Tuesday 20 March 2018

'Exhausted' - Novak Djokovic stranglehold on tennis broken in dramatic fashion

Serbia's Novak Djokovic during a press conference after losing his match against USA's Sam Querrey REUTERS/Joe Toth/Pool
Serbia's Novak Djokovic during a press conference after losing his match against USA's Sam Querrey REUTERS/Joe Toth/Pool
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

In the end he had nothing left, in the end Novak Djokovic had no answer.

Just when it seemed as if the champion who had not lost a match in a Grand Slam tournament since his shock defeat against Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final a little over 12 months ago had an unbreakable stranglehold on a sport he has begun to dominate with arrogant ease, the Djokovic wall came crashing down.

Sam Querrey’s 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 3-6 7-6 (7-5) slaying of the world No.1 in the third round of Wimbledon should be marked down as one of the great upsets in sport, with bookies still making Djokovic favourite to emerge as the winner right up until his final wayward forehand handed his American rival a seemingly impossible victory.

This was as big an upset as James ‘Buster’ Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson back in 1990, as amazing a sporting miracle as Darren Clarke’s improbable Open championship win in 2011 because while Querrey has been ranked as high as No.17 in the world when he was at the peak of his powers, this 28-year-old is a tennis player limited to his one big serve.

His ace making power was on full display as he stormed through the first two sets before rain halted his march on Friday night, with most expecting Djokovic to explode back into the match on the resumption on Saturday.

As he marched into a 4-0 lead in the third set, the predictable comeback appeared to be on the card, but this was still not the Djokovic we have come to expect every time he shows up on a tennis court.

He looked distracted in his practice session prior to the resumption of his match with Querrey and then struggled to raise himself when the pressure was applied in the fourth set, with mistakes costing him dear in the decisive tie-break that was won by in dramatic fashion.

“Exhausted,” was how Djokovic described himself as he slumped into his chair in the Wimbledon press conference room, with the desire to win again so soon after he achieved his lifetime’s ambition of winning his first French Open title earlier this month clearly too much for him to overcome.

“It was difficult for me to motivate myself for this event, but Wimbledon is such a big event and you try and find a way to prepare and give your best. Clearly my best wasn’t good enough this year.

“It has been a very successful year, but a very long one. It has been very exhausting in every sense of that word and I just need to rest now.”

Djokovic has confirmed he now wants to have a break from tennis and will not play for Serbia in their Davis Cup clash with reigning champions Great Britain later this month, with that decision seemingly opening the door for a change in the landscape of tennis over the next few weeks at least.

Britain’s Andy Murray is now a red-hot favourite to win a second Wimbledon title and he may also be tipped to lead Great Britain to a second Davis Cup title, with his nemesis finally out of his way to claim some glory of his own.

Djokovic will be back, he is too good to disappear from winning podiums just like that, but his shock defeat at Wimbledon confirms that even the invincible sporting giants can occasionally be toppled.

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