TOAs the fourth set of Sunday’s Wimbledon final was in the balance for whoever had the courage to take it, Matteo Berrettini made his move while leading 3-2, 15-30 on serve from Novak Djokovic. He hit an exquisite backhand down the line, then landed an inside-out forehand at the other corner. The crowd gasped, anticipating the end of the point. But somehow Djokovic chased both shots. He then hit Berrettini’s next drop, landing an angled forehand past the Italian at the net.
It was the kind of point that has defined Djokovic for so long – the movement, flexibility and composure to see the point with such a delicate touch at the end. As the fourth set progressed, it became the defining moment of the match, as Djokovic took the final four games to win his 20th Grand Slam title.
Djokovic’s defensive talents have always been his most distinctive quality, but the focus on these strengths can sometimes be detrimental to the overall understanding of his game. He is constantly being compared to a wall and a machine, which does not reflect the breadth of his abilities.
For example, his dominance at Wimbledon is often rationalized as a reflection of the surface slowing down since 2002. This has certainly ushered in a new era of baseline supremacy, squeezing serve and volley players, but Djokovic has adapted his own game. to adapt to the characteristics of the lawn in a way that many others have not.
The steady improvement of his serve over the years, which has flourished even more since he hired Goran Ivanisevic as his coach, has been surprising and at Wimbledon he mixed his game. At important moments during his semi-final against Denis Shapovalov and in the final, Djokovic sneaked into the net and chose well a series of unexpected serve and volley attempts, securing numerous important points with quiet volleys.
He finished with 76% of the net points earned, 144 of 190 points, which ranks him as No. 1 of those who made it to week two. Djokovic attempted to serve and volley on 41 of his 618 points, 7% of his total points played. The average serve and volley rate for male players at Wimbledon this year was 4%. Djokovic won 88% of those service and volley points, number one among those with more than 10 attempts.
According to Ivanisevic, people still underestimate the quality of their player’s volleys: “It’s not a serve and a volley. He will never be a volley player [but] he likes to play doubles. He has very solid volleys. Improved your service. When he is against Shapo, he was in service [and volleying] a lot because it felt so good on the net. “
Not all facets of Djokovic’s game translate perfectly on television. The sight of him constantly deflecting service bombs onto his opponents’ laces is more impressive in person, as is how he keeps his opponents off-balance with subtle changes in rate of fire, spin, cut, and direction – something he doesn’t. It is so visible from the distant camera. angle. Djokovic’s ability to transform into whatever is necessary on any given day, to work with Rafael Nadal on slow clay and then serve to serve with the best on faster surfaces, remains a unique and underrated attribute.
Djokovic has equaled Nadal and Roger Federer for 20 Grand Slam titles by becoming one of the most complete players the sport has seen. Even during the points in the tournament when he didn’t play well but won the big points and advanced, his confidence was clearly rooted in the number of options he has and how he has no real weaknesses to exploit: “I feel like I’m probably the most complete that I’ve been as a player, ”he said on Sunday.
As you continue to win Grand Slam titles at an unprecedented rate in your thirties, these qualities will put you in the best position to sustain your game, even as your athleticism continues to wane. Even when some of those unlikely defensive shots no longer find their way back to the net.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism