Monday 25 September 2017

Ruthless Djokovic too good to win over the fans

Jonathan Liew

WHEN Novak Djokovic is in the sort of imposing form he has displayed at times this fortnight, it is a sight as dispiriting as it is impressive.

With the old axis waning, and the new front yet to emerge, all hope of resistance appears doomed to failure. Woe betide all who dare to stand in his path. The future of tennis shall be a Djokovic boot stamping on a human face, forever.

Perhaps this is why the Wimbledon crowd have failed to warm to him. As he hewed his way to another straight-sets win, another defiant pump of the fist, another Grand Slam semi-final, there remained a distinct sang-froid that only really lifted in the rare moments when his opponent, Tomas Berdych, grabbed the upper hand.

Of the 11,000 spectators crammed into Court No 1, perhaps 2 to 3pc were Djokovic fans, 2 to 3pc Berdych fans, and the rest Andy Murray fans desperately willing Djokovic to do a cruciate, but unsure how to express this in a three-word chant.

This is Djokovic's problem, then: he is too inhumanely good for his own good. Even the haughty crown prince Roger Federer had the decency to cry the first time he won here.

With his bandaged knees and painful grimace, Rafael Nadal positively oozes pathos.

Djokovic, on the other hand, is the sort of opponent you would encounter in a computer game on the hardest setting. Tireless, impregnable, ruthless. An adversary to be respected, perhaps feared, but not necessarily loved.

Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro will be cheered like one of England's own when he takes him on in their semi-final tomorrow.

And when Djokovic speaks casually about his limitless capacity for improvement, you wonder whether it might not be time to abandon all hope, to leave this cold-blooded Serbian droid to his own devices and find something else to be good at.

"There's always something I feel I can do better," he said. "I still feel there is room for improvement. That's something that excites me actually for the future."

But every so often, the tiniest crack appears in his immaculate edifice. And though the scoreline – 7-6 6-4 6-3 – looked breezy, it was far from easy at times.

On this evidence, Djokovic is just a little way short of his 2011 vintage. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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