Monday, 22 August 2016

Novak Djokovic: Ousted in 1st Round at Rio Olympics. How did it happen?

The world's no.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic broke down in tears as he left the Centre Court at the Rio Olympics. The reason was a power-packed performance from the Argentine Juan-Martin Del Potro as he beat the Serb 7-6(4) 7-6(2) in 2 hours and 27 minutes in the first round. The Tandil native, also known as the Tower of Tandil produced a breathtaking display of exceptional shot-making especially with the forehand which had made him a Grand Slam Champion. Unlike at Wimbledon, where Djokovic looked out of sorts in his 4-set defeat to American Sam Querrey, Djokovic didn't look bad throughout the match. He played well, moved well, struck the ball well, saved all 7 break points faced but was unable to save himself from the Argentine's assault. The World No.1, who entered the match with a 33-1 record on hard courts for the year, failed to get even a single break opportunity. Del Potro's serve is his biggest asset but he served only 2 aces in the match. Rather he relied on his fearless and consistent hitting from the baseline to deny the Serb a golden piece of history.

Had Djokovic won the singles gold at this year's Olympics, he would have overshadowed Federer's achievements in some context. Both are tied at 47 big titles which include Masters 1000s, Grand Slams and World Tour Finals. Djokovic could have made it 48 with an Olympic Gold, a feat Federer also has been unable to achieve. Del Potro ensured that won't happen.

The match started badly for Djokovic as he had to save 3 break points in the first game to hold serve. Del Potro who denied the Serb a Bronze medal 4 years ago in London was not intimidated by the occasion at all. He started in the best fashion possible, striking heavy ground-strokes and keeping Djokovic off rhythm. Djokovic saved another break point at 4-4 and held serve. The first set went to a breaker. The level of tennis was extraordinary. Del Potro made many net approaches, failed sometimes but kept on the heat. Djokovic was the victim of Del Potro’s forehand passes. In no time, it was 3 set points for the Argentine and he converted on his second. Losing the first set in a breaker to a big hitter is dangerous. Again break point down in the second game, Djokovic didn’t need an alarm to signal the danger. He saved those and his fans breathed a sigh of relief and wanted Del Potro to crack. It wasn’t the day for that to happen.

The nerveless hitting continued from the other side of the net. Djokovic again struggled and had to save another break point to hold his serve. At 4-5, the Serb was serving to stay in the Olympics. He didn’t yield just there. Again, he had to flirt with defeat at 5-6. He came out on top both times and the second set also was pushed to a breaker. Surprisingly, Del Potro opened a 5-0 lead. Signs were ominous for Djokovic’s Rio campaign. 6-1 and 5 match points for the Argentine. The Serb saved the first but a net cord with the ball falling on Djokovic’s side of court ended a hard-hitting rally and also the Serb’s dreams of an Olympics singles gold.

He told me I deserved to win, said Del Potro after the win which he described as one of the best matches of my career. The World No.1 left the court in tears, waving to his loyal fans and supporters and shaking his head with disappointment.

Moving on and thinking… Will Djokovic play in Cincinnati? Maybe not. He may be mentally exhausted with the defeat. Will he move on after this surprising loss and just like after Wimbledon, prove everyone wrong or will he be haunted by this loss? Only time will tell but one thing’s for sure. Novak Djokovic has cemented his position among the very best players in the world and also the greats. Will he play in the next Olympics? His fans certainly may hope so. Ironically, he would be 33 by then. Still, the sun will shine bright for the Serb.

Written by Mayank Sharma
A third year Engineering student at Delhi Technological University. An avid tennis fan and a die hard fan of Roger Federer. Loves writing articles on Tennis and developing Web pages.

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