Wednesday 14 September 2011

What if?

After Novak Djokovic's first loss of the year, in the semifinals of Roland Garros, I had a fleeting thought - "What if he manages to win both Wimbledon and the US Open? This could've been a chance to complete the Grand Slam". The thought evaporated quickly enough, as the prospect of winning both slams still seemed far at the time - more a dream than a possible reality.

The thought made a comeback some time after Wimbledon. "What if he can take the US Open title? How will we look back at the French open then?"

Suddenly, it didn't look so far fetched anymore. Surely it will be hard to find someone who can challenge Novak?

As the North American swing started, it became harder to imagine him grabbing three slams in one year. Djokovic looked shaky in most of his matches in Montreal, even though he won the title. Cincinnati was even worse. With an ailing shoulder, Novak only won the semifinal due to Berdych retiring, bothered by the same injury. In the final he suffered his second loss of the year, retiring against Andy Murray. Could he recover in time for the last Grand Slam of the season?

(Click to enlarge)

Turned out that he could. And now that he has won three out of four Grand Slam tournaments, beating Rafael Nadal for the sixth straight time, I'm sure many are saying - what if?

So, what if Novak could beat Roger Federer in that French Open semifinal? What would've happened then?

Could he have won the Roland Garros? On one hand, nobody beats Rafael Nadal at the French Open (unless your name is Robin Soderling, but 2009 was definitely an exception). On the other hand, Novak had already won against him twice on clay, and as we know now - he can also beat him in best-of-five format, repeatedly. Judging by his form during the tournament, and by his mental state against Djokovic in the next match they played (Wimbledon final), I think Nadal would probably have lost this final, as well. But then... what is the chance that Novak could go on as he did? The streak would've continued, and the pressure of "When will it end?" could reach such levels to make it impossible to deal with. He'd come to Wimbledon less relaxed, and the rest of the summer might look completely different.
(Then again, what would happen to Nadal's confidence if he lost RG? Too many 'if's here.)

At the end of the day, all of it doesn't matter. History knows no 'if's. We fans became gluttons for winning (insert a no-gluten joke here). Three slams? Not enough, we want all four. Two losses? That's 2 too much. But none of us could ever dream that 2011 will look like this. If anyone promised us on January 1st that Novak would have a Slam in his pocket - we'd sign on it in blood. In fact, choose any part of Novak's 2011 season, suggest it to any player on one of the tours - I'm sure they'd take it without hesitation. What else can we say, but "Novak, we're damn lucky to be your fans. Thank you!"?

And yet, as I went to sleep yesterday, thinking about how difficult it's going to be for him to complete a career Grand Slam next year (or ever), that pesky thought crept into my mind... What if?

(Photos: Getty Images)


  1. great column !

    i trully believe that novak would go on to do the grand slam had he beaten federer.

  2. This is what I think: If Nole would have gone to beat Fed in the RG SF he would have beaten Rafa in the final and gain the title. Then maybe he would have lost in Wimby due to pressure and maybe not (my guess is yes)… What I know for sure (as sure as I can be) is that he wouldn't have won against Fed in NYC because there is no way that Fed's ago would have let himself loose to Nole 4 times in a row in a slam. I also believe that Nole's luck in the SF was good Karma after the bad luck in RG (or you can also look at this in the opposite way – Fed got lucky in RG and acted horribly toward Nole, waving is damn finger and got what was coming to him - Karma is a bitch). If he would have been lucky in RG he wouldn't get more luck in NYC. That my humble opinion on the subject.

  3. Correction - (my guess is no)