Indian Wells Masters 2024: Djokovic, or a season without Australia’s ‘wild card’ | Tennis | Sports


Heading towards his 37th birthday – he will celebrate it on May 22 – Novak Djokovic believes he must slightly refocus his method to continue shining a dream career. He tells the Serbian that the routines, the food and the Spartan procedure will still be there, but that now he must enjoy a little more and clear his mind when he is not on the track. “It’s something I haven’t been able to do for almost 20 years, so now I’m more selective about when and where I compete, and I try to do other things when I’m not playing; This allows me to spend more time with my family and enjoy other types of activities, such as going to see Jokic (his compatriot) against the Lakers or walking around Los Angeles. Now I have more time. I try to find balance, because maybe I have been a little robotic. So I’m trying to enjoy it,” says Nole, who these days has been seen playing soccer with other teammates on the circuit, jostling with some UCLA students or laughing with actress Charlize Theron during a charity event.

Similarly, the Balkan recently dropped by the LA Galaxy box with his son Stefan to see Leo Messi live, with whom he had already met in August at a restaurant in New York. And from a distance, Manchester, said gunner Erling Haaland, a devotee of the number one on the racket. Asked about his favorite athlete, the City striker slipped: “I love Novak. He shows himself as he is, and what he has achieved is incredible. Plus, he came from nowhere… So, beyond football, I stay with him.”

The fact is that, as was already demonstrated in January, Djokovic is not going to have it easy this season. The unstoppable rise of Jannik Sinner has been added to the rise of Carlos Alcaraz and the Italian gave a serious warning in Australia, the Serbian’s kingdom. There, Nole succumbed to the frenetic rhythm of the ball imposed by the young Tyrolean in the semifinals and lost the wildcard which historically has allowed you to approach the rest of the course with extra confidence. Champion in the antipodes in four of the last five editions, ten of the twenty years that his professional career spanned, this time he was unable to lift the title. “The streak was going to end one day,” he said then. “But this is not the beginning of the end. I simply have not been up to the task,” continued the king of the circuit, who faces the same circumstance as in 2009, 2010, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2022, once he had already taken flight and won a major: without the initial cushion of the Open, life is more difficult. Not impossible, mind you.

In three of the years mentioned, Djokovic closed the year without celebrating any major, but in three others he managed to catch at least a major; It happened in 2014 (Wimbledon), 2018 (Wimbledon and US Open) and 2022 (Wimbledon). In any case, the number one has always stressed that the good foundation obtained in Melbourne has traditionally freed him, and at the same time has served to transfer extra pressure on others; especially about Nadal and Federer, who for a total of a decade have been forced to row against the current in the annual race between the three. On this occasion, the Balkan player gave in after 2,195 days and 33 unbeaten matches, but he hopes to raise the level again and seek some reward in the three remaining Grand Slams – apart from the candy of the Paris Games -. It will not be due to experience: with 1,310 pulses behind him, the same as Ivan Lendl, he is the third with the most appearances after Jimmy Connors (1,557) and Federer (1,526).

Djokovic, in another moment of his debut.RAY ACEVEDO (EFE)

“He always comes back,” says the director of Indian Wells, the German Tommy Haas; “Every time he doesn’t win a tournament we see it as a failure and when he lost in Australia we said: ‘Oh no, Djokovic has lost!’ But it’s absurd. We can never rule out Novak. “He will always be the favorite.” From Australia, the legendary Rod Laver also predicted a prosperous campaign for him: “Surely he has learned from the defeat (against Sinner). That is precisely why he has been so successful. I am convinced that he will return stronger and even more motivated.”

The tennis player from Belgrade had not set foot in the Californian desert since 2019, as a result of his refusal to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, and shines alongside Federer as the two most successful male players in the tournament, both with five trophies. To begin with, on Sunday he signed a hard-fought victory against Aleksander Vukic, who scored a set (6-2, 5-7 and 6-3) before the second match, against Luca Nardi (123rd). “I can do better, without a doubt. I must be self-critical. I will improve as the tournament progresses,” he predicted, without having completely forgotten the last step in Melbourne: “For most of my career, I started the season lifting that trophy, and that made me almost always sail with the wind in my favor. Starting like this gives you confidence and relief. On this occasion, I don’t think I had the necessary time to rest between one season and another, although that day Jannik played much better than me, absolutely deserved. I haven’t competed in five weeks (since the loss to Sinner), but I feel great to be here again.”



Carlos Alcaraz progressed to the round of 16 of the tournament by beating Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the daytime round by 6-2 and 6-3, in 1h 17m. The Spaniard, very serious from start to finish, achieved a comfortable victory without any setbacks against a rival in the doldrums, who dominates the face-to-face between the two (3-2), but who has deflated since last year .

The young American, 23 years old, became the sixth best in the world in November 2022, but is unable to right the course and has fallen to 31st place in the world. ranking. He was left with five winners and committed as many double faults. He could do nothing this time against a growing Alcaraz who had four breaks, scored at the net – 15 hits in 18 approaches – and recorded only four unforced errors.

In the next season, the 20-year-old from Murcia will face the Hungarian Fabian Marozsan (58th) on Tuesday, who in the only previous match between the two won against all odds; It was in the third round in Rome, last season.

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