Sunday, October 24, 2021

It’s a good time for Novak Djokovic to adapt or retreat

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What better time for a scientist to reveal his findings on Novak Djokovic than the very time he had lost four grand slam titles. All right, so Jack Demsey, senior vice president of global advertising and client strategy at the advertising firm Leo Burnett, wasn’t talking about winning more grand slams or even sustaining a run this time around, but rather his working on the chemical formula that makes some brands impervious to the ups and downs that are the modern-day Grand Slam tournaments.

Some brands exhibit the ability to overcome a loss, as anyone with a thing for haute couture has surely discovered. Some tinker with or reinvent themselves, even in the face of adversity, but those brands are by now certainly with us.

But not so for inveterate grand slam contenders Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Is it time for them to seek a neutral partner to address their drinking-potion and bakery-cookie woes? And, at some point, to perhaps consider calling upon a young star at a midlife crisis? Or is it time to order a frosted pop?

Well, we now know, for certain, that they’re not going to find the time or energy to dial things up a notch. So, as they play out the remaining grand slam events, we’ll be watching their lapses, flaws and victories on the court. Will they, as was the case in 2016, withdraw in the second week, possibly joining Rafael Nadal as the only men in the open era to fall at the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in back-to-back years?

Or will one of them win one of those final four events before the year ends, or, through August’s World Championships in London, at the very least return to a world number one ranking for the first time since 2015, when he finished his most recent season at No. 2 behind Nadal, his rival at the time?

All of this and more as we watch Djokovic’s 33-year-old and Roger Federer’s 36-year-old selves try to complete an elusive French Open conquest.

It is long past time for them to adapt and adapt again, if ever so slightly. Let’s hope that they have learned from their past mistakes and embark on a fresh and entirely new path, and time has proven we’re not quite ready to move on.

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