Capitulation is the word that comes to mind as Novak Djokovic fell in three sets to Dominic Thiem in Paris in a defeat which underlines issues in his game and the last set of tennis from the former world number one is something we haven’t seen before.
We do have to sit here at the same time and congratulate Thiem for a very good performance but as the match went on it became less than a challenge against a man who this time last year held all four Grand Slam titles but now none…
Over the past 12 months there has been a lot of talk about personal life and of course recently made a big decision to split from his entire coaching team just a month or so ago and has recently added Andre Agassi to his team but it is unknown how long he will stick around for but either way there is plenty of work to do.
When Novak Djokovic was at his best the parts of his game which we spoke time and time again was his movement and of course his backhand which were his biggest strengths and now we are talking about these shots again but because they have become his biggest weakness in his game but what has changed?
Funnily enough a few days into the tournament on Game, Set and Mats coach of Serena Williams Patrick Mouratoglu was on talking about the former world number one’s backhand and how he seems to be rushing it and trying to take it early/too quick but also I’ve noticed a slump in his movement making it difficult to be effective and put himself on the front foot and his opponent under pressure.
The stats tell just a small side of the story, whether Novak is outside the tram line or inside the tram line the % of points won when the backhand is used is down around 20% from last year which can mean a number of things.
This is just one backhand of many I could have chosen and you can see a tight push from the defending champion hitting the ball with no conviction producing an error and dropping the set.
I wrote a moment ago about Novak winning a smaller % on the backhand and this still above helps highlight a little bit of this. What is usually a well measured and time shot is rushed and panicked which you can below from the finishing position on the backhand, what is this?
The higher % of points he has lost are usually ones he does win and we can talk forehands and backhands until the cows come home but before we can even trust a shot you have to trust your movement and that movement which was second to none is now non-existent.
It’s gone from a free-hitting and ruthless backhand to a wooden and flat shot.
Is this something that you just put down to confidence or motivation? Winning Roland Garros last year was the final piece of the puzzle and we then saw the emotion in Rio when he missed out on another Olympic Medal.