Now That Season Is Over For Djokovic, What’s Next?

Novak Djokovic (photo: Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Kosmos Tennis)

WASHINGTON, December 4, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Earlier this week at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic had expressed how the Davis Cup ranked alongside the majors as one of the biggest priorities of his career.

Goodness knows that the 34-year-old Djokovic did everything he could to lift Serbia into Sunday’s Davis Cup championship tie. But he couldn’t do it alone.

After Croatia beat their arch-rivals from Serbia 2-1 Friday, in back of a 7-5, 6-1 doubles rubber triumph by Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic over Djokovic and Filip Krajinovic to reach their fourth Davis Cup final, it showed the importance that doubles has played during this year’s Davis Cup event – and, once again, the World No. 1 doubles team of Mektic and Pavic proved their value and worth from start to finish.

The semifinal tie between Croatia and Serbia began with an unlikely win by Borna Gojo, ranked 279th, who upset No. 33 Dusan Lajovic, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. It gave the Croatians a big lift that proved to be a difference maker. Gojo had already enjoyed a week he’ll likely not soon forget that began with back-to-back career-best victories. First, he defeated No. 61 Alexei Popyrin of Australia in group play, then followed it with an upset of No. 27 Lorenzo Sonego in Croatia’s quarterfinal victory over Italy.

Soon, the semifinal tie was leveled by Djokovic after he bested 30th-ranked Marin Cilic, his longtime rival, 6-4, 6-2. Although Djokovic hit just 13 winners and never won more than eight straight points, he won 70 percent of his service points and saved all eight break points he faced from Cilic. The win was Djokovic’s 19th straight in Davis Cup competition and it improved his lifetime win-loss record against Cilic to 18-2.

Ahead of the doubles rubber, Serbia captain Viktor Troicki inserted Krajinovic to replace Nikola Cacic, who had partnered with Djokovic during their quarterfinal win over Kazakhstan on Wednesday. Although Djokovic and Krajinovic stuck close to the Croatians for one set, the experience of Mektic and Pavic proved too much to overcome. Soon, the Serbians found themselves trailing by a double break from which they never recovered.

During Serbia’s post-match press conference, the focus was on Djokovic, now that his remarkable 2021 season had reached its conclusion. “I don’t regret any tournament [I] played after August and I don’t regret nothing in my life,” he said. “I give always my best. Today, one singles win was not enough. This competition is cruel in a way.”

Djokovic admitted that unless the Serbian team is able to add strong doubles players to its roster, trying to win the Davis Cup will be like “climbing Mount Everest.”

Looking back, this was the first Davis Cup tie in eight years, since 2013, that paired the singles No. 1 against the doubles No. 1. By the conclusion of the one-hour and 13-minute tussle, Mektic and Pavic remained undefeated this week and they haven’t dropped a set, either.

Afterward, during their on-court interview, Mektic said that although Djokovic showed that he was No. 1 in the world in singles, “luckily we didn’t play that sport, we played the sport with four people We’re so happy.”

Pavic described Croatia’s achievement as a great win. “We played a tough team,” he said. “Obviously, Novak is the best player in the world, we managed to do it.

“From the group stages to the quarters, to the semis, Borna and Marin played great matches, and unbelievable doubles. We’re super happy to be in the final and we’re ready now for the final.”

“Quotable …”

Novak Djokovic was asked during his team’s press conference to comment about his upcoming status for next month’s Australian Open. “You will be informed,” he said. “I know what you want. I’m not going to give you an answer tonight. I know what you want to ask me. But you will be informed. That’s all I can tell you. I cannot give you any date. Obviously, Australia is around the corner, so you will know very soon.”

Djokovic went on to say that he’s “really, really tired” from this season, in which he won three major titles but was denied a calendar-year Grand Slam when he lost in the final of the US Open. He also came up short in his quest for an Olympic gold medal. “I just prefer sticking to the family quality time, rehab mode, then let’s see what the future brings.”