It’s pretty clear that Novak Djokovic has been going through a mental (and possibly physical) slump ever since finally winning the French Open last year. It’s almost as if, having achieved the Grand Slam, he has struggled to hold on to the motivation to keep striving.
This is likely because, psychologically, it takes a different kind of motivation to keep striving after one has achieved than is needed to achieve in the first place. Early achievement is often driven by blatant hunger. But once that hunger has been satisfied, it is important to shift your psychological motivation in order to keep achieving. The old strivings fueled by hunger may no longer work once one has been satiated. Djokovic seems to be a good example of a player who may be trying to figure this out.
Most would agree that Djokovic hit the pinnacle of his career when he won the 2016 French Open. It’s unfair however to characterize his performance since then as just a steady downslide. It’s been more like a roller-coaster, with moments of shining punctuated by a series of painful losses to the likes of Sam Querrey at Wimbledon, Stan Wawrinka at the US Open, Del Potro at the Olympics, Bautista Agut in Shanghai, and Marin Cilic in Paris. And that was just in 2016.
2017 has seen a similar pattern of upheaval. Djoko defended his title in Doha, only to then lose to Denis Istomin in the second round of the Australian Open. He then suffered two back-to-back losses to the mouthy but talented Nick Kyrgios, losses that likely hurt far more than the one to the talented David Goffin in Monte Carlo. That's because the far more modest Goffin is not the type to preen and make the win all about the size of his dick.
And, to top it off, there was that humiliating Facebook live video of Novak’s wife telling him off for not having good manners. It was a private moment in a marital relationship, which only looked bad because we weren’t supposed to see it. Which woman has not told off her man for being a thoughtless prick? To his credit, Novak has never removed the video. Why bother when the Internet saves back copies?
Novak’s most recent loss was to 20-year-old Alexander Zverev (in photo) at the finals of the 2017 Italian Open. Zverev is a talented up-and-comer who is clearly deserving of his own recognition. And one of these days, when my job lets up and I get to have a life once again, I will write about him. For now, let’s stay focused on Novak and the question of finding and maintaining motivation to continue succeeding well after one has already touched the apex. And of course what role may Andre Agassi play in its achievement.
(Part 1 of 3)