Before I get too far into this article, I should make clear that I am a fan of Novak Djokovic. With many tennis fans, the expectation is one likes one of the Big 3 - Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer joining Djokovic in that group - but dislikes the other two. This is unfair as a person can appreciate all three greats. My point is that I am not writing this as someone who does not like Djokovic.
But 2024 has started off oddly for Novak Djokovic. He lost to Alex de Minaur at the United Cup and, in part, the reason was Djokovic was dealing with a newly injured or extremely fatigued wrist. That is fair as many players deal with joint issues due to the stress tennis puts on them. Djokovic also did not say he only lost to de Minaur because of his wrist and he appeared to be quite bothered by the wrist during the match.
Then Djokovic struggled with 18-year-old qualifier Dino Prizmic in the first round of the Australian Open. The Serb lost the second set (in a tie-break, mind you, and Djokovic famously normally dominates those situations). Though he finished off the final two sets of the match 6-3 6-4, most of the games were tight and the match could have gone in favor of Prizmic if only a few points had turned out differently.
Is this the beginning of the end for Novak Djokovic?
In his post-match on-court interview afterward, however, Djokovic revealed he was "under the weather" and had been for several days. He also said Prizmic played "maturely and confidently" so Djokovic did not also praise his opponent, but his illness was the second excuse in just two weeks for why he did not play well.
One could reasonably wonder if we are simply starting to see Novak Djokovic age a bit. This happened at the end of 2023 as well. He did win the ATP Finals, but had the event been played under the normal knock-out rules, Djokovic would have lost before the semifinals to Jannik Sinner. Djokovic then beat Sinner in the final but lost to Sinner again later in the same week at the Davis Cup.
Djokovic is 3-1 during 2024 so far. But in terms of overall sets, he is 7-4. That is a lot closer statistically than normal for Djokovic. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the Australian Open goes for Djokovic because if he falters earlier than expected, we might be watching the beginning of the end for the 24-time Grand Slam winner.