Novak Djokovic, what is going on? That's three losses his last four appearances in tournament finals for the Serbian! Holy tennis shocker Batman, the Djoker is potentially looking as if he could get sucker punched (with a big comic-captioned "Pow!") out of the US Open 2015 title given his irregular lapses recently in showcase matches.
What's going on? It's hard to knock a player who has been to the final of each of his last ten tournaments entered this season. It's been remarkable form from Djokovic for pretty much the entire season, sweeping his way to four ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles along with the Australian Open and Wimbledon. But that win in England’s capital has been his only triumph in the last four events.
The wobbles started at the French Open when Djokovic was surprised by a gutsy Stan Wawrinka in the Paris final. Then his eight-match winning streak against Andy Murray was blown up as he lost against the chipper Brit in the final of the Rogers Cup. He was favourite heading into Cincinnati and breezed through to the final before losing to the evergreen Roger Federer. Why has Djokovic lost his winning touch when the pressure is on the most?
He hasn't. Well, he has obviously, but some poor choices, injury and fatigue seem to have caught up with him. He's not out of form, he just hasn't been at peak health. He will be hoping that his decision to play doubles at the Rogers Cup (four extra matches) won’t come back to haunt his US Open challenge. He was clearly tired in the Montreal final against Murray and couldn’t get a serve going at all. How much of a difference would it have made if he had just focused on the singles?
There were the same touches of lethargy and slower responses when he faced Federer in the Cincinnati final just a week later. After the long week in Montreal, he was facing a pretty fresh Federer and Djokovic was off the pace against the Swiss star. There have been injury and pain problems with his elbow (hindering his serve) and even a simple statement which he made of "I'm not happy with my form" could have far deeper implications than what those six words are immediately saying.
He just doesn't seem quite happy with himself. Is he burned out again? Remember back in 2011 when he was looking unstoppable, sweeping his way to the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles? After digging deep and expending so much against Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open 2012 final, the toll of all those successful efforts seemed to weigh him down through the latter part of the season. Following that 2012 victory in Melbourne, Djokovic won just one of the next nine Slams.
He’s back in his stride having won three of the last five Grand Slams but there have just been little signs that he is going to have to dig deeper into his well of reserve during the next two weeks in New York than he would like too. He has been at such a peak this season, the valley he is slipping into looks like a chasm. Will the week's rest between Cincinnati and Flushing Meadows be enough for him to rejuvenate for him to land a long overdue second US Open title or will he be burned as he was in last season’s semi?