Novak Djokovic was stunned at the Dubai Quarterfinals on Thursday as he lost to No. 123 ranked Czech Jiri Vesel. The match saw Djokovic losing both sets, the 1st 6-4 and the 2nd 7-6, and looking generally overmatched throughout.
The loss comes in the wake of Djokovic’s extreme anti-vaccine stance and claim last week that he’d rather miss out on future tournaments than be forced to get the COVID vaccine in order to play.
Well, he was able to play and after all the controversy he stirred across the tennis and sports worlds in general, he’s finally losing his record-breaking No. 1 spot at the top.
The way things ended for Djokovic’s reign makes it hard not to think of a comparison to Aaron Rodgers.
What This means for Tennis and Djokovic
Djokovic held his rank of No. 1 ATP men’s player in the world for an all-time record of 361 weeks. That’s just under seven years. For perspective, the last time Djokovic wasn’t at the very top of the tennis world, the Cubs were still cursed and Obama was president.
On Monday, 26 year old Russian Danill will take over at world’s No. 1 ranked tennis player as he continues his run in the Mexican Open this week.
Almost immediately following his defeat, Djokovic spoke out about the loss stating that he’s angry and “glad that I’m feeling a lot of emotions every single day because it means that I really want to be part of this sport, part of the Tour.”
He went on to say that the goal is to continue playing professional tennis and that as long as his body and circumstances in his life allow it, that’s exactly what he’s going to do.
This is undeniably a rubber meets the road moment for Djokovic, however. He’ll be 35 in May and to add to that there’s all the anti-vaccine controversy that he stirred.
It’d be one thing if he simply lost, but the fact that he lost after saying and doing the things he did is what makes him comparable to Aaron Rodgers.
What’s Next for Djokovic
It’s been a storied career for Djokovic, but the loss this week spells doom for his remaining years in tennis. He’s used to playing under intense pressure, but it’ll be very hard for him to reclaim that No. 1 spot after the debacle he created for himself.
To add to that, it’s not a good sign for Djokovic that his 28 year old opponent has seemed to be more mature about the match result than he has.
Vesely noted that he was happy with his performance and acknowledged what a great competitor and player Djokovic is, meanwhile, Djokovic made no note of his opponent and only made vague statements about his future.
He claims he still wants to play pro tennis, but his future is up in the air. The defeat may have been a fluke, but he just doesn’t seem like the same player he was when he spent all that time at the top.
The controversy has changed the public’s perception of him, and the tennis world as a whole now sees Djokovic in a different light than it did before all of this.
If the vaccine controversy didn’t do it before, then his loss at the Dubai Quarterfinals certainly signals the decline of Djokovic as one of tennis’ current best.
He claims he has some good years left, but the competition at the top is much younger, with 8 of the current top 10 all under the age of 27.
Djokovic has a lot of work to do if he wants to reclaim his No. 1 spot atop the ATP rankings, and his age and the recent controversy are serious disadvantages. This latest defeat could very easily spell the end of Djokovic’s time as one of the active greats.