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Djokovic – Heir to the Grand Slam?

Novak Djokovic’s capture of his sixth Australian Open title leaves him at the top of the men’s game with virtually no rivals. 

Djokovic inflicted Andy Murray’s fifth defeat in an Australian Open final in ruthless fashion. After 30 minutes of the final, Djokovic had raced to take the first set 6-1. The gulf in class between the world number one and two was frightening. Murray dug in deep in the next two sets, but could not break the Serb’s resolve to take the final in three sets.

Roger Federer, the most decorated player in grand slam tennis history was brushed aside in the first two sets of the semi-final by Djokovic in 55 minutes. Federer had to muster all of his gifts to make a fight of the semi-final but was dispatched in 4 sets by a player with possibly the greatest return that tennis has ever seen.

This allied with the retrieval skills of a peak Rafael Nadal and a stubborn steeliness on the big points makes Djokovic a foreboding opponent. Djokovic’s forehand is consistently strong and the topspin applied to his shots makes it a relatively low risk but punishing shot.  His double-handed backhand is exceptional and since the introduction of Boris Becker to his team, his serve has become formidable.

All of these skills are still not the most noteworthy of all of Djokovic’s abilities. It is Djokovic’s fitness and ability to recover quickly from long points and from long matches, which has characterised his rise to the top.  It was not always so.  In the years 2007-10, Federer and Nadal fought for the top prizes in tennis.

Djokovic was world number 3 throughout this period but was known as physically weak in the men’s tour.  He had withdrawn from numerous events with complaints relating to heat and breathing problems, something which Andy Roddick mocked mercilessly after withdrawing from their match in the Australian Open in 2009 due to heat-related issues.

In 2010, Djokovic captured the Davis Cup for Serbia and brought this momentum into 2011 where he picked up three of the four Grand Slams and won 70 out of 76 matches. Throughout 2011, Djokovic and Nadal tussled for the major titles. Djokovic managed to outlast and dominate the man who was regarded as the fittest and strongest player on the tour. The pair met six times in 2011, each time it was a final and each time Djokovic was victorious.

The weakling had now become the bully as Djokovic outlasted Nadal in brutal fashion, but how?

Djokovic espoused the value of a new gluten-free diet and in a more sinister turn, he also declared that he used a hyperbaric chamber pod in-between matches to recover.  The CVAC egg pod is a hyperbaric chamber which is used to saturate the blood with oxygen and stimulate healing. It uses a computer-controlled valve and a vacuum pump to simulate high altitude to increase the red blood cell count in the body, which increases the amount of oxygen carried around the body. The pod has not been banned by any governing bodies.

Djokovic will be in preparation to win the only grand slam which has eluded him in Paris this summer. At present, only an inspired Wawrinka looks like he will be capable of stopping him in Paris. If he can prevail at the French Open, he will be a strong favourite to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969, to win the Grand Slam in the Open era.

By Noel Sheehy.

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