Still fresh from his four set defeat to Nadal at Roland Garros, all eyes are on No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon this year. Coached by Boris Becker – a man who won three Wimbledon titles himself – it seems that this year Djokovic could go all the way, and repeat his victory of 2011. Will he do it? Let us look at the strengths and weaknesses of Djokovic’s title challenge at Wimbledon.
Motivation after his Roland Garros defeat could spur him on hugely in this tournament. After having the prospect of a career Grand Slam dashed before his eyes Djokovic will want to prove that he still has it, that he can still compete with the greatest names in the history of men’s tennis. Watch out Rafa, Novak wants revenge.
Boris Becker is a powerful presence on the side of any tennis court, but on Centre Court at Wimbledon in particular. The three-time champion knows better than anybody the ins and outs of playing a Wimbledon final. This could well be the key for Djokovic. He needs the mental strength, the mental attitude, the belief, and the confidence to pull out the big wins we all know he can. On this of all surfaces, the influence of Becker will be invaluable, and perhaps the determining factor in Novak’s title bid.
Djokovic’s form is what everyone is talking about. Until his defeat to Rafa in the final, he looked imperious in Paris, losing only two sets in six matches. The only person who lost less was the eventual champion himself. And that was Paris, the lion’s den as far as opponents of Nadal are concerned. Wimbledon is a whole other story. Wimbledon has arguably seen more upsets and shock results than any other tournament. Anything can and has happened there, and the unpredictable nature of one of Tennis’ best loved tournaments could suit Djokovic down to the ground.
The draw could be Djokovic’s greatest enemy at this year’s tournament. His quarter of the draw alone contains Radek Stepanek, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Ernest Gulbis and Thomas Berdych. Gulbis and Tsonga can both be dangerous, lethal in fact, if on form, and Stepanek’s incredible form at Queen’s shows he is far from being past his prime and is not afraid of the big name players. There is also a potential semi-final meeting with defending champion Murray, or on-form wonder kid Grigor Dimitrov. There can be no doubt that there will be many tight battles for Djokovic on court, and even if he makes it past all of these potential opponents to the final it is likely that he will have played some long, intense matches, and so may not have the strength for a five hour, five set match against the likes of Wawrinka or Nadal.
Although he is the top seed, and although he has been on top form for most of the year, there have no doubt been some serious weaknesses in his game, most notably in Paris. His semi-final against Gulbis should have been straightforward but instead he went completely off the boil and allowed Gulbis to take the third set, before having to fight back hard in the fourth to get the win. Similarly in the final he seemed dominant against Nadal at first, but through either fatigue or nerves, or a combination of the two, he allowed the Spaniard back in the game. The second set was in essence the decider, handing momentum and confidence back to his opponent, and things only went downhill for Novak from there.
These are the kind of mistakes and lapses Djokovic cannot afford if he is to triumph at SW19. However, he has the coach, he has the ability, and he certainly has the motivation. It is extremely hard to look past Novak Djokovic when looking for the next male champion at Wimbledon.
Lucy Gaynor, Pundit Arena.