A Fan's Letter of Appreciation to Novak Djokovic

Khalid SiddiquiCorrespondent IIApril 21, 2009

MONTE CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 19:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia looks for divine inspiration during his 3-6,6-2,1-6 defeat in the final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain on day seven of the ATP Masters Series at the Monte Carlo Country Club on April 19, 2009 in Monte Carlo,Monaco.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Dear Novak,

It is with much appreciation and relief that I write this letter to you today.

Firstly, I would like to thank you for providing your fans with some of the best tennis you've played since last year in Rome.

I believe that your performance at Monte Carlo showed the world that you are still a force to be reckoned with on the ATP Tour. It is still very much Big Four, as against the Big Three being thought of by detractors ready to write your on-court obituary.

Not only have you managed to shake Rafael Nadal's aura of invincibility on clay, but  also gain valuable ranking points to once again open up a sizable 570-point lead over fourth-ranked Andy Murray.

Now I have seen articles all over the Internet and newspapers signaling Nadal's historic achievement. Some have even pointed to how well Nadal played, providing video evidence no less.

All the while they have forgotten to mention that you probably played your best match on clay and if it was any other player on the other side of the net (yes even if it was Roger Federer), it would be you lifting that Masters Series trophy at Monte Carlo.

There were doubters for sure when you lost a set in the third round and some expected you to fold against Verdasco in the quarter-final, but you slowly began to find confidence in your shots.

Maybe the slower clay (but slightly faster clay at Monte Carlo as compared to other clay courts) allowed you more time to plan and execute your shots. But overall, it was a great display of shot-making combined with well-planned approaches to the net.

When Wawrinka pushed you to three sets, your detractors seemed ready to pencil in Andy Murray as World No. 3.

However, you answered as best as you could, with your racquet. That two-hander down the line from an absurd angle while winning your fifth game of the final set against Wawrinka was absolutely insane and definitely deserved the emphatic roar you accompanied it with.

And then what to say of your effort in the final...

You started off sluggishly, then totally surprised Nadal with your shot selection and the pace of your brutal hitting.

People point to the fact that Nadal was moving and anticipating shots very well, but ignore the fact that Nadal was probably exerting himself at 100% on clay for the first time in two years.

Maybe he, along with Uncle Tony, was also expecting you to capitulate as you did in their Davis Cup match earlier this year.

Oh, the detractors were out with their knives when you took a medical timeout in the final to get your back treated. They were just waiting to turn on the wolf-whistles and the jeers as soon as you would announce your retirement from the match.

But you showed that No-Djo seems to have rediscovered his Mojo.

That second set in the final was simply sublime from a fan's point of view, and yours as well I'm sure. 

People point to Nadal's superior shot-making ability and his ability to turn defense into offense, but they ignore the fact that you continued to paint the lines on a regular basis and deliver inch-perfect lobs and drop shots along the way to that second set win.

You really had Nadal on the ropes, and the worried look on Uncle Tony's face said it all.

And when you broke back to bring things back on serve (after being extremely unlucky not to break Nadal in the first game) in the third set, it looked as if we had a match on our hands.

But as fate would have it, Nadal is after all, Nadal. He went from 100% to 110%, while your unforced errors list seemed to grow. 

Simply the length of the match, two hours and 49 minutes, tells you how closely contested this match was despite the crazy scoreline of 6-3, 2-6, 6-1.

If all three sets had gone the distance, there definitely would have been a case for recording this as the longest three-set match ever.

I would like to thank you, Novak, for working on your fitness and stamina and fighting it out even while falling behind one set in the semi-final and final.

Please don't pay heed to all the Federer apologists who say that this was just his first clay tournament of the year and he was trying out new things. Federer would never have been able to play that kind of tennis we saw in the final no matter what he was trying out.

And you can wholly ignore those who say that this was Nadal's first clay tournament of the year (if I remember correctly, the Davis Cup match with Serbia was on clay), and he will get better as the season progresses.

To those remarks, you just have to say that this was also your first clay tournament of the year.

As your fan, I expect you to continue this rich vein of form going into the Rome Masters and the Madrid Masters, and even Roland Garros. I know it is unrealistic to expect a continuous run on a surface like clay, unless your name is Nadal, but you have rekindled the faith of many fans by your fighting display in Monte Carlo.

And it certainly seems that you're getting the hang of your new racquet, which has translated into some pulverizing two-handed backhands and extremely well-angled forehands.

In the end, I would like to thank you for making my sporting weekend an enjoyable and memorable one even though it ended in defeat for you.

The fact that there were so many candidates for rally of the year in that final is a testament to the high quality of tennis on display, probably comparable to the first four sets of the Aussie Open final this year. 

You can now focus once more on slowly, but gradually, pulling ahead of Roger Federer in the rankings (you're only 1240 points behind now against 2000 points earlier).

Thank you once again for placating your fans and answering your critics in the best way possible, and also for giving Uncle Tony and Rafael Nadal something to think about when they meet you once again, maybe in Rome, in Madrid, or even at Roland Garros.

May you continue to play your best,


Member of the Novak Djokovic Fan Club.