Fans of Novak Djokovic must hope that their hero has a cunning trick up his sleeve in the wake of his decision to withdraw from next week’s Madrid Open, it certainly seems a strange one of the face of it.
A few days ago, the world no.1 announced his intentions to miss one of the last major warm-ups to the highly anticipated French Open and opted not to give a particular reason for his absence either. Whether it’s a masked injury or something else, his no-show may well damage his bid to complete a Career Slam in Paris next month.
I have been trying to rack over in my own the head the reasons for why he would want to do so. Fatigue? – Most certainly not; his last match was a couple of weeks ago at the Monte Carlo Open – a tournament in which he made history by becoming the first man to win the first three Masters 1000 events in a calendar year after previous wins in Miami and Indian Wells (as well as the Australian Open of course).
To be honest I couldn’t come up with anything other than fatigue either.
The pitfalls of doing such a thing are endless too. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the only other man who will seemingly be at the French Open, if you get excited about the hype, Rafael Nadal, will have a chance to strengthen.
The Spaniard, as nobody needs telling now, has been in a terrible rut of form and there are real fears among his supporters that he could lose at Roland Garros for just the second time in his career to finally the relinquish the title of ‘The King of Clay’ and in doing so allow Djokovic, his fiercest rival, to complete his biggest goal.
Nadal needs all of the momentum he can scrape together and Madrid would seemingly be the perfect place to do so. We already know that the local crowd will be completely behind the five-time champion, and Djokovic’s absence through the rounds will give him a massive lift.
We all saw the dejected figure that Nadal cut after a crushing loss to the world no.1 in Monte Carlo, just think of how much harder it would hurt if the same happened again in Spain’s capital city.
So while Nadal is pencilled-in as Djokovic’s final opponent in Paris, the others whom he may meet on the way are also becoming stronger and could do with being taken down a peg or two. Roger Federer and Andy Murray have won titles on clay within a day of each other and will now have Djokovic firmly set in their sites.
Madrid would have been the perfect place for runaway world no.1 to cut them down to size and show them who is still boss. As it is now, they all have the chance to build momentum.
That word won’t go away in my mind either: momentum. Why has Djokovic halted his fantastic work of 2015 to-date? When he does return in Rome a week later, it will be not far-off a month since he will have swished a racquet in-anger.
Rome is closer to the French Open too, if he was so keen for a rest – rest before that.
To be fair, Djokovic is no mug and has been around long enough to know what he is doing, he’ll think he’s doing the right thing but at the moment is seems strange for everybody else…