Novak Djokovic has by no means heard of “Gumby.”
A baby journalist chosen by the USTA to function a “kid-caster” requested Djokovic at Friday’s U.S. Open media day which nickname he most well-liked — “Gumby” or “Spiderman.”
Djokovic has been known as each by the tennis cognoscenti. Consultants have lengthy tried to determine what has made the Serbian — on the verge of changing into the primary males’s participant to finish the Grand Slam in 52 years — so dominant.
Rod Laver was the final to win all 4 majors in a calendar yr, in 1969, and Don Budge is the opposite male to realize the feat.
The opportunity of that accomplishment has even trumped Djokovic’s different potential milestone — setting the all-time file for many main titles, breaking his tie Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. If he conquerors Flushing Meadows for the fourth time in his profession, he’ll be on their own with 21.
Djokovic’s recreation is hard to outline — which is one reason Federer and Nadal have all the time been the middle of the speak concerning the “GOAT” in males’s tennis.
“[Federer is] probably the most stunning participant I ever watched,” John McEnroe stated.
Djokovic isn’t recognized for a supersonic serve, like Peter Sampras. He doesn’t have the grace or aptitude of Laver or Federer, whose sliced one-handed backhand and crosscourt top-spin forehand are poetic. Nor does he possess the inventive serve-and-volley recreation of the lefty McEnroe.
Djokovic, too, doesn’t have the uncooked bulldog lefty-forehand energy of Nadal. However what the Serbian has are all of the intangibles — together with courtroom protection — the anticipation, reflex and suppleness to succeed in for pictures that appear unimaginable. Therefore, Gumby — the inexperienced clay animation determine that stretches all completely different instructions.
On the press convention, one other journalist googled a “Gumby” picture on his cellphone to point out Djokovic.
“I’m simply seeing what’s Gumby,” Djokovic stated. “The inexperienced stretchy. Yeah, appears to be like enjoyable.”
Oh, it’s been a ball of enjoyable for Djokovic since 2011, when he began to lunge towards Federer and Nadal in successful three of the 4 majors that yr. As he appears to be like to go them over the U.S. Open fortnight, tennis insiders really feel the 34-year-old can also be on observe to interrupt Margaret Courtroom’s file of 24 majors.
“The pliability, no person has ever been as versatile that I do know,” ESPN’s Pam Shriver, a Corridor of Famer, stated. “Geez, Olympic gymnasts had been having him pose on the Olympics.”
Russian prime contender Daniil Medvedev stated it’s not all the time simple to place a finger on that one factor that makes Djokovic nice.
“If I should select only one, I’d in all probability say the motion,” Medvedev stated. “However then after all it’s every part. I performed numerous matches with him. You’re going to have ways. He’s going to have them nicely ready. With him, each match is a brand new story.”
“I keep in mind the Australian Open, once I misplaced to him [two different times]. At one second of the match I felt like if I simply go on his backhand and I attempt to make him play numerous balls. This tactic labored not dangerous. The following match I’d attempt to do the identical and he would destroy me. He’s in all probability probably the most full gamers within the historical past of tennis — backhand, forehand, return. [His] serve will not be dangerous additionally.”
Enhancing his well being and health turned a giant problem for Djokovic throughout his 2011 turnaround, when he captured his first U.S. Open title. Earlier than 2011, Djokovic had only one Slam title — on the Australian Open in 2007.
Djokovic was the clear third wheel to Federer and Nadal in all classes — together with fan base.
In 2010, Djokovic discovered he had a gluten allergy that would have an effect on his power. So in 2011, his new eating regimen eliminated gluten — pasta, beer, cookies, cereal and his sweet vice, Twizzlers.
Nineteen of his 20 main victories have come since then, however there was greater than eating regimen and health to changing into the perfect tennis participant on this planet: There have been thoughts video games and match ways.
Alongside the best way, Djokovic employed two good coaches — legend Boris Becker and at the moment Goran Ivanisevic. In 2018, he additionally introduced again his first coach, Marian Vajda.
Ivanisevic, a former Wimbledon champion, is credited for bettering Djokovic’s spare web recreation.
“Really lots of people underestimate his volleys,” Ivanisevic stated. “He’s not a serve-and-volleyer. He’s by no means going to be a serve-and-volleyer. However he likes to play doubles. He has very strong volleys and improved it the final couple of years.”
As Shriver famous: “He appears to be like at each potential little factor that would tinker with any a part of his recreation that would assist him. He appears to look a bit of extra at some uncommon issues to realize simply that little little bit of an edge.”
Djokovic’s resiliency beneath stress can also be unmatched. Andy Roddick famous on Tennis Channel final week that no person goes from protection to offense extra rapidly than Djokovic does with one stroke.
“Novak is so sturdy mentally,” stated Randy Walker, former USTA spokesman and main tennis-book writer. “Take a look at what number of occasions he has come again from two units to like down and from match level all the way down to win so many massive matches.”
Within the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Open semifinals, Djokovic fought again from two match factors down every time to stun Federer. Within the 2019 Wimbledon last towards Federer, Djokovic survived two extra match factors to win a five-hour, five-setter.
At this yr’s French Open last towards Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Serbian’s nerves of metal gained out once more, and he rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win in 5 units. That got here 48 hours after his historic semifinal win, when he dethroned clay-court kingpin Nadal, whose file on the French Open had been 105-2.
Djokovic’s file towards Federer is 27-23 and has a 30-28 edge on Nadal.
“He’s wonderful,” Ivanisevic stated. “On daily basis one thing new, one thing higher, higher. You need to kill the man 27 occasions and nonetheless he will get up and it’s important to kill him once more and he will get up.”
After the French Open title on June 13, Djokovic knew a Grand Slam was an actual risk. Seven extra victories at Flushing Meadows and the controversy on the tennis’ GOAT could be moot.
“It’s simpler stated than performed,” McEnroe stated. “There’s a motive it hasn’t been performed in 52 years. It’s actually robust. We’ll see how he handles it. He handles [pressure] about in addition to anybody I’ve ever seen within the final 10 years of his profession. I feel he’s prepared for the second.”