MELBOURNE, Australia — It’s clear from watching and listening to Novak Djokovic that he’s not completely satisfied with his game. But the numbers through three rounds suggest everything is OK with the six-time Aussie Open champ.
Out of action for six months with an elbow injury, the former world No. 1 is through to the second week of the Australian Open and has lost just one set in the process.
Despite a new service action and niggling left hip pain in his previous match, Djokovic hasn’t encountered much trouble.
“He’s won 57 percent of his baseline points [202 out of 352], which is unbelievable,” said Craig O’Shannessy, a strategy analyst for the Australian Open, who is also working with the Djokovic team. “He’s third [in the tournament overall].
O’Shannessy also noted Djokovic has put in 80 percent of his service returns.
Interestingly, Djokovic has a reputation as someone who likes to grind out points, but that might not be the case.
“In rallies of 0-4 shots, he has won 205 points and lost 153, so that’s plus-52,” O’Shannessy said. “For 5-9 shot rallies, he’s only plus-15, and nine or more shots, he’s plus-12.”
After pulling out of the Brisbane International at the start of the month with an ailing right elbow, Djokovic tested his fitness in the exhibition event at Kooyong. There he tried a new, abbreviated service motion, one designed to protect the injury.
With a sleeve on his right arm, the rhythm might look a little clunky, but Djokovic has been broken just four times in three matches.
“There’s nothing with his serve that’s bad,” O’Shannessy said. “He’s making 63 percent first serves, which is right around his career average. The tournament average is right around 61 percent.”
Djokovic said he is satisfied with his efforts so far.
“I know that matches from this moment onwards will get tougher and tougher,” Djokovic said. “It’s not the first time I’m in this particular situation. I’m looking forward to the next challenge. Into second week, it’s going to be a game of small margins. So let’s see what happens.”
O’Shannessy believes Chung will be a formidable opponent, if anything because he leads all competitors in the percentage of baseline points won.
“It’s almost like [Djokovic] is looking at a younger version of his game,” O’Shannessy said. “This is a big test, because what Novak likes to do well, Chung likes to do well.”
But the question is: Who will do it better?