Is Novak Djokovic starting to fade away or is this a new reality after latest defeat at Rome Open

Tuesday, 14 May 2024 at 15:03
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Novak Djokovic had another poor loss to his 2024 resume by being defeated by Alejandro Tabilo. The Chilean who is playing some of the tennis of his life was still a shock winner in facing the World No.1. But is he starting to fade away as some suggest or is this a new reality?
In reality it is too early to tell in the case of Djokovic. The World No.1 in reality doesn't play enough to judge whether it is the case and he also has a myriad of factors which have plagued him off court. This includes changing his coaching set-up for instance.
With a lack of competition from other top names until recently, Djokovic has had it all his own way realistically since Nadal and Federer faded away. Albeit he has done this by keeping himself fit, ready and not having a supremely lengthy schedule. With the gruelling nature of the tour as of late, others have faded. While Djokovic remains shining until recently.
So are reports of Djokovic's demise somewhat wide of the mark or does more credence need to be given in terms of him fading away or is it even just a new reality for the World No.1 that he may not have it his own way going into his twilight. The truth of the matter is that any small chink in the armour can be exploited at the moment.

The factor of being the top dog?

Players like Alejandro Tabilo for instance will play out of their skin against Novak Djokovic, while Dino Prizmic and Luca Nardi for instance have also done so. The latter in particular showed it was a bit of a fluke by losing in qualifying and other tournaments early since. Heralded as a new king of Italian tennis, Nardi had his time in the sun for now.
It is very similar to in reality to Rafael Nadal's final few years before injuries took hold. Remember Lukas Rosol, Gilles Muller to name but a few at Wimbledon even Dustin Brown. Players that have either beaten him from lowly states or pushed him to the limit. Djokovic only ever loses early sets and never really matches, so perhaps this is his time to go through the curse of being the top dog.
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Novak Djokovic has barely played in 2024 so his demise could be exaggerated.
In reality, Djokovic has only really had this in losing to Hyeon Chung at the Australian Open such has been his dominance. He isn't one for upsets which makes it more highly debated. But in reality, the proof will be in the major pudding so to speak.
Roland Garros where he will go in as favourite will be a real test. Jannik Sinner in reality is unlikely to play, Carlos Alcaraz still has an injury so Djokovic is out and out the best in the field. Despite losing to Tabilo, he brings his A game at Grand Slams. Monte-Carlo for instance is often a poor stopping point in the past, but he still wins the French Open in the post Nadal dominance. Wimbledon has been one of his most successful tournaments and he's never played warm-ups. US Open very similar with a pick and choose element. 

Was the bottle incident a real eye opener?

But the bottle incident also proved to be a real eye opener for the World No.1. He was walking down the tunnel at the Rome Open and was hit accidentally depending on who you believe by a bottle. He later complained of nausea but seemed fine to play.
Wearing a cycle helmet even to hilariously poke fun at it, he faced Alejandro Tabilo. But was also quizzed afterwards about the effects it could've had after a pretty damning loss. He admitted himself that it could've played a part and the acid test as to whether it is form or simply the bottle will come at Roland Garros.
If he turns up sluggish and loses the second round to a qualifier, the likelihood is that he will be very much on is he finished watch for some. Articles will get pedalled out asking the top names this question.
Also it could be said that it is all part of the Djokovic plan at this point in his career. The World No.1 has set his sights on finishing his puzzle which is the Olympic Games. After the Golden Slam passed him by, it is all about the next stage. Goran Ivanisevic is now gone and he seems to be doing his coaching ad hoc as very much the he can't be taught given his success model.
This could be very much true with Djokovic the undisputed GOAT in the eyes of many and a true sporting icon. Given that he doesn't have much still to achieve, a coach will be the least of his worries. But perhaps has also contributed to his poor clay court run. Without the back and forth from the stands, Djokovic can play in reality quite pedestrian. Given that it is a tournament that isn't a Grand Slam, it might be the question of motivation as a result.
For a player who has often shirked the smaller tournaments in recent years and rightfully so, he sees family now as more of a burning desire than playing on the court. So it could be said that it is more the new reality for Djokovic as opposed to the legendary Serbian being finished in the sport. Some will bay for blood in reality and be there for his demise and others will see it more as a small blip in the bigger picture. Either way, Novak Djokovic even playing at this high level at 37 shows the real dedication and true GOAT status he possesses.
In reality with Jannik Sinner seemingly not ready to take the reigns, Djokovic remains a top dog and is unlikely to fade away just yet even in a maze of inconsistency. The real acid test remains at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games. His best tournament and one he hasn't won. The true gauge of consistency and motivation will be apparent on those courts. Then this will all be a blip in the road to the bigger picture.

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