There was a time when Novak Djokovic defined and dominated men’s tennis. Now, the 12-time Grand Slam champ faces his steepest decline yet, which reached its lowest point yet when he was handed a stunning straight-set loss in the quarterfinals of the French Open by talented young gun Dominic Thiem. As the 2017 season approaches its peak, the world is left wondering if Djokovic will rediscover his A-game or fall further into the slump.
It was only a year ago when the 30-year-old star raised the French Open trophy, stood atop the tennis rankings and possessed the title of defending champion at each of the sport’s four Major tournaments at once. Today, however, is a much different story.
Djokovic was knocked out of Wimbledon last year in the third round, less than a month after his historic French Open victory. Fans, while disappointed, didn’t find much reason to be concerned and even cited the loss as humanizing for a player who’d been spent over a year in the winner’s circle. However, questions began to raise following his first-round loss in the Rio Olympics to Juan Martin del Potro, and less-than-stellar performance at the U.S. Open, where he came up short in a four-set final against Stan Wawrinka.
Surely by the time this year’s Australian Open rolled around, fans, analysts and players alike were confident that Djokovic would find his groove and get back on top at the tournament he’d won a record six times prior. The Australian Open would ultimately prove to be a tale of the unforgettable comeback, just not for Djokovic. The Serbian champ was ousted in the second round, which paved the way for Swiss legend Roger Federer to return from injury and take home his 18th Major title in epic fashion.
In the mean time, Djokovic has kept on a mission to reemerge as tennis’ top dog, including separating from his long-time coach and training team. He announced a partnership with former champ Andre Agassi for the duration of the French Open, a move which has proven ineffective after falling to no. 6 Thiem 6-7 (5) 3-6 0-6, which also hands him a drop in overall ranking.
So where exactly does Djokovic go from here? Answer: the grass courts of Wimbledon, which will be a crucial test in determining the direction of the remainder of the season. He has a full summer schedule lined up and is committed to playing Cincinnati’s Western and Southern Open and the Rogers Cup in Montreal, both of which play a huge part in ranking points and momentum ahead of the U.S. Open.
For one of the all-time greats in tennis, this current slump in form is not only disappointing to witness, but quickly on the verge of becoming a normal occurrence rather than an anomaly. We can only hope that Djokovic revitalizes his champion-status one day, and soon.