One of the more intriguing things for me this week is Novak Djokovic deciding to play Acapulco. For me, I see that as Novak announcing to everybody else: ‘I feel like I’ve sat back a bit now, I’m resetting and I’m up and running again’.
It’s always a good indication that a player is planning for the long-term when they step down a level to get matches under their belt.
Players at Djokovic’s level do tournament deals twelve- to eighteen-months – sometimes years – in advance. His decision to accept an Acapulco wildcard was a last minute one, and indicates that he feels there is a need for more match play to sharpen up his game.
I read it as him sending a message to the other players that he wants to get back to the lofty levels that he was at in 2015.
When he won the 2016 French Open it looked as if he had achieved all his goals; he had reached his summit. Novak looks as if he has been struggling with his own motivation recently, and he needs to reassess his targets to be driven again. How many Majors does he want to win? How many times does he want to win Roland Garros? How many weeks does he want at No.1?
This is why we still see Serena so motivated; she has a target. But perhaps, after she breaks Margaret Court’s major record, she’ll start to struggle a bit.
Looking forward, I think his team will be using the next three tournaments to build towards him peaking again. Novak peaked for such a long time, and it would have been impossible for anybody to maintain that.
In that context, his results in the coming weeks are not as relevant as watching what frame of mind he presents on court. Over the past six months he has looked frustrated and distracted. He may not play as well in the next few weeks, but if he handles himself differently on court we will have an indication of the Novak that we are going to see in the next three Majors.
That is what I will be watching – not whether he wins these tournaments, but what state of mind he is in.
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