Many rabid fans of Novak Djokovic are already salivating over his projected triumphant return expected early next year. Some blogs, high on the Djoko kool-aid, have predicted his return to be even more successful than Roger Federer’s 2017 comeback after a 6-month hiatus in 2016. Their sanguine exuberance has been given credence by Rafael Nadal’s resounding comeback after his injury dictated time-off in 2016!

Djokovic's fans are an optimistic lot

A Djokovic loving, self-proclaimed, impartial blog even claimed that if Roger at 35, with the advantage of an extended time off, could win two slams in 2017 then Novak Djokovic, who is five years younger than Federer, could win all four slams upon his expected return in 2018!

Djokovic happens to be one of my top three favorites but I like him and respect him for who he is and not who we’d like him to be. And, as much as his fans would want, Novak Djokovic cannot be Roger Federer. Now, this may shatter the illusions that many harbor about the greatness of Novak and thereby annoy and irk them to no end, but it is time to put things in perspective. Here are some reasons why Novak will probably not be winning two slams within the first seven months of his expected return next year.

Novak is Toiler and a Grinder whereas Federer is a Finisher

Novak, like Nadal, is a grinder who thrives on prolonging points and keeping the ball in play for as long as it takes to win the point. Of course, the slowing down of the courts and modern day string technology has rewarded the grinders over aggressive finishers the last 10 years and Novak, therefore, chose the right path and evolved into the ultimate grinder who outdid even Nadal at grinding opponents into submission. However, this path always leads to a dead end after the age of thirty and the fall in the level of play is even more precipitous if that player doesn’t have at least one devastatingly effective weapon, a point ending shot, in his or her arsenal.

Federer and Nadal have weapons

Weapons are point ending shots which depend primarily on the player executing these shots and not so much on the weaknesses and strengths of others. Therefore, not to pop many balloons, the return of serve cannot be classified a weapon as it depends on the quality of the service for the most part. Both Novak Djokovic and the 2017 Roger Federer's avatar, with his flatter backhand, have an excellent return of serve but their return still depends on the quality of the service they face.

Similarly, movement and speed are not weapons in themselves as they do not end points, by themselves, but assist in the proper execution and implementation of weapons such as Nadal’s and Roger’s forehand or Wawrinka’s backhand.

Karlovich and Raonic, of the world, will always be able to squeeze their serves to make a decent living on the tour well into their late thirties.

Nadal at 31, with his amazingly top-spun whiplash of a forehand, can still dominate on certain surfaces where the torque and bounce of the ball, because of the spin that he generates, allows him enough time to get back to not only the center of the court but also reach opponent’s shots in time.

However, that same forehand is not as effective on other surfaces as it was when Nadal was in his mid-twenties, because the ball on those other surfaces comes back just a little faster and sooner, and therefore does not allow Nadal as much time to reach his opponent’s shots. Nowadays Nadal’s forehand doesn’t get the requisite support from Nadal’s legs on other surfaces but on clay, he continues to deploy that same forehand as a deadly weapon which won him his 10th French Open trophy at 31.

With his feared forehand, recently unveiled flatter backhand, and laser-sharp services, Roger is perhaps the only player on the circuit with three weapons in his arsenal.

Add his aggressive mindset to those three weapons and you have in Roger a WMD perfectly capable of raining complete devastation at the ripe old age of 35.

Novak Djokovic has no weapons

Novak, on the other hand, does everything extremely well but has zero weapons and will, therefore, always need to rely on excessive use of his legs and athletic abilities which one loses quite rapidly after turning 30, and Novak turned 30 just this May.

You don’t have to take my word for it, even Pat cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion, feels that Novak’s style is similar to almost everyone else on the circuit but he is a little better, mentally tougher, physically fitter, and more flexible, and therefore his comeback may not be as amazing as Roger’s but he will certainly be competitive again; however, he’ll not be winning Grand Slams, straight out of the gate, upon his return from the extended time-off, like Federer this year.

Therefore, as much as we may love Djokovic and want him to win a couple of slams upon his return in 2018, it is highly unlikely that he'll be able to do either a Roger or Rafa in 2018.

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