If and when he gets over his constant whinging over feeling unloved, Novak must ponder over the necessity and timings of his injury revelations. If mass popularity is the prize he seeks, it would pay to be seen as slightly more forthright about his ailments, and a tad more gracious in defeat. Gamesmanship never helped anyone at the hustings. Intermittent griping is a rather potent love repellent.
Suggesting that he felt some kind of stabbing pain in his wrist during his defeat to Federer, and then expressing optimism over possible participation in the Davis Cup starting next week not only seems contradictory but also sounds like a vague ,uncalled-for excuse . One can argue that being a professional, Djokovic was entitled to take court against Wawrinka at the US Open ,and then quit midway citing shoulder inflammation. If that be so, a professional should not be making heavy weather of crowd’s rudeness either. Public perceptions are built over years of viewings , and are not subject to change by coaxing and cajoling ,yearning and grumbling.
Crowds are not obliged to love or respect anyone. They boo, because they can. They do so, if they feel like. They clapped when he double-faulted against Roger during his defeat at the O2. They clapped more , and booed obnoxiously when he double-faulted again. It is alright for Novak Djokovic , his family and supporters to feel wronged. There is a choice. He can walk away into sunset.
The better option would be to just ignore them audiences, and focus on arresting the obvious slide in his tennis. Despite his two Grand Slam wins in 2019, Novak came across as very vulnerable and sometimes even disinterested. He does finish the year as world Number 2 , but would be facing stiff competition from Federer, Thiem, Tsitsipas, Medvedev and Nadal in 2020.
The brittleness of Novak’s game was exposed in 2019. Despite winning the first sets, he slipped twice against Agut (Qatar semi-final , Miami R16) and once each to Medvedev (Cincinnati semi-final) , Tsitsipas (Shanghai R8) and Theim (WTF Group match). He did thrash a hapless Rafa in straight sets in the Australian Open final , but was also aided by a comparatively easier draw in which he was just tested against Shapovlov and Medvedev enroute to the final.
Djokovic seemed completely off colour at the Sunshine Double, losing to Kohlschreiber in straight sets at Indiana Wells in the round of 32, and to Agut at Miami in the round of 16. Next ,at Monte Carlo, he did overcome Kolshcreiber in a round of 32 three-setter, but his run was cut short by Medvedev in the quarter-final. Novak did win the Matua Madris Masters , beating both Thiem and Tsitsipas along the way, but was bageled by Rafa at Rome, after he had somehow survived Del Potro and Schwartzmann in tense three setters.
The second week at the French Open was a wet affair. Novak railed incessantly against ‘hurricane-like’ windy conditions during the semi-final against Thiem and virtually prevailed upon the referee to suspend play on Friday night when his opponent held advantage at one-set apiece and a break up in the third .Thiem ultimately beat Novak the next day in five sets in a match in which the Serb always seemed behind .
Riding on an easy draw, Novak entered the Wimbledon final beating Kolschreiber,KUdla,Hurkacz,Umbert,Goffin and Agut where he squared up against a tired 37-year old Roger Federer, who had overcome a spirited Rafael Nadal in the semi-final. Novak won the first and third sets in tie-breakers, could not break the Swiss till the end of the fourth set and was two points from elimination in the fifth (15-40,7-8), but somehow survived the almost five hour long duel for his sixteenth Slam.
Novak complained of wrist pain during Cincinnati where lost to Medvedev (second loss of the year to the Russian) in the semi-final. During the US Open, there was a lot of buzz about Novak’s shoulder inflammation and wrist pain. The Serb managed to pick issues with booing crowds and snapped at reporters. He quit midway during the third set (having lost the first two) against Wawrinka in their round 4 match, and was criticized for it.
He did win Tokyo 250 beating Goffin and Millman , but lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas at Shanghai , who he then thrashed at Paris . Dimitrov in the semi-final and Shapovov in the final did not pose tough questions as Novak captured his second Masters of the year. Novak entered the ATP WTF , London with high hopes of finishing as the Year-end Number One for a record sixth time. But his losses to Theim and Roger mean that he has bowed out at the Group stage itself, and Rafael Nadal is assured of his Number One ranking. IN his last match against Roger, Novak seemed completely flat , almost as if gas had ran out of his tank.
Did Novak effect any remarkable comeback (except the SW-19 final) in the entire year as Rafa did against Medvedev and Tsitsipas in their WTF Group matches ? No.
Did Novak hold his own against any spirited recovery like Rafa did in face of Medvedev comeback in the US Open final ? No.
The Serb did not show stomach for fight in 2019. He often slipped from leading positions , and threw in the towels rather too tamely once he fell behind . The younger generation, especially Thiem, Medvedev and Tsitsipas feel a lot more comfortable taking him on , than they do against Nadal , who still plays very intense tennis. Novak Djokovic has allowed himself to be affected by crowds, courts, weather and injuries a tad too much for a player of his stature.
The flawless professional with nerves of steel is gone. An annoyed ,uncertain pretender has taken his place .He gives the impression of someone who is no longer enjoying his tennis and is playing against his wishes. As if he is there only for easy pickings (draws) and has lost the will to go after Roger’s Slams and Weeks as Number One records. As if he can no longer win close matches. As if he is a fraction of Novak 2011 and 2015-16 .