New Year’s resolutions are pointless, why do we think we can change during the long hangover that is January what we couldn’t change throughout the whole of the previous year. One of the reasons our weight loss, exercise regimes and quitting smoking plans turn to dust is that we’re simply not ready to change.
Our procrastinations result in a motivational statement to quit this or do this more, but we are creatures of habit and mostly not ready to change our habits simply because it’s a brand spanking new year. Therefore it was perhaps foolish of us to expect Novak Djokovic to suddenly reemerge from his slumber and turn up at the Australian Open as the phenomenally domineering player he once was.
After losing his number one status to Andy Murray, crashing out at the Olympics and an early exit from Wimbledon, late 2016 put the Serb on the ropes. Now in 2017, it seems that the wildcard, Denis Istomin from Uzbekistan, ranked 117th, has swung a haymaker and put Djokovic on the canvas. Weather Djokovic can lift himself and continue the fight is open to question, but if he can’t there are some young fighters hopeful of filling his shoes and challenging Murray for the top spot this year.
Going into this one Djokovic should have been confident of dispatching the player he’d previously beaten five times and with his bright glasses and headband, there was a comedic look about Istomin that suggested someone just happy to be there.
Yet Istomin held a threat that would stun Djokovic, the Rod Laver Arena crowd and former coach, Boris Becker. When a recent champion and number two seed loses, the dialogue and autopsy of the loss tend to gloss over the performance of the winner and attention is focused on the faults of the surprise loser. So it’s only fair to take a moment to congratulate a player that put in the performance of his career to beat a six-time Australian Open champion and a player on a fifteen-match winning streak.
With seventeen aces and just three double faults n a tense court atmosphere and with the world watching, no one can deny that Istomin deserves his time in the limelight and a place in the next round. Andy Murray is now the clear favourite to win with bet365 Australian Open betting odds of 5/6 at the time of writing, but many will be watching Istomin with interest and he has clearly been one of the great underdog stories of tennis.
For Djokovic, his nine double faults and seventy-two unforced errors indicate that this is a player still searching for confidence and desire after stellar success in the past. All players go through lean periods in their career through injury, increased exposure, greater competition or simply the demands of training catching up with you, it’s a natural phenomenon.
After beating Murray in a super final of the Qatar Open earlier in the month, it looked as though the slump might be over, but after being on the end of one of the Australian Open’s biggest upsets, it’s back to the drawing board for Djokovic.
With Djokovic still searching for desire and form, a window opens for a young star to move up the rankings and there are a few names to look out for.
Kei Nishikori – is often described as having one of the best backhands in tennis, but has good footwork and an all-around game that could take him to the top.
Alexander Zverev – an exciting teenager with all the tools to be a megastar of world tennis and should be ready to fight for majors right now.
Juan Martin Del Potro – totally dependent on overcoming the injuries that have blighted in career and resulted in him missing the Australian Open. If he’s fit, he’ll challenge.
Stan Wawrinka – not a young star, but has the ability to challenge and could move up the rankings with greater consistency.