Patrick McEnroe and Chris Evert have questioned Novak Djokovic‘s decision to alter his service motion ahead of the Australian Open and believe the Serb needed extra match play ahead of the first major of 2018.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion made a solid return to action in an exhibition match at the Kooyang Classic, beating Dominic Thiem 6-1 6-4, before suffering a loss to Aussie veteran Lleyton Hewitt at the Tie Break Tens event at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic was forced to pull out of events in Abu Dhabi and Doha in the build-up to the Australian Open due to pain in his elbow – that kept him out for six months – and he unveiled a new, shortened service action on Wednesday.
Former Australian Open semi-finalist McEnroe and 18-time Grand Slam winner Evert both questioned the decision to enter such a big tournament having made such a major alteration and insist that the former world No.
1 would have been better placed to trial his new serve at smaller events. ‘I’ll start with the elbow situation and the serve,’ McEnroe said.
‘Obviously you don’t want to go into your first tournament, first of all being a major. ‘Second of all, you don’t want to go into it with a brand-new stroke of any kind. We’ll have to see how it looks in match play, number one.
‘He has tinkered with his serve quite a bit over the years. If you remember a number of years ago, he had some sort of serving yips when he was still No. 3 in the world.
He was able to iron them out, take over No. 1. ‘If there’s anybody that can tinker with it, probably be successful, it would be him. More important than that I think for Djokovic is just the overall health of that arm and the elbow going forward. ‘We’re not going to know that, I don’t think he’s going to know that, until he gets out there in competition.’
Evert added: ‘Wherever you have had a certain serve or a certain swing for so long, to tweak it even a little bit, you don’t want to do that your first tournament back, a Grand Slam tournament.
‘Like you say, you want to have a lot of matches, a lot of smaller tournaments, to see if it’s going to really improve your serve, if it’s going to really help the elbow. ‘I mean, he’s a big question mark.
Obviously he’s a big question mark. He needs to play. He’s playing a couple exhibitions, but then you get to a place where you have to play seven matches in a row in the course of two weeks. That’s a whole different story.
That’s really testing the elbow to the highest level. ‘I think we can only speculate at this time what’s going to happen with him. You know he’s in great season. Off-season, he was one of the hardest workers ever. You know physically he’s got to be in great shape. The question mark, again, is how the elbow is going to hold up.’