Peaking Djokovic Re-Establishing Himself as World's Best at 2013 Wimbledon
He is doing just fine. In case you've forgotten, he's still the best tennis player in the world.
With his win on Wednesday over Tomas Berdych in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, Djokovic reached his 13th straight Grand Slam semifinal. That is a streak of Federer-like proportions.
Djokovic is quietly in the middle of the best Wimbledon of his career. He's hardly been tested the entire fortnight, and with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer out of the draw, things are shaping up quite nicely.
First time Djokovic into #wimbledon SF w/o dropping a set.— Douglas Robson (@dougrobson) July 3, 2013
The grass courts that have agitated him in the past now look like home. He appears mentally and physically fresh. But most importantly, he believes in himself:
I feel good about myself in this moment. I think I actually play a better tennis on grass than I played two years ago when I won this tournament. For now I'm feeling good. I'm No. 1 of the world. I have no reason to be concerned about my game.
It's been an up-and-down year for the Serb. It started on a high when he won his fourth Australian Open title over Andy Murray in January, but then Rafael Nadal came back onto the tour and the power seemed to shift.
As Nadal went on a tear, making nine straight finals and winning seven titles, Djokovic struggled. He racked up losses to the likes of Grigor Dimitrov and Tommy Haas. He lost a set and a break lead to Tomas Berdych in Rome. He collapsed in the big moments against Juan Martin del Potro in Indian Wells.
He looked frighteningly human.
Djokovic found his form in time for the French Open, but it wasn't enough to get past Nadal on clay. Once again, he came up empty on his bid for the Career Slam. As the tour tuned to grass, he seemed almost like an afterthought.
A lack of headlines would have bothered the young Djokovic, who talked the talk before he walked the walk. He would have considered it a lack of respect. But Djokovic has mellowed and matured throughout the years, and he doesn't need a chip on his shoulder to drive him to greatness the way he used to.
Now he just takes a deep breath, occasionally meditates and plays world class tennis.
He was far and away the better player during his quarterfinal match against Berdych, a guy who has beaten him at Wimbledon in the past. He didn't panic when he got down in sets, he served well when he had the lead and he was aggressive at all the right moments.
Djokovic breezed his way to the semifinals where he'll face off against 2009 U.S. Open winner Juan Martin del Potro. Just last year, del Potro took him out in the bronze medal match at the Olympic games on the Wimbledon lawns. It will certainly be a test, but the world No. 1 looks up for it.
Right now, he looks up for anything.
Earlier this week, Christopher Clarey of The New York Times wrote a piece praising Djokovic for his Gumby-like movement:
He has quickness; power; tactical acumen; excellent technique and, in recent years, considerably improved endurance. But if he has a defining quality, it is elasticity: his ability to stretch into splits or near-splits while extending himself into the corners to track down the opposition’s best efforts and send them back with point-winning pace of his own.
It is true that Djokovic's on-court flexibility is awe-worthy, but I think that it's his elasticity off the court that makes him such a champion.
He adapts seamlessly to the twists and turns of a tennis career. When stretched thin, he finds a way to return to form stronger than ever. He bends, but he refuses to break.
That resiliency is on full display at Wimbledon, and it's why he's the man to beat.
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