Martina Navratilova, 18-times Grand Slam Champion, in her recent column for The Standard wrote about Novak Djokovic’s triumph at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships.
‘Novak is a truly great champion. He gets a hard time sometimes from the crowd because he’s not like the two Mr Perfects in Roger Federer and Rafa but what he does on court, it’s nothing really. He was brought up to be brutally honest, as I was, and it turns out a lot of people don’t necessarily like that but, to me, that’s a breath of fresh air,’ writes Navratilova.
Navratilova believes that playing Kyle Edmund, the British No.1, in the third round of the Championships, helped Novak rediscover his mojo.
‘Before playing the British No1, Novak was playing from memory, but in the four third-round sets against Kyle he rediscovered his mojo, which had been missing for a long time.
‘He got himself fired up and he needed to bring his A-game to beat Kyle. In that match, he effectively said, ‘Okay, I’m back’ and then came that semi-final against Rafa Nadal, in which his level of tennis was off the charts. He didn’t need to replicate that in the final but, from that match against Kyle onwards, he was playing in the here and now.
‘With Novak, it only seemed like it needed one moment to light him back up again. There were glimpses of the Novak of old at the French Open but you could still sense he wasn’t feeling it.
Describing Novak’s incredible defensive skills, Navratilova wrote: ‘If you could define Novak in one shot, a shot that highlights when he’s on form, it’s that outside foot on the backhand where he slides across.
‘For everyone else in the men’s game, that results in a slice, but Novak gets himself in position to be able to get back a two-handed backhand with purpose. It’s the single shot in his repertoire that makes him stand out above everyone else and, when he plays it, his balance is such that he can immediately shift his weight and get back to the middle of the court for the next ball.
‘When you’re playing him — and I’m sure Kevin Anderson will agree — he’s just a wall. Everything you hit at him, it comes back at you even harder. You saw it in the final: Kevin just didn’t have an opportunity, the ball just kept on coming back.’
Navratilova believes that this might be the start of another great Novak run.
‘This might be the moment for another great Novak run. You can’t say he has a bad surface so, with his health, game and confidence back, what’s to stop him anywhere now? Okay, on clay he’s probably second favourite behind Rafa, but not many would bet against him at the US Open’, Navratilova wrote and added: ‘It’s great to have Novak back at the top of the game. The sport’s missed him.’