Thoughts On Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Del Potro
Indian Wells sure answered a lot of questions this year. Yes, Andy Murray is still going through that post Aussie Open slump, yes Juan Martin del Potro is close to being ‘back’ – whatever that means, and yes, Novak Djokovic is the best player in the world at the moment. Watching Djokovic today you got the sense that he was the world number one. Nadal may have the ranking, and rightfully so, but it was Djokovic who stepped up his game when he needed to, and Djokovic who looked the more determined and confident in the third set. Nadal served poorly (under 50% of his first serves went in), and made twice as many errors as winners, but this doesn’t mean Djokovic didn’t beat Nadal at his best, this means Djokovic got into Nadal’s head. There’s not too many people who can do that. Djokovic started the match playing right into Nadal’s hands, and Nadal took the first set with relative ease. Then Djokovic started playing more aggressive – he dropped his height over the net by 30cms – and imposing himself on the Nadal game. From there the more confident of the two was bound to take the match, and Djokovic – who is unbeaten this year – did just that. He’s now taken out Federer three consecutive times, won the most recent Grand Slam, and beaten the world number one in a Masters series final. It’s looking good for the Serbian who will hope to extend his winning streak onto clay.
Nadal won’t be too worried coming off his latest loss. He struggled with rust at times at Indian Wells, but that rust will surely be gone by the time clay rolls around. By then, Nadal should be back to his confident self – and he’ll need to be such is the amount of points he has to defend.
Roger Federer is probably more concerned with his form than he lets on, such is his competitive nature. It isn’t that he’s playing badly, it’s more that his concentration and confidence aren’t what they used to be. If he were 24, or even 26, we would say that confidence would eventually come back with a few more wins, but with Federer turning 30 this year, it’s hard to imagine him going on a hot streak. He played well enough to win the Indian Wells tournament and he had many chances against Djokovic, but for whatever reason, he lacked the confidence to convert them. Federer will be a factor in every tournament he enters for a while yet, but it is starting to look as if his once unshakable confidence has left him.
What exactly do people mean when they say a player is back? In Juan Martin del Potro’s case, does ‘back’ mean back to the top ten? Or is it back to Grand Slam winning level? Or is does it simply mean he is a threat at every tournament? With del Potro, it is hard to say, but a lot of people were saying he was ‘back’ this week. If ‘back’ means he’s back to beating top 20/30 players routinely and looks like winning a big one soon, then yes, I’d say he’s back. But if ‘back’ means beating top ten players and looking like a contender for Grand Slams like he was a few years ago, then I’d say no. It doesn’t really matter what I say though, because del Potro made the semi-finals of Indian Wells this week and that’s much more than was expected when he picked up a racket in January. He’s made in-roads since then and is bound to be in the top 20 very soon if he keeps up this form. For del Potro himself, he knows the results will come as he continues to work hard. It isn’t really important how ‘back’ he is at this moment, what really matters is that he’s improving and is pain-free.