Calm Down. Novak Djokovic Isn’t Done Winning Just Yet…

By Srihari Ravi

Recency bias is a disease that infects the majority of us at some point. Analogous to how, say, COVID-19 has different variants and attacks various people over a duration of time.  

In 2022, the beneficiary of recency bias is Rafael Nadal whereas the one who is being dismissed, so to speak, is Novak Djokovic. Yes, the same Novak Djokovic who became the first man in the Open Era to win multiple titles at each Grand Slam event, the man who defeated Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros (!!) on his way to doing so, the man who won his 20th Grand Slam title to tie his biggest rivals Roger Federer and Nadal, and the man who was a single match win away from completing the Calendar Grand Slam. 

What has happened since? How was such a juggernaut who was well on his way to sealing every significant record in the sport in his favor reduced to someone who is according to many “not on the same level as Rafael Nadal”? 

If you were anticipating the next few paragraphs to be on the Australian Saga involving Djokovic’s refusal to get vaccinated and his deportation from the country following the entry through a medical exemption, you have come to the wrong place. I have no time for that. This entire piece is purely tennis based.  

Remember how I said that recency bias affects different people at different times? It is not just the case with Novak. Last year, it was Nadal who was labelled “semi-retired” and was not even given a chance at the tournament he has unfathomably dominated for the better part of the last decade and a half: Roland-Garros. Rafa, however, has more than gained redemption for 2021. He would achieve the same feat at the Australian Open that Novak did last year at Roland-Garros, winning his second title there to complete the Double Career Slam. Not only that, but he would snatch back the Roland-Garros crown he has owned for the longest time from the same player who dethroned him in last year’s semifinal, defeating him in another four-plus-hour battle on Philippe Chatrier at night. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzBneaWSswY
 
What is the discourse now? We read everywhere that Rafael Nadal is the undisputed GOAT from the same “experts” and even fans (full-time and casual) who only last year predicted that Djokovic would reach 25 Grand Slam titles. To me, this really does not make much sense and all I want to tell people is to hold their horses and back up their trucks. It is not over until it is over. 

Don’t get me wrong, this is not coming from annoyance of the ardent Djokovic fan in me. Well, it is partially. But in fairness, I would usually be the first to scoff at those who predict that Djokovic will finish with 25-30 slams whenever he as much as triumphs at one. Here is the catch. When the same people write off Nadal, as much as it annoys me to see their vehemence in doing so, I can sense that it doesn’t come from any sort of repulsion or disrespect for the man. With Djokovic, that is not the case. It is almost as if people want him out of the big picture once and for all. 

This is not even up for debate. You can’t possibly go from saying that “Djokovic will end up as the undisputed GOAT” to going as far as rating Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg ahead of him in the all-time greatest players list. Not just that, but also trying to rewrite history and bringing in asinine “what-if” scenarios to erode the man’s legacy and suggest that all of his accolades are somehow attributed to circumstantial luck. You have that, and then you have the constant background noise signal of people regurgitating the same, tired narrative of him not being “as loved as Federer and Nadal” or having the same flair as those two. Since when did tennis become an eye test and popularity contest? 

Think whatever you want to about Novak Djokovic. You don’t even have to like him to acknowledge the obvious that is his greatness. Trying to come up with alternate realities to show that he isn’t great is borderline ridiculous, and this level of writing-off is not something I ever saw being done with Federer and Nadal, or even any other great player who is leagues below Novak. 
 
That rant was for his detractors, but I also have one for his fans who think he is finished. Enemies within your own clan are actually worse than outside enemies, especially those who say “he doesn’t care about tennis anymore.” 
 
Tell me this. When Novak was ranked No. 22 and was 10-7 for the season at one point in 2018, did any of you expect him to win another eight slams, including at least one at all four major events? Even better, let’s talk about more recent events. After getting disqualified from the U.S. Open and being handed his worst loss in a slam final at Roland-Garros in 2020, did you anticipate that he would come within a match win from completing the CALENDAR SLAM the very next season? (Not to mention defeating the same Rafael Nadal who massacred him in the final of Roland-Garros exactly 8 months prior.) Here’s my advice: do not be foolish. Play out the long game. It is what we have been doing for the longest time in this sport. Our moment will arrive once more, and this time it will be sweeter than ever before. 

My final verdict is this: You want to write off Novak Djokovic? Go ahead and do so at your own peril (at the risk of sounding cliché). However, I am here to tell you that soon the massive joke will be on all of you. It will not be very long before he is back to his Grand Slam winning ways. And mind you, this man wins them in bunches at a time. (Recall 2011, 2015, 2018-2019, and 2021.) Then, when the same people show up again and start making claims about him finishing with 30 Grand Slams and <insert other nonsensical scenarios>, I will keep all of this in mind and give you a long, ironic stare.

He’ll Be Back: Novak Djokovic hasn’t had the best start to 2022. Screenshot: Australian Open

2 thoughts on “Calm Down. Novak Djokovic Isn’t Done Winning Just Yet…

  1. He really does win them in bunches but Wimbledon 22 is key to any revival of his 30 GS dream.. If he does not win this and as expectedly misses the US Open, He will struggle to continue winning because the younger generations are finally coming of age. Alcaraz, Zverev (when he recovers), Medvedev, Sinner, Tsitsipas will only get better. Novak is getting more and more irritated with the lack of love from the fans. Time will tell but this year’s Wimby is key to hopes of overhauling Nadal especially if Rafa adds 1 or 2 more before retirement

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: