Every superstar athlete garners a tagline or affectionate nickname—Roger Federer is the graceful artist, Rafael Nadal the physical specimen, Andy Murray the tormented talent, and Novak Djokovic is the vulnerable one, but wait, that's a good thing.
How is vulnerability a good attribute for an athlete?
Easy—when one is exposed or perceived as weak, strength can often be derived from remaining calm and collected under such situations, and Djokovic excels in this category.
Novak takes it one step further, as he has captured the power to mask his vulnerability like a seasoned poker player, and sway momentum back in his favor in a moments notice.
Nobody in the men's game is better at doing this, and it was on full display for tennis fans a year ago in Melbourne.
Nole was rewarded with winning the 2012 Australian Open after withstanding the 4-hour, 50-minute semifinal with Andy Murray, and less than 48 hours later, overcoming Rafael Nadal serving for a fifth-set 5-2 lead in the final.
He was exquisite in giving both Murray and Nadal a false sense of confidence, and then taking the matches over.
In addition to mastering the use of vulnerability to his advantage, Nole also understands when not to succumb to the evils of susceptibility.
It's like Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden, and one of the best motivators once said, “Do not be vulnerable to praise or criticism from outsiders."
Djokovic's success in keeping his blinders on to outside distractions have propelled him to superstardom.
Another superstar who had a talent for appearing weak, but was anything but that, was Pete Sampras.
While nobody would ever mistake Sampras' game with Djoker's, it appears as if Novak found a couple VHS tapes (you kids born after the mid-1990's may need to google what those were) of Sampras, and taken a page out of his illustrious book—looking dog tired at times, but still able to dominate.
The incredible shape that Djokovic keeps himself in always poses a concern for opponents, and his knack for acting sluggish really plays with the psyche of the mentally weak—a la Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope.
The Serbian has displayed an innate skill for disguising the actual wear-and-tear he endures over the course of a match, as if his legs are sending subliminal messages to his opponents to the effect of, "I'm getting tired."
The routine usually goes as follows—opponents think that Nole's running out of gas, they stray away from their game plan and start going for broke.
Meanwhile, Djokovic's game plan of luring them into that trap works to perfection, and before you can say superstar, he's back in stride and they are completely out of rhythm.
Sampras was a connoisseur at this, and it's become Djoker's biggest strength.
Interestingly enough, Federer might be exhibiting a little strategic vulnerability of his own by tagging Djokovic as the favorite to win the 2013 Australian Open.
Novak is the favourite going into Australia. He's been the best hardcourt player in the world for the last couple of years,'' said Federer.
If Novak can couple his outstanding shot-making with his strategic mind games, he will ride the perfect storm to his third straight Australian Open title and fourth overall.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!