World No. 2 Novak Djokovic entered the 2014 BNP Paribas Open without already having won a title for the first time in the last eight years. It's safe to say that this may have caused the 26-year-old Serbian to suffer from a severe shortage of confidence.
#AusOpen: Stanislas Wawrinka stuns Novak Djokovic, whose winning streak at AO is snapped at 25, one short of Andre Agassi's record of 26.— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaGold) January 21, 2014
Djokovic knew he needed a change. He underwent some intensive training in hopes to regain his form and improve his state of mind. During an interview with Douglas Robson of USA Today, Djokovic explained his recent routine:
I'm not trying to build myself an artificial confidence, because I do have it. I did have a fantastic last three months of 2013. I have a good team around me. Boris Becker joined the crew. I'm confident that it's going to be a good season. If you're not looking for improvement, others will overtake you.
You can't stagnate. You can't be able to hold your ground and not seek to improve. Every day is a new day in our life. Everything is moving constantly, our planet, our lives. We are getting older, and we need to kind of stay on that track and keep up. That is why I think I'm doing the right things in my life to get myself always in a better state.
Apparently, Djokovic's attempt to reignite his season worked in dramatic fashion, as he has been on an absolute tear through the quarterfinals of the Paribas Open.
After defeating Victor Hanescu in consecutive sets in Round 2 of the tournament, Djokovic found himself matched against Alejandro Gonzalez—an opponent that he had never faced. This was not the best situation for Djokovic, as he continued his attempt to build his confidence.
However, after asking around for insight regarding how Gonzalez manages himself on the court, Djokovic found himself victorious once again, defeating the Colombian in three sets. He explained the challenge during an interview with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
It took me a little bit to get used to it. You've got new faces and new players who are able to challenge the top guys, and this is good for the sport. It also makes us work harder and improve trying to get our game to a high level because the guys are coming up.
Djokovic's confidence was building.
After a sluggish start in Round 4 against Marin Cilic, where he lost the first set 1-6, he rallied, defeating the Croatian over the next two sets by scores of 6-2 and 6-3, respectively.
From there, Djokovic has not looked back.
On Friday, he made quick work of Julien Benneteau, defeating him 6-1, 6-3 in just over an hour. According to ESPN.co.uk, Djokovic was so dominant that the Serb never faced a break point over the match.
Djokovic felt that his focus improved greatly today. Feels different coming here without winning AO.— Tennis View Magazine (@TennisViewMag) March 14, 2014
At this point, it should be safe to say that Djokovic's confidence is certainly back.
On Saturday, Djokovic is slated to play either Ernests Gulbis or John Isner in the semifinals. Expect him to continue his stellar run and surpass the round in which he was defeated in each of the last two years.
Djokovic reaches semifinals here for the fourth straight year. Champ in 2011, but lost in SFs last two times to Isner, del Potro. #BNPPO14— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 14, 2014
Moving to the finals, Djokovic will have put together a tremendous turnaround and will be on an absolute hot streak. There may not be a player remaining in the field—including Roger Federer—who will be able to get the best of him.
It's amazing what a little confidence boost will do for any athlete. In Djokovic's case, it will award him the title at the Paribas Open.