For many, he had a good head start on his competitors in this Masters. Crowned with his 6th season (although truncated) ended in place of world number 1 and a flattering record of 39 successes for 3 defeats – including one on disqualification -, Novak Djokovic had not usurped, far from it, his logical favorite status. After having skipped the Rolex Paris Masters to recharge the batteries, he even seemed to arrive in London in optimal conditions. But after two days in the Tokyo 1970 group, his dry defeat against Daniil Medvedev, in addition to weakening his statistics somewhat (40-4 now), lowered his rating.
Beyond the raw result, it is the manner which challenged and the lack of reaction of the Serbian whose pride we know – like all the champions of his rank – yet. Always very lucid after his rare setbacks, the person concerned did not hide behind possible calculations: he gave in against stronger than him. “I have lowered my tennis level and physical intensity in general. I had difficulty regaining my rhythm for 15-20 minutes, and that resulted in this series of 7 lost games. I can’t afford to let this kind of thing happen against one of the best players in the world. I could and should have done better.”
Will the specter of Federer haunt him?
Still at a press conference, Djokovic once again spoke about his commitment to his new players’ association (the PTPA), partly revealing the political behind the scenes that animate the circuit. The length of his monologue says a lot about his involvement in matters concerning the future of the circuit. A commendable investment certainly, proof of his interest in his sport, but which has certainly also cost him a lot of energy in recent days.
That being said, we should not doubt either the motivation of the person concerned with the prospect of leaving a little more his mark in the history of tennis. This defeat against Medvedev, surprising as it is in form, may only be a twist if the world number 1 lifts the trophy a 6th time on Sunday, equaling Roger Federer’s benchmark mark. To do this, he had a little less than 48 hours to get his ideas back in place. The equation is simple: if he wins against Alexander Zverev, he will participate well in the last weekend of the tournament.
Undoubtedly, Djokovic has the weapons to overcome the obstacle. The question is to know in what psychological state he will approach the match. In a conquering spirit or in trembling? When we know the mental resources of the man, the question has the air of provocation. But on closer inspection, the Serbian’s recent history at the Masters is not all that rosy. In the same situation, and even though the throne at the end of the season was still in play, he had faltered last year against a Federer of great nights, it is true.
For Zverev, service will be key
And two years ago, it was a certain Sascha Zverev who had blown him the title in the same O2 Arena. If it is a question of comparing the levels of play of the two men since the beginning of the tournament, the “Djoker” seems above. But the German, although still irregular against Diego Schwartzman, felt on the upward slope. “It was much better than in my first game. It is also a process for me. You know, I haven’t trained a lot since I arrived. After my final in Paris, I was still a bit injured. I hope that Friday I will play even better, because I will need it against Novak.”
The progress Zverev is referring to is probably to be found in the impression given in his third set against “Peque”. He then served a very high percentage of first balls to take cover on his service games (only 2 seconds balls played in the inning!) And was able to release his shots more on the raise. He knows, to have a chance against Djokovic, his feelings in the service will be essential. Because the world number 1 may be the best raiser in the world, he can not constantly perform miracles on missiles at 220 km / h in corners. Medvedev has shown the way forward in this area.
Tennis in the minds, and only tennis
It remains to be seen whether the German will find the consistency he needs. Against Schwartzman did he not lead a set and a break before allowing his opponent to revive completely? Like Djokovic, his ability to focus solely on the Masters has been strained lately, but for much darker reasons. Despite the allegations of domestic violence to which he is the subject, Zverev ensures that he only thinks about his performances on the court. “I think I’ve said enough about this story. I’m here to play tennis, like I’ve been doing the past few weeks “, he judged.
And it is clear that the boy rarely misses the “Big 3”. More in difficulty sporting last year, he surprised Roger Federer in Shanghai in particular. And no later than two weeks ago at Bercy, he considerably raised his level to afford Rafael Nadal without striking a blow in the semi-finals. Zverev likes to take the light against the three monsters, especially in two winning sets. Djokovic is therefore warned. Far from their best level so far, the two men may have reserved the best for us for the outcome of this Tokyo 1970 hen.