ATP Tennis 360

November 16, 2009 7:43 AM

Tricky Novak triumphs

When the hyper-athletic Gael Monfils came back from 2-6 0-3 to force the Paris Masters final to a decider, Novak Djokovic could have thought that was becoming the nth lost chance of his strange season.


The Paris-born, with half-Martinican half-Guadalupean blood, appealed to all his battling instinct, all his fighter nature, but it wasn't enough. Losing only three points on his serve in the first set, Djokovic pumped his fist when he took a 5-2 lead with a forehand winner down the line. He won the set in the next game when Monfils hit his first double-fault.


But he registered 21 unforced error in a tense and rollercoaster second set, when he broke to 2-0 in a game highlighted by an exhausting 43-shots rally.  Monfils finally gave his supporters something to cheer by converting his first break point of the match in the fifth game after Djokovic missed an easy backhand volley.


And the 14,000 fans were more and more delighted while La Monf leveled at 3-3 and kept the pressure on Djokovic, failing to convert three other chances to break before taking the Serb's service with a return winner for a 6-5 lead. The Frenchman took the second holding to 15 when Djoko sent a backhand second serve return into the net and beat his fist on his chest in front of his fans, now exhalted by the perspective of a triumph.

In the final set, Djokovic broke in the fourth game with a little help from Monfils, who lost his serve with his third double-fault of the match. Djokovic also double-faulted on Monfils' break point in the seventh game and the 15th-seeded Frenchman leveled at 4-4 and eventually force a tiebreaker. And Monfils, after such an outstanding performance, closed the match in the poorest way, doublefaulting for the fourth time.


The Djoker confirmed he's in dramatic form heading to holding his Masters Cup title in London and prolonged his record of 76 wins in this season so far. And he doesn't seem banged up.


For the third conecutive time he will finish the season as the third best ranked player behind Federer and Nadal (it's uncertain yet in what order R&R will occupy the two spots).


In his season, anyway, it remain a sense of unfinished, as if he could have really become a treat for the Big Two, without really succeeding in doing it, aside for the Paris Masters semifinal when he forced Nadal to lost 14 service points in a row. In this two weeks he defeated Roger Federer, in the Basel final, and the Mallorcan, imposing as the main favourite for the World Tour Finals.


So, you could ask, why a player who can play so has won only minor titles before Bercy? Why has he failed in the majors?  Peter Bodo resumes his season in terms of periodization.


«In the six week span between between Jan. 1 and Feb. 16, Djokovic played 9 competitive matches. Then, from that latter day to March 12, a little over a month, he played 11 matches, including a Davis Cup tie. Between the 12th of March and and 12th of April, he played 10 matches, reaching - and losing - the final of Miami. So from the start of the year until mid-April, he played 30 matches, an average of 10 per month, or a 1:3 match per calendar day ratio. He had significant rest and recovery days, what with byes, television schedules, staggered round-by-round play and - of course - those early losses.


From mid-April until the middle of May, Djokovic played 14 matches - an average of roughly 1 match every two days. And from mid-May until mid-June, Novak played another dozen matches, bringing him to the doorstep of Wimledon. From mid-June to the end of August, Djokovic played just 14 matches, slightly below 1:2. But in the two months spanning September and October, he played just 15 matches, an average of one every four days.


Than brings us up to Basel, and with Djokovic playing Paris and the Tennis Masters Cup, he's likely to return to that most tight 1:2 ratio. What emerges here pretty much tells the story of a year-round tour with something like a slow period in the early fall, coupled with a furious finish».


I think that the matter could be another. The tricky Serb suffers a bit of pressures when he faces great players on the big stages, and tends to remain excessively passive in those occasions. When he's adrenalinic, he's furious. When not, he could be addomesticated. If Novak will be able to reduce the gaps between the ups and the downs in his rollercoaster years, he could aim to the ranking peak.


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