Aussie plots Djokovic's grand-slam demise

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Once a close ally, Australian strategist Craig O'Shannessy is now plotting to stop Novak Djokovic from changing the course of tennis history.

Djokovic is three tantalising wins away from becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar-year grand slam with victory at the US Open in New York.

The super Serb would be the first player ever to achieve the fabled feat on three different surfaces.

But after helping Djokovic rediscover his mojo and capture four slams following his 2017 funk to equal the men's record of 20, O'Shannessy is now advising the Italian Tennis Federation.

That leaves the esteemed analyst sitting in Matteo Berrettini's corner assisting head coach Vincenzo Santopadre for the US Open quarter-final in New York on Thursday (AEST).

And O'Shannessy says after competing with Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, winning the opening set, Berrettini is "absolutely capable" of conquering the world No.1 at Flushing Meadows.

But only if he picks up his game and wins the battle of "first-strike" tennis, as Alexander Zverev did when taking down Djokovic at the Tokyo Olympics in July.

O'Shannessy believes winning the short points is key to stopping Djokovic.

"It's the first four shots, then daylight in New York City," he told AAP.

"Don't be seduced by the longer rallies. This match will be decided by the first two times each player touches the ball more than anything else.

"The first four shots are comprised of the serve, return and the serve plus one and return plus one groundstrokes that subsequently follow."

O'Shannessy, who is also coaching emerging Australian grand-slam force Alexei Popyrin, noted that in the Wimbledon final Djokovic dominated the short exchanges of no more than four shots against Berrettini by a margin of 17 points (103-86).

In the Olympic semi-final, Djokovic lost the exact same contest by 17 points to Zverev (38 to 55).

"When it all boils down, that means Berrettini must serve and return better. It's not rocket science but it is critical to the Italian's chances," O'Shannessy said.

While Zverev landed 74 per cent of first serves at the Olympics against Djokovic, Berrettini struggled in the Wimbledon final, only making 59 per cent.

"That's significant enough to be the ball game in the Big Apple right there," O'Shannessy said.

Berrettini's service return must also be on song.

"Zverev committed only 12 returning errors against Djokovic, while Berrettini made 31. Return errors stop you in your tracks," O'Shannessy said.

"Berrettini has got to tighten this part of his game up."

The other major battleground will focus on forehand performance.

"Berrettini struck 20 forehand winners in the Wimbledon final but yielded an eye-opening 64 forehand errors," O'Shannessy said.

"Djokovic's defiant defence turned Berrettini's forehand from an asset to a liability. Zverev got the mix right against Djokovic with 16 forehand winners and just 24 forehand errors.

"Berrettini needs to use his forehand weapon as much as possible but that's easier said than done. Novak will know that and will look to starve Berrettini of forehands.

"That's why it's so important for Berrettini to strike first as much as possible to gain initial control of the flow of the point."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting