Novak Djokovic makes his US Open debut on Tuesday night against the Danish Holger Rune. You watch the game, as well as all the courts of the North American Grand Slam through the ESPN on Star+ (know how to sign on here).
In the United States, the Serbian could earn two marks of respect: completing the title of all the Majors of the season in the same year, something that hasn’t happened for a man since Rod Laver in 1969; and still overcome the tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the main titles of the circuit – today everyone has 20 Slams.
For this, Djokovic has all his athletic ability, the talent to defend himself like few others on the circuit, the strength of his service, the forehand… But these are attributes that everyone knows. A much lesser-known No. 1 weapon in the world is the… Bathroom.
In the biggest tennis tournaments, with matches played in five sets, each tennis player is entitled to two bathroom breaks in men’s – one in women’s. They notify the referee and are accompanied by an official until it is time to return to the court.
For Djokovic, there is a game that has already become a classic in this matter: at Roland Garros this year, in the round of 16, he lost two sets to Italian Lorenzo Musetti, then only number 75 in the world. He took advantage of the break, went back and sought an epic twist.
“If you really want to know, at the stop, I changed my underwear and rested,” joked Djokovic, at the time, after the victory in five sets. But it was not just that. “But you use this moment mainly to clear your head, change the environment. Even if it’s a shorter break, you can take a deep breath and come back as a new player.”
The expedient had been used before. In 2014, for example, to be champion at Wimbledon, Djokovic beat Roger Federer in the final. In the fourth set, the Serb lost a match point and lost five games in a row, forcing the tie-break. Then came the bathroom.
At the time, more than the exchange of underwear, Djokovic, in his words, talked to himself and encouraged himself to “cast out internal demons”, such as his doubts and fears. It worked, with a 6-4 victory and what was only his seventh Grand Slam title – now there are 20.
After Djokovic repeated the strategy against Federer in 2019 at Wimbledon, his former coach Boris Becker spoke about the importance of the tactic for the Serb. “It’s what he does sometimes. He changes his shirt, he wants a moment to himself, some peace and quiet. He gathers his thoughts, resets everything and comes back,” he explained to the BBC.
Controversy at the US Open
There is no time limit for these technical restroom stops at the US Open. And, on the first day of competitions, a controversy: the Greek Stefanos Tsisipas used the strategy to beat the British Andy Murray in five sets, but revolted his rival.
“When you’re playing a brutal game like that, you know, stopping for seven, eight minutes, you cool down. You can mentally prepare as much as you like, but it’s the fact that it affects you physically when you take such a long break. , well, several times during the game. Every time it was… Well, before my serve too. I think when he gave the medical time, it was right after I won the third set. Also in the fourth set when I was 0 -30, he decided to go (to the bathroom), I don’t know if he changed his racket or what we were doing,” Murray complained.
“It’s disappointing because I think it influenced the outcome of the match. I’m not saying that I necessarily won this match for sure, but it had an influence on what was happening after those breaks. I think he’s a brilliant player. I think he’s great for the game. But I don’t have any time for these things and I’ve lost respect for him.”
The ever-controversial Nick Kyrgios also used the topic in a discussion with Brazilian referee Carlos Bernardes in his match against Roberto Bautista-Agut on Monday. “Is taking 20 minutes to go to the bathroom part of the game too? I want ca***, it’s part of the game.”