So last night I had a hit with my friend “The Dinker” on a not so well-lit public court out here in L.A. As we headed to our cars, I mentioned that I would be heading down to Indian Wells next week and said I would try to take a good picture of “Nole” aka Novak Djokovic for him as he is my friend’s favorite player for many reasons.
My friend then asked me if I thought Djokovic could be No. 1. I told him, “well, it’s possible though a lot will depend on Nadal,” My friend agreed with me and brought up Nadal’s injury at the Australian Open that cost the Spaniard a chance at the “Rafa Slam”. My friend added, “I have a feeling Nadal’s career will be one of what might have been.”, a reference to Nadal’s battles with his body that seem to be the only thing standing in his way to being the “GOAT” of all-time.
And by the way, nowhere in this conversation was the name Roger Federer even mentioned. What a difference a year makes.
A year ago, if my friend had asked me the same question about “Nole” being No. 1, I would have inquired if he was unwell or perhaps on some medication that had delusions as a side effect. But with Djokovic in the past twelve months figuring out a great deal about his serve, his racquet and, by his own admission, his brain, Djokovic has a legitimate chance to reach No.1 at least by the end of the year if a number things fall into place.
This quest for the top ranking is very likely one reason why Djokovic skipped out on playing for Serbia versus India in Davis Cup this weekend as his lengthy match against John Isner last year in Belgrade was cited as one of the reasons Djokovic came up short a few weeks later at Indian Wells and then Miami due to fatigue. Djokovic was criticized for choosing not to play Davis Cup this month, especially as India is giving Serbia a tougher than expected test as I write this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Djokovic, like Federer for Switzerland, opts to excuse himself from future ties so not to disrupt any possibility of doing well and/or winning a Major, this year or in the future.
For Djokovic to find himself in a position for No. 1, a successful run at Indian Wells and Miami this year won’t be enough though. He obviously has to do well on the clay courts which Nadal owned last season and potentially find a way into the Wimbledon finals, something he’s capable of after having reached the semifinals several times. And then there’s always Federer who’s still part of the conversation for No. 1 though one has to like Djokovic chances against the “Swiss Maestro” more and more, no matter what surface they play on.
A lot could happen between now and the end of the year but one thing is for sure, the question of Nole being No.1 is sure to become a more frequent topic of conversation on changeovers and walks back from the court for many players in 2011.