|Novak Djokovic makes a return against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during their semifinal match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Que., Aug. 13, 2011. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL - If sports is 90% mental and the other half physical, as New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra once said about baseball, then Novak Djokovic is 100% into his opponents’ heads during his historic run to the Rogers Cup title.
His 52-1 match record this season, including 41 straight wins from the outset, clearly looms large over rivals who have struggled to mask their intimidation.
As he prepared to face Djokovic in the quarterfinals Friday, Frenchman Gael Monfils answered, “I don’t know,” when asked what he expected from the match. He went down quickly in straight sets to the Serb.
American Mardy Fish, who will face Djokovic in Sunday’s final, was effusive when asked how impressed he’s been by Djokovic’s historic run.
“It’s been incredible,” Fish said of the Djokovic’s run of eight titles this season, including two Grand Slams.
Fish quickly recalled his only match against Djokovic this season, a 6-3, 6-1 loss in just 86 minutes in Miami in April.
“He kicked my butt,” Fish acknowledged.
He said anyone who plans to reach Djokovic’s level had better master their mind as well as their body.
He says it’s one thing to tell yourself that you can win all the time. Believing it is another matter entirely.
“I’m not sure I’m there yet, to be honest,” said Fish, who’s reached a career-high No. 8 ranking this season.
“That’s the goal, is to get there, to really believe that you can step out on the court and win a big match like it will be against someone like Novak.”
As he predicted his chances of scoring the upset, Fish sounded just slightly more confident than Djokovic’s vanquished foes.
“I certainly hope so. You’ve got to really believe in it, like I said.”