Long before Novak Djokovic won his first Grand Slam title, I studied his game closely and wrote a post about him called, “The Perfect Player.” If I had more time and energy today, I could write on about Andreas Seppi with the headline: “The Perfect Player for Novak Djokovic to Crush.”
Today in Dubai, Djokovic ran his career head-to-head winning streak against Seppi to 10-0 in a train wreck of a tennis match that the Serb won, 6-0, 6-3. For a while, the main question was: Which would arrive first: Match point for Djokovic, or the one-hour mark in the match?
Fittingly, they arrived at exactly the same time.
Djokovic was unable to convert that match point because Seppi hit one of his rare service winners to get back to deuce. It was the highlight of the match for the outmatched Italian.
Seppi is no slouch; he’s ranked No. 20, and you don’t get there on just your good looks. He’s mature at 29, and as rangy and lean as Djokovic, over whom he even has a one-inch advantage in height (Seppi is 6’3”). The fellas are friends and neighbors in Monaco, where they recently spent a few days sparring. It was pretty clear today that Seppi didn’t exactly “figure out” Djokovic during those practice sessions—what he learned was, probably, to be afraid. Very afraid.
Curiously, the match started with a break point for Seppi in the very first game. But he would not see another one the rest of the way, as the world No. 1 won a whopping 89 percent of the points (25 of 28) when he stuck his first serve in the box.
While Seppi certainly has the physical stature to withstand Djokovic’s brutally physical game, his greatest weaknesses plays right into Nole’s signature strengths. Seppi’s first serve can be tricky because he hits it with a rushed, now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t motion. But his second serve is so-so at best, which goes to show that being tall and thin doesn’t automatically provide you with a deadly serve of the kind deployed by Ivo Karlovic or Kevin Anderson.
Djokovic, one of the best returners in the game, had a field day with that second serve.
Off the ground, Seppi has a good forehand—but it’s not as good as Djokovic’s. He has a crisp two-handed backhand—but it’s not as crisp as Djokovic’s. Seppi can cover a lot of court—but not as much as Djokovic, who’s far more nimble and explosive. His volley—at this point, who cares?
One of the best ways to appreciate the talents of a specific player is to find and hold up a foil who makes your main subject’s game glow in the best light. Seppi is the ideal foil for Djokovic, which isn’t the insult it may seem when you consider just how good Djokovic is.