ATP Young Gun Jiri Vesely stunned the world, and probably himself, with a huge win over the seemingly unbeatable world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters.
On Wednesday, the 22-year-old Czech defeated Djokovic 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the second round of the third Masters 1000 of the year. It was just Vesely’s second win at a Masters 1000 tournament, but the world No. 53 effectively put an end to Djokovic’s incredible 22-match win streak at Masters 1000s.
Vesely’s first win over a Top 10 player in eight previous attempts handed the 28-year-old Serb his first full-match loss of 2016 and his first second-round loss since 2013. It was also Djokovic’s first opening-round clay court loss since he was defeated by the legendary Roger Federer a decade ago.
Vesely’s unexpected win over Djokovic sent the Twitter-sphere into overdrive, with fans and haters responding differently.
Djokovic’s loss humanizes him, especially after the insane 15 months he has been having. Since January 2015 he’s won four Grand Slam championships, 15 titles and only dropped six matches (including his loss to Vesely). These incredible 15 titles included eight Masters 1000 trophies. He’s been on top of the tennis rankings for 194 weeks, which makes winning more of an expectation than a privilege.
While Djokovic has been on a historic tear in the past 52 weeks, racking up an incredible 80-5 record before his Doomsday match, his opponent Vesely was breaking even with a much-less impressive record of 29-29.
As weird as this may sound, Djokovic’s winning has made him so tired, he couldn’t win on Wednesday.
I had the volume up the entire time I re-watched the match, but it seemed like Djokovic was on mute for the entire first set. There was no cheers of excitement or hype, or even self-degregrading talk, which is unlike an extremely extroverted player such as Djokovic. The sudden lack of on-court personality was the first sign that something was awry for the Serb.
After charging back 6-2 in the second set, it seemed like Djokovic’s exquisite mental strength was going to topple the less-experienced Vesely. Djokovic had only lost two out of 16 three-set matches since January 2015, which made Vesely’s win even more unbelievable.
Djokovic has elevated his game to a place where he can rarely be out-powered or out-rallied, but on Wednesday it seemed like both happened in the first and deciding set. The Serb was often standing far behind the baseline, which is rare for a player who always is looking to step in, capitalize and control the point as soon as possible. Left-handed Vesely stood solid, retrieving ball after ball, pounding winners and at times, out-crafting Djokovic with sly drop-shots and slices.
It was a loose match for Djokovic, who will surely rebound at Madrid. I’m not worried that the Serb will continue to be spectacular for the rest of 2016 and his entire tennis career, but I am interested to see how Vesely will react after this win.
As the Big Four transcend into “senior citizen” status by tennis terms, fans are eagerly awaiting the next batch of enthralling young players. Unfortunately, “Baby Fed” (Grigor Dimitrov) has been a disappointment and the next-best options out of Australia, Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic are immature and unpredictable.
Kyrgios and Tomic reacted to big wins with increased levels of cockiness, but I hope Vesely will be more level-headed and use his triumph over Djokovic as motivation to elevate his own game, instead of inflating his ego.