Actually, you couldn’t have used a worse example of PPR, or developing rituals as many in the coaching field call it.
The number of times Djokovic bounces the ball before serving varies between first and second serve, and by how much pressure he feels in the situation. A ritual is supposed to act as a calming influence where every point is treated the same. Djokovic’s inability to maintain a consistent ritual is an indication that his nerves are controlling him, rather than the other way around.
Djokovic normally bounces the ball anywhere from 10 to 18 times. In this point, he bounced it 29 times:
Even during his greatest season in 2011, you can see a variation of 10–17 bounces in the first game of his semi-final match at the Australian Open.*
It is the variation in the number of bounces that upsets opponents. Every elite player has a specific serving ritual. Once you watch an opponent a couple of times, you can then establish your own timing of when to get ready for the return. By changing that number of ball bounces haphazardly, Djokovic’s serving ritual breaks the rhythm and concentration of the returner.
*Since no one besides me would be crazy enough to watch a game and count the bounces, I’ve provided that service to the readers:
In the first point of the match, he bounces the ball off his racket three times, then bounce the ball eight times on his first serve. After missing it, he bounces the ball off the racket five times, then bounces the ball nine times. At 30–0, on a second serve, he bounces two times off the racket and eight times on the second serve. At 30–15, he bounces eight times off the racket, followed by nine ball bounces on the first serve. On the second serve, he bounces the ball four times off the racket and nine times with his hand, only to double fault. At 30–30, the camera only shows Federer waiting on the first serve, but on the second serve, Djokovic bounces the ball off his racket five times, then bounces the ball with his hand ten times (double fault). At 30–40, we don’t see his first serve ritual, but on the second serve, he bounces the ball four times with the racket and eleven times with his hand.
From an entertainment perspective, watching Djokovic can be incredibly boring because of how long he takes to serve. The broadcast director and camera man cut away from Djokovic a good part of the time until he actually hits his first serve, and focus on his opponent to break up the monotony.
Very little actual tennis is played in this first game: 25 seconds for Djokovic to finally get a serve in, followed by a return error; 9 seconds for players to go to the ad court; ten seconds to get a first serve in play, followed by a point that lasts 6 seconds; 20 seconds to hit the next first serve; 9 seconds to hit the second serve; a rally that lasts12 seconds; 28 seconds to get a new ball and hit the first serve; 12 seconds to hit the second serve (double fault); 25 seconds to hit the next serve; 12 seconds to hit a second serve (double fault); 10 seconds to change sides; 22 seconds to hit a first serve; 10 seconds to hit second serve; 33-second rally; 23 seconds of recovery and changing sides; 14 seconds to hit first serve; 5-second rally; 25 seconds to hit first serve; and, an 11-second rally that ends the game. (In all, the game lasted 5:35, of which they played three points with exchanges that lasted a total of 56 seconds.)