Former world No 12 makes Novak Djokovic ‘decline’ claim as he identifies key period

Ewan West
Novak Djokovic in his loss to Jannik Sinner
Novak Djokovic looks on in his defeat to Jannik Sinner at the Australian Open

Tennis analyst Paolo Bertolucci believes we will learn if the “decline” of Novak Djokovic has begun during the tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami. 

The former ATP player said Djokovic “played badly” at the Australian Open, but suggested his performance in Melbourne could also be down to his preparation rather than a decline.

Djokovic suffered a convincing four-set defeat to eventual champion Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals of the 2024 Australian Open last month – a loss that ended his 33-match winning streak at the event.

The 24-time Grand Slam champion has now lost three of his last four encounters with world No 4 Sinner, having also fallen to the 22-year-old Italian twice in November.

The world No 1 is a 10-time Australian Open winner and had never previously lost at the semi-final stage at the hard-court Grand Slam in Melbourne.

The 36-year-old Serbian secured three of the four major titles in a staggering 2023 campaign which he ended as the ATP world No 1 for a record-extending eighth time.

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In an interview with Italian website Fanpage, Bertolucci was asked if he felt Djokovic’s defeat to Sinner was a watershed moment in the tennis great’s career.

“He is a player who played badly in Australia, as in previous matches. We have never seen him in good condition [this year],” the Italian assessed.

“Now, if this is due to a problem that can happen, because it happens that someone doesn’t get his preparation right, or if the decline has begun, we will find out in the American [tournaments] between Indian Wells and Miami.

“We will see if he has recovered or not. I have no ideas because we would have to have seen the training sessions, understand if he stopped or not and with what intensity. Only those who know that within the team.”

Djokovic is yet to confirm his next tournament, but it is likely to be the Indian Wells Masters in March given he has not entered the Dubai Tennis Championships – an event he often plays.

The former world No 12 also identified Sinner’s mental strength as the reason he was able to recover from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final.

“It was a moment of down, there are situations in a match in which you are unable to do certain things. Moments in which your head is no longer so strong and you feel the pain, tiredness and confusion. When instead you are able to react to these sensations are dulled,” Bertolucci said.

“In delicate moments it is the head that makes the difference, in the fifth set this happens 90 times out of 100. Everyone thinks that the physical aspect is the decisive aspect, but when two players reach the fifth set and go to look at the kilometers covered there will be 50-70 meters of difference from each other.

“But what are they? Nothing. The one who wins is the one who is stronger in the head, for the same distance travelled.”

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