Novak Djokovic Is Bouncing Back At The French Open - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Is Bouncing Back At The French Open

The former world No.1 is aiming to return back to his best at Roland Garros following a troublesome elbow injury.




By Cheryl Jones

Novak Djokovic began playing tennis when he was very young. (He was four years old, to be exact.) Even though his family was ensconced in the world of professional skiing, he liked to play tennis, though his father would have liked for him to become a skier or a football (soccer) pro.


Former Yugoslavian professional tennis player, Jelena Gencic saw him hitting balls and said that he was the best young player she had seen since Monica Seles. Looking back, no one could ever argue with that evaluation. He has won 12 Grand Slam singles titles; 30 Masters 1000 series titles, and that is only a small part of a list that can go on and then on again. This is a young man who grew up crouched with his family in a basement in Serbia, waiting out the war that left a permanent mark on the young man. Now, he is an old pro of 31. He’s been recuperating from some nagging injuries for what seems a lengthy period of time. But, it wasn’t always that way.

In 2016 he, not Rafael Nadal, took a bite out of the Roland Garros grand prize, the Coupe des Mousquetaires. And there was more. An add-on came with that win. He became the eighth player in history to achieve the Career Grand Slam, and concurrent with that, he held all four major titles at once. That hadn’t been done since 1969 when Rod Laver claimed them all.

Djokovic is hailed as one of the greatest tennis players ever by many, and that is echoed in his rankings that have zoomed to number one and back on more than one occasion. He is the recipient of many honors and it would be a treat to see him clown around with his spot-on impressions of many of his fellow tennis pros.

Lately, he has been anything but a “Djoker”, a long ago nickname. There is always a hint of that persona rumbling around somewhere in his core, but it’s been on sick leave of late. His first round match at the French Open was against Rogerio Dutra Silva, a Qualifier who is ranked 134. In all his years in competition, Djokovic has never lost to a qualifier at a major. He has won all fifteen of those matches, including five in Paris. He has never lost to a player ranked as low as Dutra Silva and true to form he didn’t today. It was pretty smooth sailing this afternoon as he swooped to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory and moved on to the next round.

After the match, he said, “It’s been a long twelve months behind me, but I’m starting to play better. I feel like, in the past couple of weeks, not thinking about the elbow, playing pain-free, which is the most important thing at the moment.” When asked about his confidence, he acknowledged that was definitely a part of the process.

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When he was much younger, the Serbian seemed to have problems with confidence. It seems that he would simply check out of reality. It was visible in his carriage. His shoulders would sag and his reactions would lag. All that seemed to dissipate when he found that he had allergies to wheat and wheat products. His diet changed and so did his tennis demeanor. Then, the injury happened and it was confounded by expectations and starts and stops that led to much frustration and a much more lengthy recuperation than he was prepared for.

Having watched Djokovic since he played in the juniors, he has always had a few tics that went along with his game. (Not Nadal-like tics, but definitely tics.) Before his serve, he tends to bounce the ball six times. If he is nervous, that changes to six in quick succession then a pause and seven more bounces. Today, those tics seemed to have disappeared with his pain in the elbow. He didn’t say, “I’m b-a-c-k…” He didn’t have to.

Several players were injured before Roland Garros began and had to pull out of the line-up. Djokovic was asked if he thought it was the length of the season that was to blame. He pointed out that indeed it was a very long season that begins in January and wasn’t complete until the end of November. He added, “You know, we have a beautiful sport that gives us a lot and we have to be grateful in the end of the day.”

He must feel grateful indeed. This beautiful sport has rewarded his excellent play and conscientiousness quite amply. He has taken home well over a hundred million dollars, and his latest tennis hiree has been his former coach Marian Vajda.

Djokovic gave homage to a fellow player who has been plagued with injury and who has fought his way back to be inside the top ten. Juan Martin Del Potro won the US Open just before his twenty-first birthday. Del Potro will be twenty-nine soon and he has had a roller coaster ride up and down the rankings. He said, “I’m not the first one in the history of this game to face these kind of circumstances with big injuries. Del Potro comes to mind. He’s someone that has faced even worse… And now he’s back to top 10, top 5 of the world. That’s impressive. Those kind of stories inspire you and hopefully I can do the same.” And he can.

Smooth sailing is on the horizon. He’ll only have to bounce that service ball six times. To heck with the extra seven!


Laver Back In the Conversation For Greatest Player?

Daniil Medvedev thwarted Djokovic’s Calendar Year Grand Slam ambitions and is ready to take over as the best in the game.




Who’s the greatest player ever?


How about Rod Laver, the owner of two Calendar Grand Slams?

Or what about Rafa Nadal, the owner of 21 major singles titles (including Olympic Gold)?

Or what about 20-20-20-Laver?


Since Novak Djokovic failed in his bid to win a Calendar Grand Slam on Sunday, I nominate the last of the three possibilities. 20-20-20-Laver sounds like a winner.

For Djokovic just to enter the conversation was a major achievement, and that was spurred by the Serbian’s bid for a Calendar Grand Slam.

Daniil Medvedev ended that conversation on Sunday, at least for now, with his straight-set 4-4-4 dismantling of Djokovic in the U.S. Open final.


As 2021 turned out, it was a really disappointing year for Djokovic, even though he won the year’s first three Grand Slam events. Most players would be out celebrating if they won three Grand Slams in one year.

The loss to Alexander Zverev in the Tokyo Olympics ended Novak’s Golden Grand Slam. And then Medvedev took care of the Calendar Grand Slam talk and the possibility of Djokovic breaking a 20-20-20 deadlock with Nadal and Roger Federer.

So, what’s next? I doubt that Novak is planning to skip the Australian Open in January. Even that one won’t be easy for Djokovic as a result of what has happened in late summer.


Djokovic has practically owned the Australian Open with nine titles in Melbourne, and eight of the last 11. But Medvedev and Zverev will be major obstacles for Djokovic in Melbourne, along with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Australian Open isn’t likely to be a picnic for Novak, even if Federer and Nadal skip the trip. If so, Federer and Nadal will be leaving the Australian Open in capable hands.

Things should start heating up by the quarterfinals Down Under.

By the way, Djokovic is 34 years old. That’s about the age Nadal started having trouble winning Grand Slams.


Medvedev beat Djokovic at just about everything he tried on Sunday. Djokovic was never in the game on serving competition or powerful forehands.

Those areas belonged to the 25-year-old Russian.

And movement? On this day, Medvedev had a picnic. The 6-6 first-time Grand Slam winner was everywhere with his amazing quickness. Djokovic couldn’t put a dent in his baseline defense.

Medvedev even out-did Djokovic in the Serbian’s usually solid drop shot department, pinning  even more disappointment on Novak.

Novak even caused a ball girl to change directions during the match as he swung his racket near the surface in  frustration after losing a point. Later, he punished his racket by smashing it into the court and destroying it.


The key to the relatively easy win for Medvedev was his serve. He was a perfect 15-for-15 on first-serve points in the opening set.

Medvedev obviously had little trouble with his serve until he was ready to end the match. With Medvedev owning a match point at 5-2 in the third set, the crowd tried to help Djokovic. Only then when the crowd got into the act of trying to break Medvedev’s attention did he double-fault twice in a row before netting a forehand to give Djokovic the game.

But in the final game of the match, Medvedev was ready for the crowd attack, although he double-faulted another match point away before ending the match with a big serve out wide for a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory. Djokovic managed only to hit the bottom of the net with his backhand return.

And suddenly, the tall Russian looks like the best player in the game.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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Raducanu Proved She’s The Better Player

The British sensation shocked the tennis world – can she keep it up in the coming years?




They played in the largest tennis stadium in the world.


They were teenagers. They achieved a dream early in their careers.

It just as easily could have been a junior championship a year earlier in their careers.

Only a few people would have been watching then. Such an event might not even have drawn newspaper coverage.


This meeting was much bigger and more important. The two participants would be $2.7 million richer between them before the day ended. They would become famous the world over, at least for now.

But this was Saturday, 9/11/21.

Real life now sets in. There probably are at least 100 other players in the world who are just as outstanding as Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez. Yet, most of them will never be involved in a Grand Slam singles final.


What Raducanu and Fernandez accomplished will never be forgotten, always listed in tennis annals.

England will always be proud of its new Grand Slam champion. At long last, Virginia Wade has company.

And Canada will never forget its feisty Grand Slam runner-up.

They stood the test while other more touted and talented players buckled at the knees. High-ranked players crumbled at the thought of losing to a mere teenager.

Next time, that advantage probably won’t exist.


Raducanu and Fernandez played the final like the teenagers they are.

Raducanu came close to making it a one-sided result when she held match point twice with a 5-2 lead in the second set. But Fernandez did not give up on her left-handed game that Raducanu had conquered before in the junior ranks.

After losing both points and the game to make the match closer, Raducanu fought off a pair of break points in the next game before making good on her third match point for a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

The British 18-year-old generally outplayed the 19-year-old Fernandez most of the 111-minute final. Raducanu had more firepower on her serve and ground strokes.


Raducanu played like a tour veteran, even if it was only her fourth tour-level event. It was her 10th straight win without dropping a set, counting her three wins in qualifying just to get into the main draw. No women’s qualifier before even had advanced to a Grand Slam final.

She has the game to win consistently on the tour, but probably not strong enough to challenge the Top 10 players and Grand Slam titlists right away. She’s now no longer under the radar. Everyone wants to beat a Grand Slam champion.

This may have been just a one-shot opening that Raducanu took full advantage of to win a Grand Slam title.  Just in case the road ahead gets bumpy, she might want to be thrifty with the $1.8 million payday.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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Novak Djokovic Was Pushed To An Amazing Performance

Zverev fell just short of beating the world N.1, and now Medvedev is the last obstacle still standing on his path to a Calendar Year Grand Slam




Novak Djokovic was simply amazing Friday night.


True, he made a few mistakes against Alexander Zverev, but not when they counted most.

Zverev also was superb, but his mistakes came when they counted really big.

For those reasons, Djokovic is getting ready to play for the unthinkable. No one had thought much about a Calendar Grand Slam until back in June when Djokovic shocked the tennis world with a victory over Rafa Nadal at the French Open.

By the time Wimbledon came around without Roger Federer and Nadal in the field, the odds were high that Djokovic actually could achieve a Calendar Grand Slam. And then he won Wimbledon and in the process turned the race for most Grand Slam titles into a 20-20-20 battle.


When Federer and Nadal pulled out of the U.S. Open, all of Djokovic’s goals except a Golden Grand Slam when he lost to Zverev at the Olympics were in play.

Nearly two weeks later, Djokovic is one victory away from breaking out of the 20-20-20 deadlock as well as completing a rare Calendar Grand Slam.

Zverev pressed Djokovic into playing his very best to escape with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory in the U.S. Open semifinals. Only a cold start to the fifth set chilled Zverev’s hopes of spoiling Novak’s dreams.

Even after losing the first five games of the fifth set, Zverev still came close to making things interesting by winning the next two games and going to 30-30 in the eighth game.


Zverev’s improving game, and his big strokes and serves probably were enough to make Novak hope he won’t have to face Zverev’s hard balls again in January at the Australian Open.

That leaves only Daniil Medvedev between Djokovic and immortality.

Medvedev will have to be at his best to beat Novak. The slender 6-6 Russian can’t afford even a brief meltdown if he is to take Djokovic to the wire.

Medvedev appeared to be in awe of Djokovic when the two met in  this year’s Australian Open final.  Djokovic won that one easily in straight sets.


Medvedev’s game is a piece of work. He is completely unpredictable.

His whip forehand is one of the best shots in tennis. He backs it up with incredible movement.

It all depends on whether Medvedev can stick with Novak until the end. If Medvedev is still there, Novak likely will feel the heavy legs from his 214-minute bout with Zverev.

Not even Djokovic can out-move Medvedev. And the Russian’s uniquely quick serve has plenty of pop. He is due to win a Grand Slam.

But Medvedev will have to pull off a miracle against one of the smartest and slyest players tennis has ever seen if he is to win this U.S. Open.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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