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Why They'll Win, Why They Won't: Novak Djokovic

Saturday, August 24, 2013 /by

Can it be said that the No. 1 player in the world and top seed for the US Open is treading water? Clearly, Djokovic is missing a little of that drive and fire that powered his enchanted 2011. It may be expecting too much of any man to sustain such remarkable play: Djokovic went 70-6 that year, and bagged three majors and five Masters 1000 titles in one of the best seasons any player has ever produced. On the other hand—and this is the harsh reality—Djokovic needs to channel a comparable degree of skill and determination to cope with his main rivals. This may sound alarmist, given Djokovic’s ranking, but Rafael Nadal has a big lead and few points to defend in the race that will determine the No. 1 player for the year. And Nadal has won nine titles, while Djokovic has played just four finals and hasn’t won one since Monte Carlo in April.

Why He’ll Win: Nole has an almost preternatural ability to ramp up his game as the stakes get bigger. And his game is still most effective on hard courts, as his triumph at the Australian Open demonstrated.

Why He Won’t: Rafael Nadal is 15-0 on hard courts this year. And Nadal hasn’t forgotten the way Djokovic manhandled him in those matches back in 2011. Can you say “Payback?”

Bottom Line: There’s nothing wrong with Djokovic’s game, but he’ll need to avoid those puzzling lapses of attention and lift his game in critical moments. He ranks an astonishing 32nd in deciding sets this year.

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