Nov/17

30

Radek Stepanek Officially Joins Team Djokovic

Djokart

By Scoop Malinowski

Crafty Czech Republic tennis legend Radek Stepanek has officially joined forces with former ATP World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

“Its official, I’m honored to be a new member of Novak’s team,” the recently retired Stepanek said on his Instagram account. “It is a new and exciting challenge for me, which I’m looking forward to and I believe that as a team we can help Nole to reach his goals. As longtime friends off the tennis court, I believe that our friendship and similar views will translate onto the court as well and we will share some memorable moments together. so lets get to work IDEMO @djokernole.”

It will be interesting to see if the gamesmanship and trickery aspects of Stepanek’s arsenal will translate into Djokovic’s game and if Djokovic can revert back to the ruthless cutthroat super champion he was before 2016.

It’s hard to imagine a tenacious gladiator like Stepanek allowing Djokovic to continue his “love and peace” court demeanor which many pundits feel contributed to his mediocre results, along with alleged distracting personal issues regarding infidelity with his wife.

Stepanek does seem to be an appropriate choice to rejuvenate Djokovic’s vicious, ruthless nature on court, which has been mysteriously absent for most of the last two years. Stepanek was respected as a tremendous competitor, mentored by Aussie Open champion and former world no. 2 Petr Korda, to overcome early career failures to eventually develop into a top ten player, doubles Grand Slam champion, and two-time Davis Cup winning hero.

Stepanek surely has a plan of attack to restore Djokovic’s lost aura of invincibility which shocked and awed the tennis world from 2011-2015.

(Djokovic art by Andres Bella.)

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90 comments

  • catherine · December 5, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Front242 – why do you swear so much ?

  • brokenshoelace · December 5, 2017 at 11:04 am

    They were 1 and 2 in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 too. And yes, the rest of the field has surely declined. The easiest way to know that is Djokovic and Murray's forms this year. It's really not rocket science.

  • brokenshoelace · December 5, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I can't blame anyone for forgetting, as it has been a decade, but anyone who truly thinks Federer is now better than ever must have really forgotten what his forehand was like when he was younger. That was something else. And yeah, some aspects of his game are actually better now (the serve being one, perhaps even the return if we look at this year), and he's smarter and wiser (which comes from experience), but I'm sure he'd sacrifice that for the athlete who glided all over the court in 2006 and just hit winners from both sides with insane ease, whose forehand was almost literally unplayable.

    As far as Nadal goes, like Federer, there are aspects of his game that are better now (the serve is an obvious one), as is his variety. But he was a much much much much MUCH better mover in his athletic prime, and he was just physically unshakable during a match. He could go for hours, wear you out, defend like nobody else in history, never missed a passing shot (almost literally), got to unthinkable balls, and his ability to finish points with the forehand was definitely much better.

  • Hartt · December 5, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Tennis Canada has announced their awards for Player of the Year. Not surprisingly, 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov won it for the men, ending Milos’ reign of the last several years. Felix auger-Aliassime won top junior and once again, no surprise, Daniel Nestor won it for doubles.

    For the women, 17-year-old Bianca Andreescu won the Female of the Year award, as well as the award for top junior, although she turned pro during this past season. I think this was the right choice, but it is interesting that they went with Bianca, rather than Francoise Abanda, who has a much higher ranking. One highlight for Bianca was getting to the QFs of the Citi Open, winning over Mladenovic along the way.

    Gabriela Dabrowski won for doubles, having made it to the year-end finals and also winning the FO mixed doubles.

    Carol Zhao won most improved, jumping more than 300 spots in the rankings, from 491 to 147.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    How can you tell me with any certainty Fed and Rafa are not as great now? I think it's possible they are greater now. Smarter, fitter, just as hungry. Playing with more experience and more shots and refined weaknesses.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 5, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Not related: But Jan Michael Gambill's brother is in a heap of trouble… http://www.krem.com/news/local/spok…suspect-i-didnt-lay-a-finger-on-her/495253047

  • brokenshoelace · December 5, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    scoop said:

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    How can you tell me with any certainty Fed and Rafa are not as great now? I think it's possible they are greater now. Smarter, fitter, just as hungry. Playing with more experience and more shots and refined weaknesses.Click to expand…

    There's nothing about providing tennis opinions that can be said with certainty, however, I'm doing my best to provide arguments instead of general, vague statements.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 5, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    To my eyes, and the results certainly support the notion, Fed and Rafa both played incredible tennis this year and quite possibly it was their best seasons. In Miami I asked Del Potro if Fed is better now or earlier in is career and he wasn't sure either. That article is archived somewhere on the site. So far I have not heard one single top player or any player say that Fed is not as good now as he was in his younger days. Not one. But if you want to be the authority to tell us that Fed is not as great now as he was, same with Rafa, you are free to share that opinion.

  • Fiero425 · December 5, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Very disappointing! Talk about taint! Jan Michael is such a nice guy and a real doll! Shocking! :facepalm: :banghead: :eek: o_O

  • brokenshoelace · December 5, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    scoop said:

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    To my eyes, and the results certainly support the notion, Fed and Rafa both played incredible tennis this year and quite possibly it was their best seasons. In Miami I asked Del Potro if Fed is better now or earlier in is career and he wasn't sure either. That article is archived somewhere on the site. So far I have not heard one single top player or any player say that Fed is not as good now as he was in his younger days. Not one. But if you want to be the authority to tell us that Fed is not as great now as he was, same with Rafa, you are free to share that opinion.Click to expand…

    I am no authority to tell you how well Federer and Nadal are playing (but I actually bother to offer arguments, instead of just using superlatives), but I do believe anyone, myself included, has the authority to point out that the results certainly DO NOT support that they've had their best seasons. This isn't even subjective as we can simply compare Nadal's results this year to his results in 2010 and 2013, and compare Federer's results this year to his results in say, 2006, and we deduce that those seasons were better. Unless you have the authority to change math and inform us that winning 2 majors is better than winning 3, and not winning the WTF is better than winning it. In which case, sure, yeah, you're right.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 5, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Federer's backhand is much better now than it was then. Nadal is more offensive now and not all defense and grinding. Yes I do think it's possible both are actually better today. Smarter, fitter, more experience, and incredibly both are still so driven and hungry for more success. Nadal's burning desire this year looked more intense than I have ever seen it before. Yes I think they actually "want it" more now than ever before. Federer too. Their competitive fires have never been stronger. Physical peaks in top athletes have changed, Klitschko brothers were both dominant in their late 30s. Bernard Hopkins was still elite world class in his late 40s. Jaromir Jagr is still an NHL force over age 40. Yes I think Fed and Rafa are at their best now. I don't see any physical decline at all. Even when Fed was asked if he's better now than before, he's not sure. He said in some ways he's better now. I will dig up the exact quotes he said in Miami when Peter Bodo asked him.

  • Mastoor · December 8, 2017 at 2:39 am

    I am so happy that both Agassi and Stepanek are in his team. They started with training a week ago and Nole announced many innovations in his game, so i guess he wanted to imply we need to be patient to see the best things from him.

  • mrzz · December 8, 2017 at 4:25 am

    Hey, Mastoor, haven't seen you post about tennis in a while!

    Innovations? I always wanted to see him playing with a one handed backhand! Seriously… did someone mention something specific? Or rather do you have some idea of what could it be?

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 8, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Mastoor I can easily see Djokovic regaining no. 1 and dominating again. Agassi and Stepanek are born winners and I'm sure they will do everything humanly possible to rebuild their broken titan.

  • Ricardo · December 8, 2017 at 9:41 am

    If they are both at their peak game and physique-wise, why do they produce much inferior results compared to their best years? don't tell me competition improved, if anything this year we have seen top players in hiding like never before. It has not happened in history of the game that a player is literally BETTER at 36 than when he was 26. Nothing wrong with promoting Fedal but come on let's be realistic.

  • mrzz · December 8, 2017 at 10:29 am

    If you take the whole year in consideration, 2016 Federer is quite far away from, say, 2005 Federer — even if, yes, some aspects of his game improved. But what I guess confuses a bit the picture is that in some particular tournaments Federer looked monstrously good — Australian Open and IW come to mind. I recently rewatched some long highlights of the Berdych match at AO and the shots there were just absurd. But the thing is that he hardly repeated such performances in the second half of the year.

  • Shivashish Sarkar · December 8, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    I cannot say that this was his best season, but his success rate this season, makes it one of the best seasons of his life. I am not going to rank them but this has been one crazy season.

    Won 7 out of 12 tournaments entered (58%)
    Won 5 out of 8 big tournaments entered (62%)
    91.23% win rate
    AO + Sunshine double
    2 slams
    3 masters
    4-0 against Nadal (only mentioned to bring out the uniqueness)
    GS final win against Nadal

    This was better than 2009.

    Better seasons were 04-07.

    So this was the 5th best season of his life.

    I went by the no. of slams first and then the masters titles won in a season.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 8, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    I can't say for sure Fed's highest level of play came this year. But you can't say it didn't.

  • Fiero425 · December 8, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    scoop said:

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    I can't say for sure Fed's highest level of play came this year. But you can't say it didn't.Click to expand…

    Even with the added competition, I can't say Fed's playing at his highest level now! His schedule was curtailed this past season, 2 other top players were gone half the year and injured before leaving, but he still only took 2 majors when he won 3 in 3 other seasons! If he had continued his roll through the FO, it might have totally changed the dynamics of the season; win/losses for other players would also be made different than it occurred! No doubt this past season was magical for Fed, but only because he went 5 years with nothing but runner-up checks at the majors and YEC! SORRY! :-)2 :whistle: :rolleyes:

  • brokenshoelace · December 8, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    mrzz said:

    If you take the whole year in consideration, 2016 Federer is quite far away from, say, 2005 Federer — even if, yes, some aspects of his game improved. But what I guess confuses a bit the picture is that in some particular tournaments Federer looked monstrously good — Australian Open and IW come to mind. I recently rewatched some long highlights of the Berdych match at AO and the shots there were just absurd. But the thing is that he hardly repeated such performances in the second half of the year.Click to expand…

    There were matches at the Australian Open where Roger played some of his absolute best tennis ever (Berdych comes to mind, as does the final set against Nadal)…but when you look at the Wawrinka semi, where he really was lucky to win and looked pretty mediocre, it's the sort of performance that would have never ever ever happened in his prime in the semi finals of a major. And of course, on a match-to-match, week in and week out basis, Roger isn't anywhere near the best he's ever been.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 8, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Okay this might not have been the greatest season of Federer's career but he still might have played his greatest highest level of tennis this year. Those four in a row dominant wins over Nadal, the No. 1 player for the year, were very impressive and a feat Fed never accomplished before, beating a top form Nadal FOUR TIMES IN A ROW.

  • Shivashish Sarkar · December 9, 2017 at 12:10 am

    Tennis can be really vague at times. When you say prime Nadal, some could say he never primed up opposite Federer in those 4 matches. But could it not be because Roger was totally in his head everytime by virtue of the upperhand he had over him in this mental aspect this year.

  • Shivashish Sarkar · December 9, 2017 at 12:10 am

    Tennis can be really vague at times. When you say prime Nadal, some could say he never primed up opposite Federer in those 4 matches. But could it not be because Roger was totally in his head everytime by virtue of the upperhand he had over him in this mental aspect this year.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 9, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Shivashish; Rafa "never primed up" – maybe because Federer prevented him from playing his best. Because we know Rafa is the best player in the world this year and he always tries to play his very best. He just couldn't do it vs Federer.

  • mrzz · December 12, 2017 at 5:33 am

    brokenshoelace said:

    There were matches at the Australian Open where Roger played some of his absolute best tennis ever (Berdych comes to mind, as does the final set against Nadal)…but when you look at the Wawrinka semi, where he really was lucky to win and looked pretty mediocre, it's the sort of performance that would have never ever ever happened in his prime in the semi finals of a major. And of course, on a match-to-match, week in and week out basis, Roger isn't anywhere near the best he's ever been.Click to expand…

    We are in agreement I know but I would not say "lucky" for the Wawrinka match. He was half a step slower (which adds up to our general point) but on the fifth set he saved the early break points by his own merit. The potential crucial break on the fifth game (just rewatched the last set) was saved on a Wawrinka error, but they were both exchanging deep and high back hands and Wawrinka was the first to miss (that is, it was not an easy volley at the net), so he saved that on merit. He broke on the very next game on a poor game by Wawrinka, but he forced the issue on all returns (fast returns to the body), and had some merit there. The break came on a double fault, at 15-40, so that was a gift (but, as I said, he was forcing the return). From then on it was one way traffic. All this to say, it was by the skin of his teeth, but "lucky" is a bit unfair.

    Anyway my point here is different (and again in agreement with our general point). I just rewatched long bits of the 2004 US Open final. What a f*ck!!! That is the very definition of winners out of nowhere. Two 6-0 sets in a major final against a major winner, who was playing his usual level. That was just absurd. The 2017 backhand maybe is 10% better, but the 2004 forehand is on another planet.

  • brokenshoelace · December 12, 2017 at 9:20 am

    "Lucky" is always unfair because matches are never won due to a single reason, and there are two opponents sharing the court (meaning someone would have to do something right, someone would have to do something wrong, etc…). Even if something insane happens like a terrible call by the lines-judge on a breakpoint or something, you can always argue that "lucky" or "unlucky" are unfair terms because there were plenty of other points played. In short, you know what I mean… I'm sure a Stan fan would call your assessment very one-sided (and it sort of is) because they can point out to Stan playing well below his level, and at some key points in the game, not through Roger's doing… Basically, Roger was there for the taking and Stan failed to capitalize. I guess that's a more diplomatic way of putting it.

  • Federberg · December 12, 2017 at 9:57 am

    You have to factor in the mental variable in that match up. Stan has only ever beaten Roger on clay. Saying Federer was lucky is as futile as saying he was unlucky many times against Rafa. At a certain point we just have to bow to the data

  • brokenshoelace · December 12, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Federberg said:

    You have to factor in the mental variable in that match up. Stan has only ever beaten Roger on clay. Saying Federer was lucky is as futile as saying he was unlucky many times against Rafa. At a certain point we just have to bow to the dataClick to expand…

    This place has become wayyyyyyyyyy too hellbent on nitpicking technicalities. You guys know what I mean, jeez.

    "Basically, Roger was there for the taking and Stan failed to capitalize."

  • mrzz · December 12, 2017 at 10:37 am

    brokenshoelace said:

    "Lucky" is always unfair because matches are never won due to a single reason, and there are two opponents sharing the court (meaning someone would have to do something right, someone would have to do something wrong, etc…). Even if something insane happens like a terrible call by the lines-judge on a breakpoint or something, you can always argue that "lucky" or "unlucky" are unfair terms because there were plenty of other points played. In short, you know what I mean… I'm sure a Stan fan would call your assessment very one-sided (and it sort of is) because they can point out to Stan playing well below his level, and at some key points in the game, not through Roger's doing… Basically, Roger was there for the taking and Stan failed to capitalize. I guess that's a more diplomatic way of putting it.Click to expand…

    Well, we'll need to find a Stan fan to begin with :). Actually I think on this board I am closest thing to that available…

    But seriously I think now we disagree. Federer won the first two sets fair and square. So, he could only "be there for the taking" in the last set. In this set Wawrinka had only two break opportunities, one in the third and one in the fifth game. The one in the third he was given zero chance of converting. The one in the fifth is the one I described above. So, yes, Federer at that point wasn't near the level he produced in other matches, but it is not like that set was completely in Wawrinka's racquet. On one hand, I see what you mean, on the other, he was never even in front and only produced two break opportunities (and it is not that he was playing like sh!t).

    [Edit:] But, yes, around the middle of the last set Wawrinka was the one playing better tennis and in that sense he failed to capitalize.

  • brokenshoelace · December 12, 2017 at 10:45 am

    mrzz said:

    Well, we'll need to find a Stan fan to begin with :). Actually I think on this board I am closest thing to that available…

    But seriously I think now we disagree. Federer won the first two sets fair and square. So, he could only "be there for the taking" in the last set. In this set Wawrinka had only two break opportunities, one in the third and one in the fifth game. The one in the third he was given zero chance of converting. The one in the fifth is the one I described above. So, yes, Federer at that point wasn't near the level he produced in other matches, but it is not like that set was completely in Wawrinka's racquet. On one hand, I see what you mean, on the other, he was never even in front and only produced two break opportunities (and it is not that he was playing like sh!t).Click to expand…

    Yes, Federer was there for the taking in the final set, as he had looked pretty putrid in the 2 previous sets, seemed to be somewhat out of gas and playing completely out of sorts. Stan had outplayed him over those two sets and had the momentum. Wawrinka just didn't capitalize, his level actually dropped and gifted Federer a break (please let's not credit the opponent for a double fault. Yeah, Federer maybe was putting pressure on the return but a professional top 5 tennis player should be expected to put a second serve in play, period).

    And again, this is a case of people nitpicking and completely missing the point. I didn't say Stan blew the match or choked. He was never in front. In fact, he was 2 sets behind. I'm saying after winning sets 3 and 4, against a pretty average Federer, he didn't capitalize. Moreover, this was a passing comment made in a post stating that this year is indeed not the best Federer has ever played… Not a careful examination of the match.

    PS: Almost literally every Federer fan on this board states that "Nadal was there for the taking at Roland Garros in 2011 and Federer failed to capitalize" (pretty sure @britbox is a leading proponent of that theory, which has some merit). If I even begin to analyze what happened in that match, a match that didn't even go 5 sets, using the same above logic, it would be very easy to dissect that theory. Except, that theory is valid and the logic is somewhat flawed.

  • mrzz · December 12, 2017 at 10:49 am

    @brokenshoelace , see my edit above (I wrote before I read your post). And, don't worry, I know we're just chatting about tiny details, I won't blow it out of proportion…

  • Federberg · December 12, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Lol! Fair enough.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 12, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    "Matches are never won due to a single reason" I disagree with that brokenshoelace. I was losing a match 3-5 because I was hitting every ball to the corners and this opponent was deadly in the corners, able to hit winners cross court and up the line. Then I accidentally shanked a ball deep down the middle and he missed it a foot wide. I realized, wow, he never missed a ball in the corners but he's missed his only ball down the middle deep. Let me keep going deep down the middle. Guess what? I won the match 76 60. Another story I read was Jeff Borowiak said he was losing a match on grass and the ball kid said to him to go to net more. He listened to the kid and came back and won the match. Two examples where one single reason turns a match around. Surely there are hundreds more examples :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 12, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Wawrinka psychologically defers to Fed, most of the time they play he seems afraid to beat his big brother. He does not summon his emotional adrenaline to the optimum level. And when Stan does decide to push hard to beat Fed, well then he gets an earful from Mirka :)

  • mrzz · December 12, 2017 at 11:23 am

    scoop said:

    I was losing a match 3-5 because I was hitting every ball to the corners and this opponent was deadly in the corners, able to hit winners cross court and up the line. Then I accidentally shanked a ball deep down the middle and he missed it a foot wide. I realized, wow, he never missed a ball in the corners but he's missed his only ball down the middle deep. Let me keep going deep down the middle. Guess what? I won the match 76 60.Click to expand…

    These damned moon-ballers, always trying to find an excuse for their shameful behavior…. :D

  • brokenshoelace · December 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    You're stirring up the pot… the Wozniacki fanbase will be outraged.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 12, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    I have been playing a former D1 player and he kept trying to hit me off the court by "stepping in" but my defense and counter punching was too strong. I won five days in a row of tiebreakers. Then he started "pushing" more and using high, neutral balls (moonballs or semi-moonballs) more instead of trying to step in and attack everything. And guess what? He tied me 3-3 and then beat me 4-3 yesterday so the moonballs and patient neutral balls worked in his favor. Trying to be all offense and blast me off the court didn't work. Mixing it up and using strategic moomballs worked better.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 12, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Scoop Malinowski writes: Anybody who refuses to use moonballs or Wozniacki style defense and patience has got to be a player of suspect success IMO. All players sub-professional ranks need to use it sometimes. As a way to change the rhythm of the match and or to try to take your opponent out of his/her rhythm.

  • mrzz · December 12, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    ^Agreed, Scoop, but don't even think about trying to deny my prerogative of shaming everyone who even considered using a moon-ball once in his life.

    (of course I do that too, but I punish myself with self inflicted lashes afterwards).

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 12, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Mrzz; My friend covers high school tennis in Bergen County NJ and he told me he saw a torturous match this year between a total moonballer and a go-for-broke winners player that lasted over four hours. Winner or balls into the fence or middle of the net. For over four hours. It's a good thing you were not there watching this match or the police would have probably been called :)

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