Sports

The Shot That Epitomized Novak Djokovic

On his way to his seventh Wimbledon crown, the dominant Serb found his Michael Jordan ‘Jumpman’ moment.

Novak Djokovic reacts after hitting an acrobatic passing shot past Jannik Sinner during the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
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Great athletes sometimes produce such a spectacular shot that it becomes their signature. That particular moment becomes instantly recognizable, and lends itself to iconography. Michael Jordan’s ‘Jumpman’ is a case in point. The photograph was taken in 1984 and inspired the logo of Air Jordan shoes and apparel. Till today, Air Jordan remains a sport, pop culture and business phenomenon, earning billions for Nike as well as Jordan. (More Tennis News)

A few days ago, on the way to his seventh Wimbledon title, Novak Djokovic hit a shot of comparable athletic splendor. It was a backhand passing shot executed flawlessly even as Djokovic slipped on the slick Centre Court grass. ‘Jumpman’ captured Jordan’s superhuman ability to leap higher than his peers, that too with graceful effortlessness. The Djokovic shot illustrated everything that the Serb is famous for, most notably, speed, yogic flexibility and an ability to middle the ball from any position.

Djokovic played the stroke in the fifth set of his quarterfinal against Italian Jannik Sinner. The point started with Sinner serving wide to the Djokovic forehand. On the stretch, Djokovic managed a weak return. Sinner hit the next shot to Djokovic’s backhand and moved to the net. The lean, 6 ‘2’ Djokovic then used his long limbs to scamper across the width of the court.

Then, even as he lost his footing, he held his form to unleash a backhand crosscourt that rocketed past Sinner. At the end of the point, Djokovic lay on his stomach on the grass, and, in celebration, spread his arms wide, like a menacing, low-flying stealth bomber plane. What a point it was, a sniper’s arrow from the bushes that pierced Sinner’s heart.

On Sunday, Djokovic defeated Nick Kyrgios in the final. He now has 21 major titles, which places him above Roger Federer and just one short of Rafael Nadal’s 22. He may very well end up as the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T). Known more for attritional than elegant tennis, Djokovic now also has a shot that proves he is capable of swag. There might just be a logo in that shot, or an NFT, and a few million dollars too.

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