Novak Djokovic needs time to recover from ’emotional roller-coaster’, says former world No 1

Shahida Jacobs
Novak Djokovic on court

The turbulent past 19 months have taken its toll on Novak Djokovic and he needs to “digest and recover” from everything, says former world No 1 Justine Henin.

Djokovic has dealt with plenty of setbacks in recent years as in 2020 he was disqualified from the US Open after accidentally hitting a line official in the throat with a ball. Then a few weeks later he suffered a humbling defeat to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

The 2021 season started in brilliant fashion as he won the first three majors and were gunning for a Golden Grand Slam, but he first lost in the semi-final of the Tokyo Olympics and was then beaten by Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final, which also meant he missed out on a 21st major.

His troubles continued at the start of this year as he was unable to defend his Australian Open crown after he was deported from the country due to his unvaccinated status while he also missed the Indian Wells Open and Miami O pen

Djokovic returned to action at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday following nearly two months on the sidelines, but he produced a lackluster performance, going down in three sets against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Alarm bells ringing for Novak Djokovic as comeback ends in defeat

Seven-times Grand Slam winner Henin says the events of the past few years were always going to have an impact on the Serbian.

“We can’t under-estimate the emotional roller-coaster he [Djokovic] has been on,” she told Eurosport France’s ‘DiP Impact’ podcast.

“Not just the Australian Open and not just all the effort he made to try and win his 21st Grand Slam at the 2021 US Open either [and which would’ve seen him hold all four majors].

“But you can also go back to the US Open in 2020 when he was disqualified. From there, he then had the tough [final] defeat [to Rafa Nadal] at Roland Garros [in the same year].

“Then he had the abdominal injury and his somewhat miraculous win at the Australian Open in 2021.

“You’ve got to imagine what all that must have been like. Even if your name is Novak Djokovic, you’re still a human being. He can’t have gone through all that calmly.”

The Belgian added that is is important for Djokovic to digest everything so that he can move on.

“I’m not saying all this is going to have an impact on the rest of his career, but he’s got to digest and recover from all of that,” Henin continued.

“And these are factors that have got to be taken into account when we talk about him now.

“But I think he’s going to recover and we’ll once again sooner or later see the Djokovic of old, so I’m not too worried at this stage.

“But these players aren’t machines either, and even if he showed us that he could deal with so many things and that the more he was in difficulty, the more he could bounce back, how long can he keep doing that?”