Novak Djokovic has had something of a drought recently; the Serb ended a month-long wait for a piece of silverware this weekend as he brushed aside 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the final of the Rome Masters 6-4 6-3.
Hopefully most of you detected the sarcasm in that first paragraph, but it does feel like the world no.1 is just winning everything at the moment – even the tournaments that he’s not entering, that is just how dominant he is right now.
A fortnight ago I was convinced that Djokovic had made a terrible decision to skip the Madrid Masters, and that this would be the opportunity for the other players to fight. I, of course, was wrong. Oh, so very wrong.
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Not only has the 27-year-old proved that his momentum can be carried across an absence of nearly a month, but he has also saved a week’s worth of energy by skipping Spain and heading straight to Rome. The next stop is Paris and the hugely anticipated French Open.
There is a problem for the man on a mission though.
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I’ve just mentioned how anticipated this year’s Roland Garros is, but it kind of feels like it’s turning into a bit of a foregone conclusion already.
The excitement around Djokovic’s umpteenth attempt to finally get the better of great foe Rafael Nadal, ‘the King of Clay’, at the French Open has somewhat evaporated. Their respective form is so different that, rather than an epic final battle that goes on into the night, you’re expecting them to not even meet; Nadal to go home early and Djokovic to win the final in three sets against somebody like Tomas Berdych.
Unlike ever before, there will be an astonishing weight of expectation – the weight that Nadal usually burdens so well – and it will be interesting to see how Djokovic copes with that. So far so good in 2015 and the end of 2014, but this is one that everything has been leading towards.
Rather than a frustration, there must be a fear in the Serb that he will never be able to complete the Career Slam – you can almost be assured that his nights in Paris will be spent fretting over the failure.
The pressure is on him like never before. Djokovic fans won’t like me saying this, but until now he has not had the same support and focus thrust on him like Nadal and Federer. Murray experiences it at Wimbledon in particular too. Djokovic is usually the one in the background, it will be interesting to see how he copes in the spotlight.
Maybe a few easy wins in week one will help the eight-time Grand Slam champion will banish the nerves and settle him into a groove, but if he, Nadal, Federer and even Murray are all still in-tact for that second-week, those nerves will just start jangling all the more.
Luckily, we don’t have long to wait…