Tennis Prose



He came, he saw, and now you just know he’s going to conquer

Roger and Rafa are some tough acts to follow. But Novak Djokovic is looking very capable of taking tennis to a new, higher level of mastery.

Super Nole is “The Man” of the Tour right now. He won the Davis Cup late last year. He won the Australian Open by dominating Federer and Murray in the final. Now Djokovic is just obliterating quality, accomplished players like Ernests Gulbis and Viktor Troicki, surrendering just two measly games in four sets this week at Indian Wells.

It’s all coming together now for the one-time Serbian “golden child.” The physical, mental, maturity, experience, everything is in a coordinated synchronicity. It’s been said that Djokovic had some trouble dealing with being with the #1 sportsman celebrity of his country Serbia, but those days are of the past. A national hero, Djokovic, it seems, can do no wrong.

He handles all interviews perfectly now, like the ultimate champion, always praising his opponents and rivals, while never permitting himself to say anything that could be interpreted as controversial or arrogant.

And with this maturity and peace of mind combined with athletic and competitive excellence, Djokovic is performing some absolutely wondrous tennis this year. He still hasn’t lost a match yet.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Djokovic game is his relentlessly aggressive defense. He covers the court for everything on either side, he can slide on hard court, his agility and speed are as acrobatic as any player we have seen. On top of that, Djokovic can explode laserbeam forehands and backhands from any position and also on the full sprint. It’s like trying to box a fighter like Roy Jones Jr., who was so elusive you couldn’t hit him but at the same time you could not avoid his punch combinations which were blindingly fast, not to mention, brutally powerful.

Also, the return of serve of Djokovic has improved as he rarely misses any now. And not only is he getting them back, he’s making offensive shots with his returns.

Djokovic’s backhand has always been the strongest weapon in his arsenal. Remember way back in 2007 and 2008 how he was able to hang in there in backhand to backhand rallies with the prime Federer? But now it’s even more consistent, as are the forehand and service motion. Imagine how good Djokovic can be if he becomes more aggressive about moving into the forecourt and if he can solidify his net game?

Djokovic is almost like a machine on the court, systematically just dismantling world class players. Even the likes of Federer has now lost five consecutive sets to Djokovic. And it’s hard to imagine that pattern being altered right now, even on clay or grass.

Juan Martin Del Potro could be an interesting challenge to Djokovic, but, interestingly, they have played three times, with Djokovic winning all three matches, each in straight sets (7-0).

Nadal’s movement is looking a slight bit slower to my eyes lately and I think the time has finally come where Djokovic will overcome the man who has stymied him so many times in big match confrontations. Even Nadal admitted himself recently that the so-called Nadal-Federer reign is over.

Yes, indeed, it seems the signs are all there: The Serbian Slayer Novak Djokovic Era of Domination hath begun!


  • Sakhi · March 18, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Interesting predictions—though, not sure if Nole is ready to be king yet. I just saw the power threesome play at Indian Wells (albeit from the hallowed perch of the bleachers where the ball is small and the players smaller!) and have to agree that Nole has looked the most impressive. Rafa and Fed looked scratchy, irritable and a bit slow, while Nole has looked impressively perky and ready to play. That he played opponents who were ready to give in even before the match began certainly helped. His next opponent (another head-case) should also pose no problem. I’ll be watching the rest on telly, so no live reports from here, but I do think he will win this. Whether that means he’ll win any more Grand Slams this year is yet another story. I simply don’t think Nole has the physical endurance to keep this up for more than a few months. And I’m still betting the old man, Fed, has a couple of Slams left in him!

  • Dan Markowitz · March 18, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Every time we hear a report from Sakhi, whether it’s in London or Cally, he’s sitting in some nosebleed seat watching tennis. I say we at buy this mat a courtside seat and let him watch up close. What do you say? I chip in a dollar.

    Anyway, I watched from my tube Nadal have all kinds of trouble with Dr. Ivo in the first set of their match. That he pulled it out, I’m not surprised to see. But I’ve never seen Dr. Ivo hit so many outright winners off Nadal or any top players. He was crunching his inside-out forehand past Nadal’s forehand side at an alarming rate last night. (And how dare Cally be three hours away so by 11 pm the first set is only over and I can’t stay up for the full match!)

    This is not a good sign for Nadal. They even showed him playing a pick-up game of soccer a couple of nights ago and he looked slow on the soccer green, too.

  • Sakhi · March 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Dan–Helpful if you got your genders right! Sakhi is a very common South Asian female name. And if unknown to you, shouldn’t you default to the female anyway?
    Also, not sure if your comments about my attendance at sporting events are made in jest or sarcasm, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s the former.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 18, 2011 at 9:09 pm


    Sorry for the mixup in gender. And I was having a little fun with the fact that you’ve said both in London and now in IW that you have sat up high from the court when watching these events. I, personally, have trouble watching tennis live when up high. To me, tennis is a sport you must catch up close or relatively up close to fully enjoy it. But if you’re a lover of the game, you can still enjoy the action from up top. I know I’ve been to the very top of the IW stadium and it’s way up there.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 18, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Either view is a good view, a good tennis match can captivate you from where ever you sit, live or on TV. Gee, kind of surprised, I thought Sakhi was a male too for some reason. Wish we had more regular female commenters, as it seems mostly a mens club around here lately. I like to sit halfway up sometimes, you can see a greater perspective. Like at the Murray defeat of Nadal at US Open SF a couple years ago, I saw brother Jamie wander in during the exciting decider, it was a surprise to see him trying to find a seat…Saw Eliot Spitzer at a Djokovic night match last year at US Open, he was really into the match too…SL Price of SI said the best seat in all of tennis is front row in the press section in Grandstand at US Open.

  • Sakhi · March 19, 2011 at 12:47 am

    Happy to intervene, boys. And appreciate your comments, Dan and Scoop. Interesting mix up with the genders–is there a narrative voice that is assumed with respect to sports and genders? That is a line of questioning you might want to think about–I think that’s why Mary Carillo gets into trouble so much. She tends to shoot from the hip (sometimes, a little too quickly!) but is a much more entertaining voice than say the placid tones of a Mary Joe Fernandez or even more vapid Tracy Austin (I’m just playing the David Foster Wallace card here).

    By way of disclosure, I’m a university professor, from South Asia, play tennis very regularly and live in Los Angeles. And yes, I love seeing tennis up close too but unfortunately being a professor of history does not allow for the luxuries of $150 tickets! the average age of viewers, for example, at IW was easily 60! and average class status easily upper-middle class. I have to say this is the most bourgie of tennis tournaments in terms of racial and class representation. I’ve watched plenty of tennis both here in California and at other Masters events, but oddly enough IW seems the least diverse gene pool to me.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 19, 2011 at 2:48 am

    I’m not sure what you mean when you asked if there’s a narrative voice assumed with sports and gender. I know in writing, you can use the clunky “he/she,” but I usually just go with he if I’m talking about a generic person. I’m happy to go with she, though.

    As for watching matches, it is nice to be in the front row as Scoop and I have sat at Newport, especially on the Stadium court there, where a front-row seat is five feet from the singles sideline.

    IW is an older, mostly-white crowd. I’m going to Miami in a couple of weeks and interested to see how diverse that crowd is. I know the South American players are widely-supported there.

    How about Djokovic? Didn’t see his Gasquet match today, but he is cruising. I can’t see Federer upsetting him. In fact, I’m going with a Del Po-Djoko final.

  • Mitch · March 19, 2011 at 4:32 am

    Funny to think that the balance of power has changed so much that now Federer beating Djokovic is a minor upset. WIll be interesting to see how often the #2 ranking switches between these two for the next few months.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 19, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Agree Mitch, things chance quickly in sports and tennis. Djokovic has certainly asserted in the last 6 months. This is going to be a very very intense battle today between these two, Federer does not want to lose his #2 nor does he want to lose three times in a row to a guy he is not especially fond of. Federer has said he wants his #1 back and he can’t afford to lose any more territory to Djokovic, expect a really good match. Delpo vs. Nadal is another thriller, like Red’s picks, Delpo vs. Djokovic in final, where Djokovic holds a 3-0 head to head lead.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 19, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Agree Sakhi, the tennis has been fantastic but the commentating has been a little flat though Mark Knowles was a nice surprise addition to the booth last night to help Davenport and Haber or Gore. Curious as to why TTC doesn’t use Shiras more or Barry McKay, how about bringing in The Rocket? Lindsay and Haber or Gore are okay but compared to Stolle, McEnroes, Cahill, Gilbert, Cliff over the years, we’ve come to expect more. And “Very regularly” … : )



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