The unexpected loss by Novak Djokovic to Olivier Rochus in the opening round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami today may have been shocking to some, but for some reason, it didn’t surprise me. I say that after having seen Djokovic play over the last few weeks and just noticing how much effort he puts on the court and how much that effort takes out of him.
Aside from Dubai where he repeated as champion, Djokovic has not been able to get anything going so far in 2010. Why is that? One could say it’s his tough ATP schedule but it’s not like the other players don’t have grueling schedules as well. And other players have injuries and issues of their own, Rafael Nadal being the first one to come to mind.
During his match today in Miami, Djokovic played passive points and hit a lot of wild errors prompting some in the crowd to boo what appeared to be a less than 100% effort. After losing the tough three setter 6-2, 6-7 (7), 6-4, Djokovic was asked this question in his press conference.
Q. Obviously it’s a tough out for anybody, but do you feel like since Serbia something’s missing, your serve, your offense, something, confidence?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, that’s obvious. I don’t feel great on the court, and everybody could see that, so…Life goes on, you know. I’ve gotta rest now and try to make up for these defeats on clay courts.
Djokovic appeared to breath heavily on court and some suggested it was due to the humid conditions. Djokovic did have nasal surgery back in 2005 that, according to him, corrected his breathing problems then. But in his final match in Dubai a few weeks ago against Mikhail Youzhny and in his early matches at Indian Wells last week, Djokovic was also gulping down air then. Obviously anybody will gulp down air after a long point, but this has been going on for awhile. Add in his epic Davis Cup wins for Serbia over the U.S. that probably drained him mentally more than anything, and you can start to see how all that tennis has taken its toll.
So what does he do now? He said he will need to take a rest but he also said he will not change his clay court schedule this year. But it was that same lengthy schedule in 2009, including his super-long match against Rafael Nadal in Madrid, that caused Djokovic to crash out of the French Open. Djokovic has long advocated for a shorter ATP schedule, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
If something is physically wrong with Djokovic, no one will say it. If he needs a break so be it. Whatever he decides, Djokovic’s fitness and/or whatever possible ailment he has is becoming an issue for him. And it’s one he better figure out quick.