Novak Djokovic admits he’s had a tough time but is sure he can get back to the top

Novak Djokovic only has his eyes set on getting back to the very top of the game.
Updated 02 May 2018
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Novak Djokovic admits he’s had a tough time but is sure he can get back to the top

  • Super Serb has been struggling since elbow injury ended his 2017 season last July.
  • Is without a title for nearly a year, but is sure he can deal an ace to his faulty form.

Novak Djokovic admitted his confidence had been rocked by a string of poor results after a premature return from elbow surgery but the former world No. 1 vowed to work hard to get back to winning ways.
Having exchanged a few shots with a young prospect after an intense training session in searing heat at his own tennis complex in central Belgrade, the 30-year old Serb conceded that the last 18 months have been testing.
“I have always believed in myself and that’s why I was able to make all my childhood dreams come true, but right now my confidence is not at the highest level,” he said.
“That’s not surprising given the lack of results and all I can do is knuckle down to hard work to restore it. A few good matches and one good tournament and it will come back.”
Djokovic’s slump began after he won his maiden French Open title in June 2016 to complete a career Grand Slam and amass 12 major titles.
A string of below-par performances were followed by Djokovic having to retire against Czech Tomas Berdych in last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals with an elbow injury which kept him sidelined until January’s Australian Open.
After a last-16 defeat by South Korean unknown Hyeon Chung in Melbourne, Djokovic had another spell on the sidelines following elbow surgery and said he had come back too early because he was hungry to play again.

EARLY EXITS

Since returning he has suffered early exits in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Miami and Indian Wells.
“That was my decision because I missed playing tennis so much but I was not ready and it backfired,” he said.
“After everything I have been through in the past year or so, I have had to lower my expectations but my motivation and my ambitions remain unchanged.
“After this year’s Australian Open I wasn’t sure whether I’d have elbow surgery or not. I was reluctant but then I realized it was the best long-term solution.
“The recent results have not been what we are used to but coming back is a process and all I can do now is knuckle down to some hard work.
“I have had some similar situations in the past but not one quite as challenging as this, so I have to accept it as part of a learning process.”
Judging by the ferocity of his shots in training and the vehement exchange of instructions with his coaching staff, Djokovic, currently the world No. 12, is determined to break back into the top echelon of the men’s game.
Mobbed by primary school children as he posed with them for photos after the claycourt practice session, Djokovic cut a relaxed and confident figure ahead of upcoming tournaments.
He also rubbished suggestions made by several local nutritionists, who were quoted by Belgrade media in recent weeks, that his meat-free diet was hampering his fitness.
“I don’t want to elaborate because people have been twisting facts in the past two years and all I’ll say is that I reckon I know what’s best for me as an athlete and a person,” he said.
“It doesn’t affect me what people say, but it does affect those who are close to me.”


Inquest begins at LA Lakers as LeBron James misses out on NBA playoffs

Updated 16 min 44 sec ago
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Inquest begins at LA Lakers as LeBron James misses out on NBA playoffs

LONDON: The post-mortem on Los Angeles’ Lakers season has begun after the storied franchise missed out on the NBA playoffs for a sixth consecutive year this weekend.
It was not meant to be like this, especially after the signing of LeBron James — the man who single-handedly dragged his hometown team Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship in 2016 and was instrumental in Miami Heat’s dominance in the first half of the decade.
James’ mercurial talent was often the difference for those two franchises in clutch situations throughout the season, but for all the fanfare on his arrival at the Staples Center last summer, the “James Effect” has failed to materialize in California.
He has often called his own superhuman efforts in the run up to — and during — the postseason the “Playoff Mode,” but even the genius of James was not enough to put his new franchise into the picture.
It did not help that as soon as it became clear they were not going to be appear beyond April 10, made all the clearer by a recent humbling defeat to the league’s worst team (New York Knicks), James has been benched more and more by the management.
And it speaks volumes about the problems at the Lakers that it will be the first playoffs without James featuring since 2005. Not only had he played in the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, he had also played in eight straight NBA finals.
Granted, James — a three-time NBA champion and four-time league Most Valuable Player — was adamant back in September that the task of rebuilding the Lakers, who had missed the playoffs for five straight seasons would be a long-term project.
“Obviously, I would love for the team to be in the post-season,” James said as soon as it became clear he and the team would miss out on the playoff party.
“But right now, it’s not the hand I was dealt, so you play the hand that you were dealt until the dealer shuffles the cards and you’re dealt another hand and can do that.”
So what has gone so terribly wrong with the Lakers this year?
A big factor was injuries, not only to James but to other key players, throughout the season.
Everything looked rosy for the Lakers toward the end of December when they thrashed reigning champions Golden State Warriors, but a groin injury to James was a sign of the bad run to come. In his 17-game absence, the Lakers won just six games.
Then Lonzo Ball sprained an ankle in January, leaving the Lakers defense very vulnerable while Brandon Ingram, who had been influential in the team reaching the dizzying heights of fourth place in the Western Conference, was ruled out for the rest of the season due to a blood clot in his arm. Those certainly were damaging injuries.
The Lakers, also, have built too much of the team and its tactics around James. They have a good core of young talent in Ball, Ingram and Kyle Kuzuma, but management has not utilized them nearly well enough. Instead, for the first half of the season definitely, there was too much focus put on James and he was expected to win games almost by himself. Even the greatest player of a generation needs help from time to time.
The boardroom has to take some responsibility, too. Letting players like Brook Lopez (having a remarkable season with this year’s huge surprise package the Milwaukee Bucks), Julius Randle who averages 20 points per game at New Orleans and Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell (picked as an All-Star this year) leave was a major mistake on the Lakers’ part.
There will need to be a big rethink in the off-season at the Lakers, but with James admitting a break from the high-pressure playoffs will give him time to “recalibrate body and mind,” you cannot rule out “King James” coming back better and stronger than ever to claim a fourth NBA title and bring back the good times to LA.