For one of the greatest hardcourt players of all time, the Sunshine Swing has been nothing short of disastrous.
Since winning both titles in three consecutive years – a notoriously tricky feat – world No. 1 Novak Djokovic has failed to reach the quarter-finals of either of his most historically successful Masters 1000 events.
There have, of course, been mitigating circumstances… apart from this year.
In 2017, though it may not have become fully apparent yet at the time, Djokovic was in the midst of a physical and mental crisis. A year later, his back-to-back defeats to Taro Daniel and Benoit Paire came in the immediate aftermath of elbow surgery.
In the fullness of time, these defeats to Philipp Kohlschreiber and Roberto Bautista Agut may make sense but for the now they remain curious.
Its not the first time I lose early in both tournaments, the Serb pointed out. I have done that the last couple of years. So definitely have to rethink how I prepare for Indian Wells/Miami next year.
I just had way too many things off the court. I guess that affected me a little bit on the court. I didnt feel my best health-wise, as well, in Indian Wells and here. Still rusty, but, hey, look, you learn thats life.
There has certainly been plenty of focus on the Serbs off-court activity in recent times. Djokovic was one of the key players in ATP president Chris Kermodes departure.
However, given he won the Australian Open while dealing with similar intense focus on his political activities behind the scenes, its difficult to attribute these losses to that alone.
It would be incredibly premature to brand this as a full-blown crisis for the 15-time Grand Slam champion. But considering this was a glorious opportunity to further strengthen his grip on the world No. 1 spot and to equal Rafael Nadals record Masters 1000 titles haul, its an odd time to post poor – at least by his standards – back-to-back results on his favourite surface.
Djokovic results at Indian Wells & Miami since 2014
2014: Won Indian Wells, won Miami
2015: Won Indian Wells, won Miami
2016: Won Indian Wells, won Miami
2017: R4 Indian Wells, N/A Miami
2018: R2 Indian Wells, R2 Miami
2019: R3 Indian Wells, R4 Miami
That said, Djokovic has hardly been winning titles left, right and centre outside of Grand Slams. Indeed, he has won just one of his last six tournaments.
The 31-year-old has made it clear he will prioritise the majors at this stage of his career, but there was an acceptance that there will be an extra emphasis placed on this years clay-court season.
I know theres a lot of tournaments to play before the Roland Garros, so I have plenty of time to build my form slowly, he said after winning the Australian Open.
Obviously I have to work on my game, my clay court game, a bit more, more specifically than I have in the last season.