Novak Djokovic’s strange, year-long slump continued on Wednesday when he lost in straight sets to sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem,
7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-0, at the French Open.
Djokovic’s scoreless third set was his first since the U.S. Open in 2005, according to The Telegraph’s Simon Briggs.
The disappointing exit at Rolland-Garros comes one year after Djokovic reached the pinnacle of tennis, winning the French Open in 2016 to win four straight majors and capture a Grand Slam.
Since, Djokovic has not won any majors, with his only two wins coming at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open and the ATP World Tour Masters in Toronto. According to Stuart Fraser of Times Sport, with his loss at the French Open, Djokovic will fall out of the top two in rankings for the first time since 2011.
After the match, Djokovic sounded puzzled as to how to get out of his current slump.
“Obviously I always expect a lot from myself, but it’s a fact I’m not playing close to my best. I know that but I’m working on my game and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This is while new situation for me, not winning any big tournaments, so it’s not something that has never happened for any other player. All the big players go through it. You have to learn your lessons and get through it stronger. It’s a big challenge, but I’m up for it.”
Djokovic was also asked if he would consider taking a break, and he hinted that it’s a possibility.
“Well, trust me, I’m thinking about many things, you know, especially in the last couple months. You know, I’m just trying to sense what’s the best thing for me now. Obviously, there has been a lot of changes with the team and so forth. So excited to work with Andre [Agassi] and the new team. At the same time, I have a responsibility to the game itself, toward others. We’ll see. Obviously, it’s not an easy decision to make, but I will see how I feel, anyway, after Rolland-Garros and then decide what to do next.”
As Djokovic noted, in May, he split with his entire coaching staff, citing the need to find “that winning spark again.” He then began working with tennis legend Andre Agassi. Djokovic still hasn’t filled out other parts of his staff, including a trainer. Djokovic told ESPN’s Bonnie D. Ford that his time with Agassi has gone well, saying that they have deeper, more philosophical conversations rather than technical conversations about Djokovic’s game.
However, there’s some doubt that the partnership will last. Former pro Goran Ivanisevic recently told The Tennis Podcast that he doesn’t think Agassi has the time to be a full-time coach.
“I don’t think Andre wants to be a coach. I love Andre, he’s one of my favourite tennis players, but he has too many things [going on] to be a coach to somebody like Novak Djokovic. You need to be a coach for 20, 25 weeks, and I don’t think he has three weeks free in the whole calendar year to be a coach to someone.”
Before the 2016 U.S. Open, Djokovic admitted he was struggling to play through “private issues,” which some interpreted as a reference to his wife Jelena. Since, however, nothing has been confirmed and Djokovic hasn’t made more references his off-court life.
If Djokovic doesn’t take a break, he still has Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to work toward and try to demonstrate some growth in his game. In the meantime, he doesn’t seem to be any closer to finding an answer to his struggles, and it appears he’s going to have to do some deeper digging to reclaim his title as world No. 1.
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