In 2007, Novak Djokovic was pretty good and consistently ranked in the top 3. In that year, he made the semifinals at the French Open and Wimbledon and was the runner-up to Federer at the U.S. Open.
Djokovic was known for his funny impersonations of fellow tennis players, most notably Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal. He did amusing television commercials. He truly earned his nickname of “The Djoker.”
As recent as 2010, Jokovic was playing good, not exceptional. Djokovic had a reputation of problems with fitness and breathing, retiring from matches, and who sometimes showed lack of focus in the close matches.
Then in 2011, it was the Davis Cup Final and Serbia was counting on the same Novak Djokovic.He won his two matches and led Serbia to victory over France. It was Serbia’s first Davis Cup championship.
It is now five months later and Djokovic has not lost since. He has 40 wins and no losses. The Serb has won seven tournaments in 2011 and is the first player to already qualify for the year end championships.
On top of that, Djokovic has beaten former number one Roger Federer three times and current leader Rafael Nadal four straight times with the last two on clay, where Nadal had been unbeatable.
Is the same player who had a sinus operation following breathing difficulties, and suffered allergic reactions? Djokovic defaulted out of major tournaments because of various illnesses and aches and pains. Even the usually polite Federer criticized him.
There are many reports about a new gluten free diet that Djokovic is now using. He was diagnosed with allergies that affected his breathing.
Djokovic is now working with two trainers and the Belgrade native says his mental state is better.
“I am learning every day how I should behave on and off the court, how I should accept my commitments in my profession. It’s more important for me to be a good person than a good tennis player,” Djokovic said.
“I didn’t have this consistency or the right mental approach when I played the big players. I was losing a lot of matches at the later stages of Grand Slams and Masters Series events against Roger or Rafa just because I didn’t have a lot of self-belief and confidence that I could win against those guys.”
The French Open starts this week and Djokovic can truly make his statement during this Grand Slam tournament. For the first time in many years, a player is coming into the French Open with a real chance of beating Nadal on clay.
Djokovic can also add another Grand Slam title along with the number one ranking. This is quite a stretch from when Djokovic had audiences laughing at him.
When all the dust at Roland Garros has settled, Djokovic just might be on top of the tennis heap and have fans laughing with him.