Written by Staff Writer
Novak Djokovic withdrew from the Toronto Masters on Friday night, the second consecutive tournament the Serbian world number two has failed to play.
It’s been a form slump that many had expected at some point to come to pass, but not quite so early.
The 31-year-old has spent two years on top of the world and his level and consistency is still so high that he’s usually not a player prone to an early habit of beginning poorly, let alone even to dropping out of the top 10.
So it comes as a surprise that he hasn’t been able to translate his title winning ways of recent years, and in the last two months he’s lost three times in three finals — at Wimbledon (against Andy Murray), Queen’s Club (against Roger Federer) and then at Wimbledon and Queen’s again in just over two weeks’ time.
He’s on a downer, but there’s no time to panic, says CNN sports anchor and American tennis star John McEnroe.
Asked what gives him hope, McEnroe said: “He’s playing a very powerful man in Federer. He’s got to win this week. He played with his back taped, maybe a bit of an issue. He’s obviously playing in the shadow of Federer and it’s a tough situation to be in.”
But McEnroe, an eight-time Grand Slam champion with a reputation as one of the great players in history, says Djokovic’s game is still very good.
“He’s got all the weapons in the world,” he said. “He’s very solid. He can turn it on at any time. He can lay down. He can turn it on in big moments.
“You need a day here and there to beat Roger — maybe a day or two to beat Andy. Djokovic’s like Roger, a little bit hard on his feet — he can’t walk for an hour because of his back. So you really have to be big and aggressive on a day and half to really get by him.”
As such, the pressure is on the Swiss great to preserve his No. 1 ranking — he needs to win the Rogers Cup in Toronto to stay there.
The Canadian Open, which starts on August 20, is also a Grand Slam event but not one where Djokovic is usually in good form.
“I think he has a chance to win this tournament,” said McEnroe. “The odds are really against him, and no matter how good a guy he is, when you have a chance to win a Grand Slam, and everyone else is healthy — and even if they don’t — the odds are a little bit more in your favor.”
The lesson he wants fans to take from his rapid decline is to look at life and get past the worst: “You get there one day at a time.”