The curse of the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ player may have finally pierced Djokovic’s impenetrable armour. Querrey’s precise rockets, 15 of which flew out of the World No 1’s reach in the 4th set, did some of the damage. Djokovic’s emotional comedown after having psyched himself up to finally win at Roland Garros must have also played a role. And the recent debate on his being a contender for the GOAT must definitely have got to him.
Think of Djokovic staring at a mirror, and saying, “Am I really the GOAT? All I got to prove it is win the coming Wimbledon, US Open, and Olympics, and a few more Slams to overtake Federer’s total of 18?”
He’s a human being like the rest of us, and it’s hard not to let such pressure get to you. Must have felt like the Damocles sword hanging over his head.
Seems to me that even the world’s best are not immune to such pressure. Serena was going smoothly last year, and two matches away from the calendar Grand Slam. But then, the media buzz about her GOAT status began, and it eventually showed. Serena fell spectacularly apart in US Open semis, and has never really put it all together since. You can see her trying to relieve the pressure at Wimbledon by saying she and Djokovic have already created history by winning all 4 Slams in a row. Her play fluctuates between good and bad. With luck, her good days will hold and she will get past Steffi Graf’s record.
Graf herself gives an interesting insight on how she felt the pressure from all around to win the US Open and complete her calendar Grand Slam, “I remember above all the extreme fatigue I felt in New York. I was feeling the expectation around me that wasn’t mine and that was becoming suffocating and stopping me concentrating on my tournament. It was terrible.”
Federer is another GOAT contender who has not won a Grand Slam in recent years despite reaching the finals a few times. He’s one of the most strongest players mentally, except when he runs up against Nadal and recently Djokovic. But now that Djokovic is out of the way, can Federer hold it together to get one more Slam? We will know by Sunday or earlier.
Nadal himself had an amazing comeback from injury in 2013, and was rapidly catching up with Federer. As the debate veered towards the GOAT, Nadal’s form and health dipped, and he hasn’t won a Slam after his 9th French Open in 2014.
As for Murray, he’s smart enough to get psychological help, and Lendl back in his corner, to regain that mental edge he’s been missing in his recent battles with Djokovic. With the No 1 seed gone and the way Murray himself has been playing recently, he is the favourite and has a realistic chance to add to his modest collection of two Grand Slams.
But it’s not just tennis and individual sports.
Tiger Wood was nervelessly winning Majors and within sight of the Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 when the GOAT chatter began. He proceeded to crash his car, and his golf career.
The Golden State Warriors with their 73–9 record, and 3–1 lead in the Finals, were on the verge of claiming GOAT status, before famously choking. Surprisingly, they have a realistic chance of having another go at it as of today, with KD just signing up with the Warriors.
In soccer, Cristiano Ronaldo missed a couple of sitters in his last match against Poland - he would normally get those with his eyes shut. Ronaldo is not really in the GOAT debate, but would be in consideration for the best player of this generation if Portugal can win the ongoing UEFA.
Ronaldi’s arch rival Messi would have a claim to being the GOAT if he could win an international cup. But the curse of the GOAT has seen him lose one World Cup final and three COPA cup finals. Hopefully, he goes back on his decision to stop playing international football, and we see him at the 2018 World Cup.
Michael Phelps is one of those few who seems to have survived the curse of the GOAT. It did bottle him up for a while, but Mr Incredible seems to have clambered out, and is on his way to Rio to enhance his GOAT standing.
Meanwhile, the tiny nation, Wales, which is nowhere in contention for any GOAT, is in cruise mode, and will meet Ronaldo in UEFA semis.