little while longer as third-best and champion-in-waiting. It wasn’t supposed to be his time, but he cut...

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