Novak Djokovic will fall out of the top three for the first time since 2009
Stan Wawrinka's five-set victory over Andy Murray on Friday means Wawrinka will play in his second French Open final in three years, but it also has ramifications beyond Sunday—including for Novak Djokovic.
Wawrinka's win means Djokovic's ranking will fall outside the top three for the first time since October 2009, yet another indication of Djokovic's recent decline.
Djokovic's sudden fall has been hard to watch. One year ago, Djokovic finally captured an elusive title at Roland Garros, completing the career Grand Slam and managing to hold all four major titles simultaneously. His level of dominance was approaching Federer 2006 levels, and a calendar–year Grand Slam seemed not just possible but somehow likely.
Since last June, everything has changed. Djokovic—ranked No. 1 for essentially all of last year and No. 2 entering the 2017 French Open—will fall to No. 4 on Monday, passed by Andy Murray in November and now Rafael Nadal and Wawrinka following their success at Roland Garros. Djokovic just turned 30, so his decline remains baffling. Last year, he made a vague reference to "private issues" that had affected his performance at Wimbledon, where Sam Querrey shocked him in the third round. There have been other excuses over the last few months. After Djokovic's loss to Dominic Thiem in the French Open quarterfinals, he didn't rule out taking a break from tennis.
“This is a whole new situation for me, not winning any big tournaments, so it’s not something that has never happened for any other player. All the big players go through it,” Djokovic said after his French Open defeat. “You have to learn your lessons and get through it stronger. It’s a big challenge, but I’m up for it.”
It's all a bit strange. Djokovic clearly isn't the player he was a year ago. But if the 2017 season has taught us anything, it's that resurrection is always possible. Count out Djokovic at your own peril.