August 29, 2020
Novak Djokovic is simply astounding. His tennis and his spirit should receive more praise.
There. We’ve said it. We can’t wait to see this magnificent athlete strut his stuff again at Wimbledon 2021.
As he battled his way through the Western and Southern tournament at Flushing Meadows, you just marvelled at his refusal to be beaten.
First by Roberto Bautista Agut, then by Milos Raonic.
In the final against Raonic, Novak was all but taken apart in the first set. He just raised his game to another level and took the second.
But what did he have left in the tank? Raonic was 2-0 up in the decider. There was visible hope of a first victory over Djokovic in the Canadian’s eyes.
That’s when Djokovic did something remarkable. He broke Raonic to love.
Yes, he dismantled one of the finest servers in the game and simply took control until the job was done 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
This is why Novak is also Wimbledon champion. This is why he may be the best player of all time.
The first man to win every Masters event twice. He is 23 and 0 so far in 2020.
‘I’m happy if I go 3 and 0,’ admitted Raonic in the post-final speeches. But Milos is a great player and he is getting even better.
So how does Djokovic manage such feats?
To defeat a brilliant Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-final while feeling so ill said everything about Novak’s skill and desire.
‘I don’t know how I won it, he was the better player. I didn’t feel good at all in any part of my body,’ Djokovic admitted.
He had a bad stomach. At one stage it looked as though he was going to be sick on court.
Then there was the need for further on-court manipulation of his troublesome neck.
The cynics among us might claim an element of gamesmanship from a player on the edge of defeat.
But the cameras don’t lie. Novak was pale and gaunt and drained. He didn’t look well at all.
And the physiotherapy on his neck was so extreme that you knew no one would willingly put themselves through that ordeal.
Not unless they were already in significant discomfort.
Bautista Agut had beaten Djokovic in their last three meetings on hard courts.
The Spaniard is some player. He is also a Wimbledon semi-finalist, you will recall.
RBA played his part in a match of quite stunning rallies.
Time and again points should have been over almost as quickly as they had begun.
Time and again these brilliant players found superhuman resilience to keep rallies going.
Millions marvelled on TV. Had there been a crowd at Flushing Meadows, they would have gasped with the sheer thrill of it all.
Bautista Agut struck first blood. He served for the match later and came within two points of victory.
For a moment Djokovic appeared to be falling apart. We should have known better.
The steely nerve of this man under pressure is something almost superhuman.
Remember last summer’s epic Wimbledon final? Remember how Novak refused to bow to the magnificent Roger Federer?
We saw more of the same in New York.
Djokovic refused to be beaten. He turned it all around in the blink of an eye.
The control he possessed was simply extraordinary.
A tennis racquet in the hands of Novak Djokovic is not some bludgeoning, hit-or-miss, heavy-duty weapon.
It is an extension of his body and balance. It is a calm, flashing blade. A marriage of effortless force and lethal accuracy.
We saw it in the tie-break. Novak even caressed the net with some of his killer forehands.
It wasn’t even luck. Just taking the game to its limits with supreme execution.
Djokovic beat Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-0). It’s just a scoreline. The outline of a story. A truly stunning drama to behold.
The quality of tennis? No wordsmith could truly do justice to it. We’ve tried.
And after winning that one, the Serb deserved the title and his extraordinary taming of a rampant Raonic.
Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon champion, we simply salute your remarkable powers.
See you at the All England Club in 2021.