“It was truly a perfect match”, said Novak Djokovic as he described his seventh Australian Open win.
What a comeback and what a transformation in his game.
If Novak is going to keep competing at this level for the rest of the season, he can truly have many more perfect matches and by the power given by the tennis gods, he could very well win all four grans slams in a single calendar year, thereby making him win four consecutive grand slam titles twice in his career.
Given his unceremonious exit from Melbourne last year’s Australian Open after an elbow injury which needed surgery, to fancy a comeback like this needed a certain kind of arrogance. Or self-belief, depending on how you differentiate one from the other.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I always believe in myself. I think that’s probably the biggest secret of my success, if I can say, or probably any other athlete, is self-belief, always digging deep in the moments when you’re facing adversity, digging those moments of complimenting yourself, visualizing yourself as a winner, trying to be in a positive state of mind. It’s much easier said than done, obviously.”
When asked about his chances of winning a fourth grand slam title in a row for the second time, he had this to say.
“Not impossible, but highly unlikely.”
Novak Djokovic is clearly on a high and also perhaps running a bit under the radar, given the focus Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer continue to get, even though he has won three grand slam titles in a row now for the third time in his career. As I started typing this, I even forgot momentarily, that he won the 2018 Wimbledon Championship.
True to his reputation, Novak kept his humor in tact, during the press exchange after.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2019
If humor and a bit of arrogance carried Novak all the way to the championship in Melbourne, Naomi Osaka, the women’s champion, took a very contrasting route to the podium in Melbourne.
After the semifinal against Karolina Pliskova (who incidentally is from the same country as Osaka’s opponent in the final, Petra Kvitova) this is what Naomi Osaka said.
“But I felt like for me, there are certain things she’s better than me at, right? I felt like I have to keep pumping myself up. Every time there’s an opportunity, or something doesn’t go my way, I had to keep being very positive.”
And defeating Kvitova in what seemed like an emotional final for her, Osaka, the newly crowned champion, didn’t jump around the court or pump her fists. She walked to the net almost as if she was the one who lost the match, and offered her congratulations to Petra.
And then she said this during the trophy ceremony.
“I’m really honored to have played you in the final of a Grand Slam.”
“Huge congrats to Petra. I’ve always wanted to play you. You’ve been through so much, honestly I wouldn’t have wanted this to be our first match.”@Naomi_Osaka_ is all class 🙏#AusOpen pic.twitter.com/8WxY6PVNc2
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2019
Now, anyone who has followed Naomi from the US Open 2018 would remember what Naomi said during the Australian Open final were not all that different from how she conducted herself and what she said after the controversial ending in the final, where she beat her childhood idol, Serena Williams.
Naomi said this, wiping her tears off, in a very obviously apologetic tone.
“I know everyone was cheering for her, and I am sorry it had to end like this.”
I would like to know if you can point me at any tennis player who has/had conducted herself or himself in this manner. Tennis is a single player sport and not a team sport, one in which a certain amount of arrogance has always been accepted and expected.
But Naomi rightly or wrongly, inspires a dangerous amount of hope.
She is 21, young, charming, smart, funny, kind (she was thanking the ball kids and spectators who had to bear the heat during the tournament), interesting, and most importantly humble.
I say “dangerous” because we may never see another champion like Naomi, someone at 21, winning back to back grand slams, and becoming a likable star in a sort of unifying way, by sprinkling hopes for humanity, as the tennis world rejoices her humble persona. And it would be devastating to lose all that hope when another champion exuding the kind of humility that Naomi exudes never emerges.
For now though, dangerous or not, I will join the many tennis fans from all around the world in keeping my faith in the future of tennis and my faith in the future of tennis humanity.