Novak Djokovic just took the court to take on Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals. He’s a win away from playing Roger Federer for a third straight year at the U.S. Open (assuming Federer wins tonight against Robin Soderling), but there’s very little buzz surrounding Novak this year.
Just over two weeks ago, Djokovic hired Todd Martin, the former U.S. Open finalist, to help bring some life to his game. When he was asked at the beginning of the tournament why he hired Martin, Djokovic said he wanted some help with his servey-and-volley game and to add some variety.
We saw Todd Martin a few days ago getting some lunch in the player’s lounge, and asked him about Novak. “He’s an extraordinary athlete,” he said. “He’s a smart kid. He’s gotta pretty strong heart as well. The funny thing is there aren’t a lot of weaknesses.”
So what exactly are they doing? Martin said it was a long-term project, and for now, “He doesn’t need any short-term fixes. There are some ways for him to play more effectively immediately–seeing things a bit differently. He doesn’t need to worry about what happened last year. I’m sure he’s grown an awful lot.”
Well, if Djokovic does win today, and if he does play Federer, here’s some advice Todd Martin gave us a couple years ago on the secret to beating Roger:
You don’t have to win more points than him. You don’t have to win more games than him. You have to just win them at the right time. If you want to break serve against a better player—and he’s better than everyone else—you have to accept losing games where you don’t make him play. Then hope you’ll win four out of six points, or five out of eight points and so forth. All you have to do is do that one time a set if you serve well.
Sometimes you’re gonna look silly cause he’s more athletic than you and he’s more skilled than you. But you have to defend your serve and figure out a way—string a couple of points together here and there.