Tennis Prose



Courier Feels Djokovic Must Balance Fury with Calm

In Rome, Novak Djokovic showed his most intense, ruthless and ferocious emotions vs Lorenzo Sonego in the action-packed semifinal but was curiously quiet and subdued in the three set defeat in the final to Rafa Nadal.

Jim Courier, the former four-time Grand Slam winner, and well-known for his vicious though mostly supressed on court intensity, commented this week in a conference call about which version of Djokovic has a better chance to win Roland Garros, the quiet and subdued or the raging, roaring, grunting, screaming, racquet smashing assassin?

“First of all, emotional Novak is the best Novak from my point of view. I think in the time when he had the elbow troubles and he seemed to be less engaged mentally, more calm on court, the peaceful Novak wasn’t the warrior he needed to be. There’s a balance there.”

With a shining record of 19-3 this year, the 2021 AO champion Djokovic lost control of his emotions at the US Open where after blowing three set points in a row vs Pablo Carreno Busta and then surrendering the following game, he accidentally struck a lineswoman in the throat with the ball after losing control of the match. Courier, who once accidentally hit a chair umpire with a forehand to the leg after misfiring a return vs Pete Sampras in Miami, believes Djokovic needs to balance his fury and ambition.

“Obviously we all saw what happened in New York. He has to kind of control the fire that burns brightly within him. If he doesn’t have that fire going, he’s not the same player. I remember vividly when he lost that quarterfinal match in Roland Garros a few years ago, I think Cecchinato is the one that beat him, he got super emotional in that match. It was very surprising that he lost it.”

“Yet when he left the court, I said on air, I think he’s back. I’m paraphrasing what I said: I think if you’re a Novak fan, you should be glad you saw him get emotional because he’s not that far away. Then he turned around and won Wimbledon a month later. Without the fire he’s not the same. It’s just about walking that line of not crossing it.”

Djokovic has said this week he is on course to peak and perform his highest level of tennis the next two weeks in Paris, perhaps implying that he held back his best artillery in Rome.

(Djokovic art by Andres Bella.)

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