“Weird.” What’s Up with Novak Djokovic?

Indian Wells, CA– After Novak Djokovic lost to qualifier Taro Daniel at Indian Wells Sunday, the 12-time Grand Slam Champion admitted he felt “very weird” on the court.

Weird is the perfect word to describe his performance. A closeup of his elbow revealed marks still red from surgery. But it wasn’t his elbow that seemed to be the problem. After a bucket load of unforced errors in the first set, which he lost in a tiebreak, he won the second set, only to seem to give up physically and mentally in the 3rd.

That’s not like Djokovic.

“Nole” is known for chasing every ball and stretching Gumby-style across the baseline. Sunday, he let Daniel have his way in a 6-7, 6-4, 1-6 loss. There were times he didn’t even run for balls in the 3rd set.

What’s going on?

  1.  “Surgery.”  In February, Djokovic revealed to fans that he had a “small medical intervention” on his elbow for an injury that has plagued him for two years.  He seemed to want to downplay the procedure. After the loss to Daniel, he didn’t hesitate to call a spade a spade. “I was grateful to be on the court after surgery that quickly.”  He seems to be fessing up to the severity of the situation with his elbow.

2.  Commitment to tennis. It’s one thing to deal with an injury, it’s another to show signs that the desire to compete is not there. During a glum post-match press conference, Djokovic did perk up when asked about a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, pointing out its “energy” and “serenity.” Fans have wondered if Djokovic seems more interested in his place in the world than competing on a tennis court. “Well, I’m definitely going to think about everything,” he said. “You know, obviously I miss tennis… But at the same time, you know, I have to, you know, talk with the team and create the best possible strategy moving forward.” It’s a non-sequitur. On the one hand, he misses tennis. But at the same time… Djokovic seemed ready to admit that other things have taken a big priority in his life, but he stopped short and finished with a canned response. In order to compete at elite levels again, the Serb will need to find inspiration to get his fire back.

3.  Unforced Errors. Putting aside what’s going on inside his head, there’s the question of what’s going on with his game. In his match against Daniel, Djokovic committed 58 unforced errors. Even Daniel admitted, “Today, obviously, he was missing a lot of balls.”  Furthermore, Djokovic showed uncharacteristic restraint when he had opportunities to attack during rallies.

The future: An upside for Djokovic is that he can continue to rest and recover from surgery, having put out minimal effort in the desert. Miami is up next. He’s scheduled to be there and gave no indication that he wouldn’t play in the second half of the “sunshine slam.”

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