Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Serbian crowned

Novak Djokovic (number 3 seed) became the first Serbian player to win a tennis grand slam crown by beating unseeded Jo-Wilfired Tsonga in a riveting 4 sets in Melbourne. After Tsonga's stunning knock out of Rafael Nadal in the semis, he continued to show that he has the goods and took a tight first set. But with errors increasing and Djokovic getting back on stride quickly the game gradually slipped from Tsonga's grasp and from it was 1-1 the balance seemed to favour the Serb. He served better and rallied relentlessly, defending like a possessed man at times and that undid Tsonga. Overall, the match was close and the numbers show that. Djokovic had 46 winners and 35 errors; Tsonga had 44 and 41, respectively; though Djokovic won 136 points to Tsonga's 122. Both players should be proud. Tsonga was ranked number 211 about this time last year and after the final will be in the top 20. Djokovic is heading toward being number 1. Nice to see a new champion who is not named Federer or Nadal, the first time since 2004.

With Federer knocked out of the semis by Djokovic I was free to root for Tsonga, though I was happy that if he lost it would be with a good fight. He showed a maturity that was refreshing amongst young players, but is evident in a lot of the rising tennis stars. His parents had flown from France to watch the match, and his Congolese father showed the fervour of his days as a handball player, not that of a chemistry professor; his mother rooted energetically as well. Djokovic's parents led a horde of Serbian fans with their cheers and cries of "Nole" (Novak's nickname), and at the end his mother was understandbly tearful to see her son win his first Grand Slam.

Djokovic has some characteristics that irritate, especially the number of times he bounces the ball before serving, which can easily go into the 20s, and it seemed to rattle Tsonga at times. The umpires are just starting to call time violations on this, but like with Nadal and the time he takes to play, they have been too gentle so far. But I love it that he shows his normal side, such as when he did his impersonations of Nadal and Sharapova after the US Open final, and can be called correctly the "Djoker".

has shown that he can master his emotions and his conditioning and looks set to be a great player. He can be high drama and a one-man highlight film with his volleying and fist pumping when he is on a roll. I'm proud to see another black athlete rolling well ahead in one of the less fashionable mass sports (think of how Lewis Hamilton took Formula 1 racing by storm last year). Interestingly, he resembles Yannick Noah in some of his ways--the last French man to win a Grand Slam.

I look forward to the top of tennis having a true set of competitors for the top spots. Federer is still the best but on the day he knows that there are several more who can do more than give him a hard game. I'm glad that the albatross of his streak of consecutive Grand Slam finals (10) has gone. He and others can focus more on what the competitive situation is more broadly. I look forward to the coming ATP Masters series where I hope and expect Tsonga to get to at least a semi and perhaps a final to cement the progress he has made. Of course, the next Grand Slam is in France, Roland Garros, home for Tsonga. So, let's get into shape for that. I'm going to run and play tennis right after this post. Allez!


Ann (MobayDP) said...

I watched the Tsonga Nadal match and was floored by Tsonga's almost flawless game. But he's too arrogant so I knew he wasn't going to win the tournament.

I'm happy for Djokovic. I think this was one of the most exciting tournaments ever. Both the female and male matches were completely unpredictable.

What can I say? Tennis is exciting again! :-D

Dennis Jones said...

Tsonga showed no arrogance. He has a style that befits the fact that he is a rising star: he has immense ability and rarely did anything in Australia other than play very well. He did not insult officials (Roddick); he argued a few crucial points and accepted the result with an ace. He did not insult his coach (Murray). He did not insult his opponent (Hewitt). He applauded his opponents good shots occasionally (usually seen by "good guy" Blake and sometimes Federer). He occasionally showed frustration with himself: understandable as he was in the biggest matches of his career and he needed to focus to not blow his chances. He has had an enormous amount of injuries and if you have ever played a lot of sport the process of rehabilitation and recondition is almost soul destroying, even for a great young athlete.

No. I would say Tsonga is more of a role model than many who are already in the tennis elite top 20, which he will now join. He will now get automatic entries to the Masters tournaments and will be able to test his abilities against the very best regularly. I hope he can continue to improve and change his attitude very little.