Novak Djokovic recently split with Boris Becker, the German stating that the Serb’s work ethic wasn’t always there in the latter half of the 2016 season. There is some gossip out there that the current World No. 2 may sign on with Nenad Zimonjic, a player best known for doubles success. Zimonjic, who is Serbian like Djokovic, partnered with Canadian player Daniel Nestor for a trio of Grand Slam titles between 2008 and 2010. The Serb made it to No. 1 on the doubles circuit, and he has represented Serbia with Djokovic in Davis Cup play.
Ahead of a report at the ATP’s website stating that the two have a partnership, I think the matter is best regarded as mere gossip or speculation. To me, Djokovic did hint in his social-media post regarding his break up with Becker that he, Djokovic, was going to go alone for a little while. When it comes to a different matter, Djokovic’s retirement, I think the Serb has opaquely hinted that his playing career might come to an end perhaps at the end of the 2020 season.
In a Twitter message from December 15th, this is what Djokovic stated: “Thanks for keeping me on time all these years @seikowatches…I look forward to another 4 trips around the Sun with you guys!” The accompanying picture features Djokovic giving a thumbs up with a watch central to everything. He is clearly plugging for a company that has supported him, but what does he mean when he says he looks “forward to another 4 trips around the Sun” with the company?
You can take it or leave it, but personally, I think his comment can be taken to mean that Djokovic has no plans of retiring in upcoming ATP seasons. Endorsement deals are usually for active players, not retiring ones. The companies that endorse athletes generally want a logo or product placement in prime-time moments. After a player wins a major for instance, they often pose with the trophy in a such a way as to get their sponsors’ logos or products into photos and video footage that are going to be disseminated worldwide.
The number of “trips around the Sun” that Djokovic mentions is obviously a reference to four years and I’m taking that to mean that Djokovic signed an endorsement deal with the company from now to the end of 2020. If the deal not being extended longer can be taken to mean that Djokovic sees his playing career as uncertain after that point, the “4 trips around the Sun” could also hint at a time that he has in his mind of when he sees himself retiring.
After four more trips “around the Sun, ” Djokovic will be 33 years ol, and that is a large age when it comes to tennis. The sport isn’t like many others where players might push into their late 30s and even early 40s. When former World No. 1 Thomas Muster, for example, attempted a comeback in 2011 at the age of 44 he was made to look like spaghetti on the court. Former World No. 1 Andy Roddick retired shortly after his 30th birthday. Furthermore, Bjorn Borg retired at the age of 26 in an era where tennis prodigies arrived on the scene a little bit younger.
33 would be about the right age for a great player to retire in this day and age. Certainly, strong players do play after that age and both Roger Federer and David Ferrer are current players that have pushed into their mid-30s. But their results certainly dipped in 2016 as well. Plans to retire are always subject to change, but I think Djokovic will still be around for a number of years with the end of the 2020 season perhaps the secret date in his mind right now. If there was a great player that I felt was nearing retirement, it would be Rafael Nadal.