From World Number 22 to Rank 2: Tracing Novak Djokovic’s Comeback
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after defeating Borna Coric of Croatia in their singles final match in the Shanghai Masters.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after defeating Borna Coric of Croatia in their singles final match in the Shanghai Masters.(Photo: AP)

From World Number 22 to Rank 2: Tracing Novak Djokovic’s Comeback

Novak Djokovic made his way back to the World Number two spot after a spectacular performance at the Shanghai Masters last week. The Serbian won the tournament without dropping a single set.

Djokovic, who was ranked 22 in June this year, has scripted one of the most dramatic comebacks in tennis history. The 31-year-old, who has won three tournaments in a row – Cincinnati, US Open and Shanghai Masters – didn’t lose a single service game throughout his most recent competition.

The Djoker is back in full flow and he might stay for much longer this time around.

Recovery From Elbow Surgery

Novak Djokovic struggles with an elbow injury at Wimbldeon 2017.
Novak Djokovic struggles with an elbow injury at Wimbldeon 2017.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/All Sports Lover)

Djokovic was on top of the tennis world when he won each of the four Grand Slams in a row from Wimbledon 2015 to French Open 2016. However, soon after, the Serb started to get knocked out early in competitions. After retiring hurt in the Wimbledon 2017 quarter-final against Tomas Berdych, Djokovic struggled with a right elbow injury and decided to take the rest of the year off from the game.

He didn’t have the best of returns at the Australian Open 2018, losing to World Number 58 Hyeon Chung in the fourth round. Even after taking a break from the game, Djokovic still experienced pain in his right elbow and therefore he decided to undergo surgery.

After a successful surgery, Djokovic still looked out of sorts on the tennis court, losing in the first rounds at Indian Wells and Miami.

Which is when he thought a change had to be made.

The Return of Marian Vajda

Novak Djokovic shares a light moment with Marian Vajda.
Novak Djokovic shares a light moment with Marian Vajda.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Novak India Fans)

Djokovic parted ways with coaches Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek. He also let go of tennis instructor and spiritual adviser Pepe Imaz and brought back his old and long-time coach Marian Vajda in March.

He was questioning himself for so much time, but once I came there, I felt right away –I felt that I was connected and I could talk to him. He opened himself to me more and more, so it was kind of him relieving himself.
Marian Vajda as quoted by The Wall Street Journal

When Vajda started working with Djokovic again, he only focused on getting Djokovic to play in the manner he played during his prime. He worked on Djokovic’s serve return and his backhand.

Dropped the New Serve

Upon his return at the Australian Open, Djokovic had developed a new serve. Instead of taking an extra step with his elbow (as explained in the video) while tossing the ball, he had decided to directly get in position for the serve to put less pressure on his right elbow. While he managed to attain more pace with this serve, he struggled to land the ball accurately on a consistent basis.

Vajda understood that the new serve wouldn’t hold Djokovic in good stead and decided to ask him to switch back to his old serve.

The results were there to be seen in Shanghai where he faced only two break points, and not losing any of them.

Tweak in Racquet

Djokovic had tweaked his racquet a bit when he was working with Agassi and Stepanek. The Serbian reduced the amount of lead tape and got an extended length racquet.

I mean, the model is the same. I made some small minor changes that actually in our world are quite significant. Also (Andre) Agassi and Radek (Stepanek) who worked with me at the time felt it was a good call for big picture and for a long run. 
Novak Djokovic as quoted by tennis.com

Players put lead tape on the frame according to their desired balance of the racquet. The extended length helps Djokovic with more power in his shots and also aids him to reach for the ball around the court. The new racquet is also lighter which puts lesser pressure on his right elbow.

The Breakthrough Match

Djokovic started making better strides with coach Vajda, reaching the semi-finals at Rome before losing to Rafael Nadal in straight sets and then went onto reach the quarter-finals of the French Open.

However, Djokovic announced his return to the big league after defeating World Number 1 Nadal in the Wimbledon semi-final. The Spainard has traditionally brought the best out of Djokovic and he pushed the Serb to play at his absolute best in this match until the very end. When Djoker won the match 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9), 3-6, 10-8, he was looking like his old self once again.

A couple of days later, Djokovic beat Kevin Anderson to win his fourth Wimbledon title.

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