Just 12 months ago, Djokovic was enjoying a
well earned break. Having bagged the Australian Open and collected a host of
Masters titles he was the newly crowned Wimbledon Champion and the new number
one player in world tennis.
Just nine weeks later Novak would come back
from the brink to defeat Roger Federer in the US Open semi-final before yet
again defeating a punch-drunk Rafa Nadal and taking his third Grand Slam of the
In fairness to Djokovic, everybody knew it
was going to be impossible to maintain the miraculous standards he had set for
himself in 2011, but when he started the year with simply inexplicable five-set
victories over first Murray and then Nadal, to claim a third slam on the
bounce, there were many talking of a Golden Slam, which would see the Serbian
winning all four Grand Slams and the Olympic Gold in London.
The place where it all started to go right
for Djokovic in 2011 was the same place where things took a downward turn this
In 2011, Djokovic came up against Rafa
Nadal for the first time at the Indian Wells Masters. Yes, the Serbian was on a
fantastic unbeaten run and had already bagged the Aussie Open title but he
hadn't faced World No.1, Rafa Nadal so now was the time for Rafa to regain
That didn't happen. Djokovic came back from
a set down to win the title and didn't look back, recording seven successive
victories over the Spaniard, all in finals.
This year at Indian Wells, Djokovic again
arrived with the Australian Open trophy still sitting in his cabinet, but this
time he was defeated in the semi-finals by John Isner. It was a hugely
disappointing exit and Djokovic new that he was under pressure to win virtually
every tournament afterwards in order to hold on to the points he'd amassed in
Across the clay court season there was no
question that Rafa Nadal reasserted his dominance. Successes over Djokovic in
the finals at Monte Carlo and Rome were added to by a historic seventh
Roland Garros success for the Spaniard, again in a final against Djokovic.
So the pendulum had started to swing back
in Rafa's favour but with the grass court season followed by the US hard court
swing to come, Novak could hold on to his grip at the top couldn't he?
Well the answer would have been yes, had it
not been for the inspired form of Roger Federer.
Having been so near yet so far to defeating
Djokovic in the 2011 US Open semi-final, Federer went on an incredible run
which saw him picking up titles everywhere he went.
So as it turned out, it was his old nemesis
Roger who knocked Novak off the top of the world and not the more likely figure
of Rafa Nadal.
Just over 12 months after Roger Federer
became the first man to defeat Djokovic in 2011 he then became the man to
wrestle away the Serb's stranglehold at the top of the game.
So what next for Djokovic?
It seems churlish to suggest a man who has
won one Slam, been to the final of another, and the semis at Wimbledon
is having a bad year, but there does seem to have been a dip in motivation
since the French Open defeat.
Djokovic knew that a victory in the Roland
Garros final would make him the first man in the modern era to hold all four
Grand Slam titles at the same time. It didn't happen for him and there did seem
to be a lack of motivation in the Wimbledon
semi-final with Roger Federer.
Despite the slip to world no.2, Novak
Djokovic will know he has far from had a bad year and if he can just rediscover
the drive which took him on such an incredible journey in 2011 there could
still be plenty on offer for him this year.
A fiercely patriotic man, I'd expect to see
Djokovic full of renewed vigour at the Olympic Games and it would be fabulous to
see him fight it out in the final with Federer.
If he can win that event, then I suspect
everything could well be back on track for the Serbian and if he notches up a
fourth Slam in succession on hard courts, he'll then have the back end of the
year to ensure he finishes back at the top of the world.
That's what I suspect is going to happen,
and whilst Roger's revival has been great for the sport I don't expect his
reign at the top to extend across the remainder of the year.