Eye of the coach # 59 – how Novak Djokovic turned the Wimbledon final with his world-class return and mid-match adjustments
In episode #59 of Eye of the Coach, Patrick Mouratoglou explains how the world-class returning of Novak Djokovic helped him turn Sunday’s Wimbledon final in his favour.
Novak Djokovic found himself trailing by a set against the devastating serve of Nick Kyrgios in Sunday’s Wimbledon final, but the 21-time Grand Slam champion, true to form, used his magic weapon to take Kyrgios down.
In the latest episode of Eye of the Coach, Patrick Mouratoglou discusses how Djokovic turned the match around after the first set, and what Kyrgios failed to do as he dropped the final three sets.
- :10 – Mouratoglou says that the key to the victory was Djokovic’s ability to make mid-match ajustments on return: “He was looking at his opponent checking where he serves, where he goes on the big points, how he plays,” said the coach. “And then once he lost the first set, he was ready for what’s coming next.”
- :21 – Kyrgios had control of the match early, but Djkokovic was able to turn it around, says Mouratoglou: “During this Wimbledon final between Novak and Nick, there were really two matches in one. We could see in the first set that Novak was really struggling to return Kyrgios’ serve. Once he got into the match he started to read much better the serves, he started to also anticipate a lot, like choosing a side, and he could finally break him several times.”
- :40 – Djokovic found ways to make Kyrgios work harder in his service games starting in the second set, says Mouratoglou: “Most of the service games of Nick were more difficult than in the first set. So he had to fight to win his service games and that was also one of the keys.”
- :53 – And Djokovic’s ability to put more returns in play also made it easier for him to use his advantage in baseline rallies: “The ability to return of Novak was very important because then the key of the match became the rallies. At the start of the match, it was not about rallying because it was only about serving and if it would have stayed like that, for sure, Nick would have won, but Novak is probably the best returner in the world, and maybe of all time. He has this ability to learn to read the opponent’s serve.”
“He accepted to go into long rallies, to play soft, to wait for the right ball to go, which makes sense in general, but against Novak in a Grand Slam final, I would think that he would take many more risks and create much more uncertainty.”Patrick Mouratoglou on Nick Kyrgios
- 1:44 – There were high points for Kyrgios in the contest, nevertheless. He was able to keep Djokovic guessing for much of the contest, even in the fourth set, says Mouratoglou: “In a match with so much on the line, so much emotion, when a player is able to create a constant uncertainty. It’s extremely stressful for the opponent who starts to make many more mistakes. And definitely that’s one of the biggest assets of Nick to be able to create that uncertainty.”
- Mouratoglou says that Kyrgios should have been more aggressive and quicker to go for the first strike: “And I believe that in that final he accepted to rally much too much. He accepted to go into long rallies, to play soft, to wait for the right ball to go, which makes sense in general, but against Novak in a Grand Slam final, I would think that he would take many more risks and create much more uncertainty.”
- 2:20 – When Kyrgios played cautiously, it played into Djokovic’s hands on Sunday: “Every time he was hitting harder. Novak was kind of trying to put the ball back. When [Kyrgios] was playing at a normal pace, Novak was able to move the ball around and make him work.”
- This, according to Mouratoglou, allowed the Serb to exploit his shot tolerance and fitness advantages: “We also know that Nick’s fitness is not at the highest level because we know that he’s not practicing as much as the other guys and he’s kind of playing half-time. He doesn’t doesn’t play the full schedule. So definitely that’s important for him not to accept to go to long rallies and get a bit less of his capital in terms of fitness. He needs a full fitness capital because he needs to be explosive. So shortening rallies is a key for him. And for me in that match. There were too many, much too many long rallies because he accepted to play too soft.”