It has been a turbulent 12 months within the lifetime of Novak Djokovic, however the world primary can put all of it behind him by profitable a record-extending ninth Australian Open title towards Russia’s Daniil Medvedev on Sunday. The world primary has at all times been a polarising determine for followers and pundits alike, together with his on-court mastery tempered by a knack for controversy away from the sector. Since profitable his seventeenth Grand Slam in Melbourne a 12 months in the past in the past, he has hardly ever been out of the headlines, largely for the improper causes. He started 2020 on a excessive, main Serbia to raise the inaugural ATP Cup, after which fought again behind to beat Dominic Thiem in 5 units to raise his eighth Australian Open crown. However the coronavirus pandemic meant the world’s tennis excursions had been suspended in March.
Three months later, Djokovic took it upon himself to launch his ill-fated Adria Tour.
The match in Belgrade had 4,000 spectators packed in whereas gamers shook palms and took selfies with followers, and ball children dealt with sweaty towels — all throughout a worldwide shutdown.
Djokovic and gamers together with Thiem and Alexander Zverev had been closely criticised for partying shirtless at a heaving Belgrade night time membership.
The inevitable occurred. Djokovic, his spouse Jelena and gamers Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all caught Covid.
Djokovic was then branded “tone deaf” for launching a breakaway Skilled Tennis Gamers Affiliation in August simply as the game was making an attempt to stagger again to its ft.
Days later, Djokovic was kicked out of the US Open after hitting a line decide within the throat unintentionally with a ball he slapped away in anger through the fourth spherical.
The distressed feminine oficial wanted remedy on court docket and Djokovic apologised. “I am extraordinarily sorry to have prompted her such stress. So unintended, so improper,” he stated.
The Covid-delayed French Open rolled round and Djokovic reached the ultimate, the place his shot at turning into the primary man to win all 4 Grand Slams twice since Rod Laver in 1969 led to additional humiliation when he suffered a 6-0 “bagel” to Rafael Nadal on his method to a straights-sets defeat.
Controversy is rarely far-off from Djokovic, who whipped up one other storm after gamers flew in to quarantine forward of the Australian Open.
Nick Kyrgios led a wave of criticism of the Serb for issuing an inventory of requests that reportedly included gamers being given personal properties with tennis courts.
“Djokovic is a instrument,” Kyrgios tweeted, as Australia’s media savaged the Serb.
As soon as the motion started all appeared properly as Djokovic gained each his singles matches within the ATP Cup and his first two on the Australian Open.
However within the third spherical he appeared like he might need to tug out earlier than one way or the other overcoming an belly damage to beat American Taylor Fritz in 5 units.
Djokovic’s capacity to thrive among the many greats will not be in query, however there have usually been doubts concerning the measurement of his coronary heart after a collection of big-tournament retirements.
At Wimbledon in 2007, he retired with a again damage within the third set of his semi-final towards Nadal.
He additionally give up on the 2006 and 2007 French Opens, whereas on the 2009 Australian Open, the place he was defending champion, he pulled out of his quarter-final with Andy Roddick citing warmth exhaustion.
He give up in a 2017 Wimbledon quarter-final towards Tomas Berdych with a proper shoulder damage. He pulled out once more on the 2019 US Open with a left shoulder drawback when two units right down to Stan Wawrinka.
However Djokovic may also discover bravery within the face of adversity.
He might barely stroll at instances as he beat Fritz in 5 painful units, after which grimaced in ache by means of matches towards Milos Raonic and Zverev regardless of having not educated.
By the point he beat Aslan Karatsev within the semi-final he proclaimed his health was the most effective it had been all match.
He now stands on the cusp of an 18th Grand Slam title and will by the top of the 12 months be neck and neck with Roger Federer and Nadal who’ve 20 every.
If he might bookend a torrid 12 months by lifting the Norman Brookes Problem Cup for a 3rd 12 months in a row and ninth time in all on Sunday, individuals may simply begin to overlook all of the controversy in between.
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