Tennis Prose



Does Djokovic feel the pressure?




By Dan Markowitz

This was a statement made by a reader on the site about today’s semi-finals between Djokovic and Federer.

“Fed will get Joker in the semis, no one beats Fed twice and not feel the pressure the third time.”

Actually, Djoko has beaten Fed in their three outdoor hardcourt meetings and has won their last five sets. Fed beat Djoko twice in the fall indoor circuit late last year. Djoko has been cruising at IW. He went down 0-3 to Gasquet in the second set of their quarterfinal match, but quickly overcame the Frenchman. Maybe playing a day match today will hurt Djoko as he doesn’t like the heat or humidity, but he has been so tough that it’s hard to see Federer upsetting Djoko. And, yes, it would be an upset even though Fed in No. 2 and Djoko No. 3.

The Fed-Djoko rivalry is classic. Fed only owns a 4-3 edge in Slam play, dispelling the notion that Djoko can’t hang for five sets. And Fed has shown many kinks in the armor, as recently as in the first round against Andreev, where Fed struggled to a 6 and 5 victory. Djoko isn’t feeling the pressure. He’s got everything working in his game, from the serve, forehand and his court movement. If Fed wins, he’s back. If he loses, he’s definitely No. 3 and depending on the surging Del Po, possibly No. 4.

(Custom Federer Sketch Card by Stephen Burkett for only $12.


  • Dan Markowitz · March 19, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Djokovic did feel pressure today, but it didn’t break him the way it did Roger Federer. The Swiss Slam-machine had tied the semis match by winning the second set, changing his tactics and taking some more pace off the ball. But then in the third set he was down a break right away. Still, he had two break points against Djoko in one game and couldn’t convert.

    Djoko played well, but not transcendently-well. And now after seeing him play Fed, I don’t think he will beat Nadal, who has a 13-8 record against Fed and 13-7 against Djoko. Roger Federer has officially proved that he is not the same player he once was. He’s a step slow, has lost his supreme confidence and as No. 3 now, he might get a crook looking up at Djoko, Nadal, and maybe soon, Del Po.

    It’s too bad, I like watching Fed play more than I do Nadal and Djoko, although Nadal’s performance against Del Po was masterful. Fed will charge the net more, hit the finer volleys, glide more in his movement, but he’s dropped a notch and the others have picked it up and for Fed to win a single more Slam he’ll have to get breaks the way he did winning his only French Open. He’ll still have to step up and take it as he did in Paris in 2009, but I don’t think he’ll be presented with beating Tommy Haas and Robin Soderling to win another Slam.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 20, 2011 at 12:41 am

    This was a tense, big pressure match, Roger really wanted this one to regain the lost territory from the last five sets to Djokovic. Djokovic, obviously, aware of how badly Fed wanted this, struggled but then found he winning game and once again dismantled the great Fed in style. Djokovic is clearly the better player right now. But tomorrow will be a big test. While he has gained an edge on Federer he has still yet to solve the Rafa puzzle aside from a few small wins here and there. I can’t remember the last time he beat Rafa in a big match. Tough one to call, should be a fantastic final.

  • Minhaj · March 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I am a Nadal fan,but I believe that Nadal is playing at a lower level than Djokovic. Djokovic leads the head to head on hard courts easily and he is beyond any doubt the player to beat at this time in men’s tennis.
    Nadal will have to play much better than he has been doing in previous matches. He has faced under par players up till now, only Karlovic was in any form.
    So advantage Djokovic for the final.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 20, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Welcome to the site Minhaj; It’s going to be a very interesting match. Nadal might even be considered the underdog here, and we know how much he loves being the underdog. Nadal should raise his game for this occasion. Somebody needs to put Djokovic in his place or he just might go on a reign of domination this year.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Alright guys and Sakhi (if there are any other women who tune into this site, please let us know), I’ll admit, I was wrong with picking Del Po over Nadal. It’s clear Del Po is not yet at the level to slay Nadal, but I tell you, Nadal will win today. Djoko has the black tape around his knee and although he’s moving great, I just think Nadal is going to grind him down.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 20, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Djokovic just breaks to go up 4-2 in the second, he is looking like the best player in the world now. Fantastic match, love watching these two titans battle it out, starting to like this rivalry more than Fed-Nadal. Let’s see if Djokovic is mentally tough enough to overcome Nadal here, he can do it. Nadal is a rock wall though.

  • Minhaj · March 21, 2011 at 1:48 am

    I did tell you guys that Djokovic would probably win.
    The stats were in his favor.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 21, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Minhaj you are a crystal ball, please come back and share more of your astute revelations : )

  • Dan Markowitz · March 21, 2011 at 10:51 am

    This is really amazing. I didn’t see the match, but saw that Nadal won the first set, and figured he would close Djoko out. Tough last two years for Nadal at IW, first the loss to Ljubicic after being up a set and now the loss to Djoko.

    Who’s predicting Djoko will go for the IW-Miami double? BTW, who saw the IW men’s double final. Dolgopolov was amazing. I never saw a guy return serve from the backhand court with his backhand with such huge shots. And his serve is a marvel. I hadn’t seen him play in a while and he was nasty. Dolgo and Malisse, the ponytail team, beat both the Bryan Bros and Federer-Wawrinka. Pretty good for a team that was new. Shows you that when the singles players play doubles they beat even the best doubles teams.

  • Minhaj · March 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    The form that Djokovic is in, he has to be the favourite for Miami also. If one was a betting man, it would be wise and safe to put money on Djokovic. Revelations or just statistical probabilities, whatever you might call it.
    Dolgopolov is good, but in a way he is the opposite of Nadal. He is extremely quick to play the points, I mean between serves. This reflects his instinctiveness as a individual, which I strongly believe is to your advantage when you are the one winning. If one is losing this approach can be self destructive, and let us be honest, he is no Federer. And even Federer self destructs in a way when his forehand goes away. So I think Dolgopolov has to learn to be more patient, more thoughtful and more deliberate if he is to be no 1 in the world as he has claimed his goals are.
    And Nadal does the exact opposite, he calculates and stays calm in his mind by giving himself time. But again of all the players today Nadal is the one who uses the most variables to his favor. They would include time, psychological intimidation, environment, physical fitness and even improving his game as a whole.
    Dolgopolov’s insinctiveness and talent can make him very good but never great. He does not have that kind of talent. He will have to be willing to change himself if he has to go far. Dinosaurs became extinct as they could not bend when the times wanted demanded that from them.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm


    You were right in picking Djokovic over Nadal. I’m surprised that Nadal’s serve fell apart and that his groundstrokes started going consistently into the doubles alleys instead of the court. But Djokovic must’ve been responsible for unnerving Nadal.

    As far as Dolgo making it to No. 1, I do think it’s a big stretch, especially since he’s from a small country, and at 22, he’s only No. 23 in the world. The fact of the matter is that if you haven’t made your mark in a big way, either winning a major or getting into Top 5 by the age of 21, your chances of being No. 1 or winning multiple majors is very slim. That’s why you look at a Raonic, Harrison or Dmitrov and those guys, as talented as they are, don’t stand much of a chance to be No. 1 or win multiple majors.

    A good trivia question is: Who’s the last male player to win multiple majors when his first Slam win came after the age of 21?

  • Minhaj · March 22, 2011 at 3:16 am


    I am in total agreement about the age limit that you put on being an extraordinary player. I think you will be lucky to find one below 21. Federer was 21 when he won Wimbledon and Nadal was super quick at having just turned 19 a week before his first feat of clay, if I am not wrong.
    I think there are two factors that come into play. Firstly the guy probably has not got enough talent if he has not got something by that age, and secondly of course the clock of age also puts limit on the development of players, as Federer is just starting to experience.
    And of all the young players you mentioned, I think Roanic has the the best combination of talent, young enough age and a composed mind to be someone by the time he retires, but of course time is the only one who will tell.
    I think many don’t consider the mind in these scenarios a seriously. And this can be seen well in the case of Nadal who uses it to his utmost advantage, the opposite can be said of Monfils, who loses all he has because of the lack of a mind. This is the prime reason I am a Nadal fan, he thinks and works on all the time and never relies on brute talent to win. And this is very well reflected in his metamorphosis from a dirt born to living on hard. Change is the hardest thing to accomplish on oneself.

  • Sakhi · March 22, 2011 at 5:14 am

    I have to agree with most of the comments above. BUT, here’s my question. WTF are Djoker and Nadal doing play an exo in Bogota right after their hard match in Indian Wells, and then rushing off to Miami for another brutal week of tennis? I know Nadal rocks the fitness world and the Djoker is the new king in town but I have to think that the tennis is taking a physical toll on them. I’m betting on Djoker losing at Miami — I simply don’t see him doing as well in the humid Miami heat—quite different from the dry desert –and proposing (albeit with some reluctance) that the whinger, Murray, will make a return. After all, he trains in Miami, so this must be a home-coming of sorts and he’s due for a breakout tournament.

    Last but not least, haven’t given up on Fed. Watching the mind-numbing slugging that was the final at IW, I missed Fed’s variety even more. Here’s hoping he has a few more glorious Slams in him.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm


    It will be interesting, indeed, to see how Murray responds to having lost to Donald Young, still hard for me to write that. That was like Jesse Witten winning two rounds at the U.S.OPen a couple of years ago, or Spadea getting to a Slam quarters with a win over Agassi. If Murray has any gumption left, he’s going to have to show it in Miami.

    The Miami tournament doesn’t start for Nadal until a week from Saturday, so what’s the big deal if Djoker and he jet off to Bogota. It’s not going to hurt their lead-in to Miami since they’ll both have about two weeks to prepare.

    I think Federer is officially out of the Slam-shopping circuit. He is too stubborn in his play, which I admit, for me is more pleasing to watch than Nadal and Djoker, but of course I find Llorda and Dustin Brown the most interesting players on tour. He hasn’t taken Annacone’s lead in coming to net more, he very rarely uses his drop shot and short angle shots, and I’ve seen him lose a step and that’s the deadly one. No way Fed wins another slam, let’s see how many finals of slams he reaches this year.

  • Harold · March 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Got scared there for a minute, Dan almost made it through a whole thread without mentioning Spadea.
    Hate to say this, but I think Feds days of hoisting Slam trophies are over. Maybe he’ll get one in found. He’s going through the same thing as Sampras went through late in his career. His one handed BH cannot withstand the constant pressure from two monsters two handed Bh’s(Nadal,Djoko and probably Murray if he gets his act together. Late in matches it(bh) just keeps getting shorter and shorter in the court. Agree with Dan, that he needs to slice more and come in more.
    The only good thing I see in Djoko’s rise for Fed, is that he may keep Nadal from getting 17 slams. Not a big fan of Djoko, still can’t get over his act his first few years. Hard to call him a “warrior” after watching him bail out of a half dozen matches early in his career with bogus injuries. Still laugh at the remarks he made after quitting against Nadal at the French down 2 sets but said he was dominating the match.
    Now I have 2 questions. Does defending all those clay court points take too much out of Nadal and shorten his career, 3 other hall of fame great clay court players hardly made it past 26 (Borg, Wilander and Kuerten) and they didn’t play all those tough Masters events the same grueling way Nadal does?
    Will a one handed BH ever win another major?

  • Harold · March 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Didn’t read my post before i hit submit,meant Fed might get one in doubles, spellcheck didn’t accept “Doubs”

  • Minhaj · March 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I am again in total agreement with Dan.
    And as far as going to Bogota goes, I think both Djokovic and Nadal are guys with huge hearts. They know how lucky they are in life and are just trying to give something back to the people as a whole. People who support them and make them what they are.
    Actually I think one of the reasons Nadal was not a hundred percent in Doha and Melbourne was because he did not have a off season. All the exhibition matches and travel that he did, even if puts you off by 5 percent that can be enough to tinker with the body and immune system to take you down. It might be unwise or nonprofessional in away, but does reflect a better person.

  • Sakhi · March 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Ah, ye of little faith. Let’s just say I’d put my money on Fed winning a Slam before I bet on Murray getting to one. I agree that the Fed star is fading while the young pretenders are rising, but I still think Fed has something left in him. Sampras at this stage was not winning as much as Fed was–he disappeared slowly until his final big push at the U.S. Open. And unlike Dan, I think Fed has indeed listening to Annacone–he’s come forward more than ever, is trying to be more aggressive but the opposition has been too good and he’s hasn’t hit his groove yet.

    Look, am not being crazy here and saying Fed will be number 1 soon. Nadal is clearly superior here, with the Djoker a close second. Am just saying don’t write yet another eulogy to Fed yet. His star is still rising.

  • Andrew Miller · March 23, 2011 at 4:00 am

    Federer still has magic – but he’s looking human these days against his top two foes. The mis-firing off the forehand side is a concern.

    Some part of me says that Djokovic, at 23 in the prime of his game, is giving Federer, at 29, some payback. Though youth alone is no indicator of future wins, it has to be said that Djokovic at the moment is the best hard court player on the planet and in his prime, and Federer is playing at his ranking as the 3rd best hardcourt player, something that has not changed since the US Open.



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