A new challenge for Novak Djokovic

By Leigh Rogers
Published on June 29, 2018

Bjorn Borg has revealed his first captain’s pick for Team Europe’s 2018 campaign is Novak Djokovic, one of the game’s most prolific champions.

Novak Djokovic etched his name in history as one of the sport’s all-time greats in a glistening 16-year professional career.

He currently sits fourth on the list of most prolific Grand Slam men’s singles champions with 12 titles, and is one of only eight to complete a career Grand Slam. He has won 68 career titles, only bettered by six men in history, and spent 223 weeks ranked No.1, fifth on the all-time list. A three-time Olympian, Djokovic has represented Serbia with distinction and helped his nation win a first Davis Cup title in 2010.

NOVAK JOINS TEAM EUROPE

ROAD BLOCKS

His commitment to improving his own game has been unquestionable, famously overhauling his diet and taking a meticulous approach in his preparations.Yet even for a player who has achieved so much, the path has not been smooth.  “Life throws challenges at you when you least expect it. But, you know, that’s our task as people to evolve and especially as athletes at this level, trying to understand what it takes,” Djokovic said after a tight three-set loss to world No.6 Marin Cilic in the Queen’s final last week.

The honest self-assessment comes after a difficult two-year period: Djokovic’s ranking has fallen outside the world’s top 10 for the first time in a decade and his service motion overhauled due to an elbow injury. If anyone is qualified to talk about overcoming such tests, it is the 31-year-old Serb.

From growing up in a war-torn country to competing against some of the best players the game has ever seen, Djokovic has repeatedly proven he can find answers to the toughest challenges.

Djokovic had looked unstoppable after winning Roland Garros in 2016 to complete his career Grand Slam and join Rod Laver as the only man in the Open era to hold all four major titles at once.
The tennis world began to question what Djokovic would achieve next: Would he match Rod Laver as the only man to complete an Open era calendar year Grand Slam? Could he overtake Roger Federer’s all-time Grand Slam record?

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after victory in his men's singles final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain on the twelfth day of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne early January 30, 2012. Djokovic won 5-7. 6-4. 6-2. 6-7. 7-5. . IMAGE STRICTLY RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE AFP PHOTO/NICOLAS ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic was unstoppable in 2016, the year he won a 6th Australian Open crown and his first at Roland Garros, for a total of 12 majors.

REBUILDING

Two years later, there are different questions being asked, led by Djokovic himself, who openly admits his confidence has been shaky. Yet, after some unexpected losses and multiple changes to his support team, the signs are promising that the father of two’s form is returning. He has won 12 of his past 15 matches to reach the quarterfinals or better in his past three events. His recent run at Queen’s also included his first win over a top five-ranked opponent (Grigor Dimitrov) in 18 months.

Still, the No.17-ranked Djokovic’s own expectations for Wimbledon are measured. “I wouldn’t say I’m a contender for a trophy or anything like that. I have to keep my expectations very low considering my results in the last 12 months,” he said.

Djokovic might be unsure of himself right now, but Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg has no doubts.

Borg, who led Team Europe to victory in the inaugural Laver Cup last year, is using one of his captain’s picks to include Djokovic in his 2018 line-up.

Djokovic is the second confirmed player for Team Europe, with Roger Federer also heading to Chicago in September.

Croatia's Marin Cilic (R) embraces Serbia's Novak Djokovic after winning the men's singles final at the ATP Queen's Club Championships tennis tournament in west London on June 24, 2018. - Cilic won the final 5-7, 7-6, 6-3. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic showed he is close to capturing titles, after reaching the final at Queen’s prior to Wimbledon, which is lost to Team Europe 2017 representative, Marin Cilic.