Sunday 16 December 2018

How hiking helped Djokovic reach greater US Open heights

Champion: Novak Djokovic. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Champion: Novak Djokovic. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Simon Briggs

The secret behind Novak Djokovic's return to his world-beating best? It emerged on Sunday night, when the new US Open champion revealed that a five-day hiking trip with wife Jelena had been the inspiration behind his back-to-back grand-slam titles.

Djokovic equalled Pete Sampras's tally of 14 major titles when he overcame Juan Martin del Potro in three closely fought sets - 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.

He was asked how he had turned his poor early form this year into a dominant sequence of 26 wins from 28 matches, and climbed back from a low point of No 22 in the world to No 3.

"(Marco) Cecchinato has made me realise a lot of things after that loss to him in Roland Garros," said Djokovic.

"I was so close to the desired level, and then I completely underplayed that match. I had to kind of disconnect. I went hiking with my wife for five days in the French mountains.

"We just isolated ourselves and took things from a different perspective. "Ever since, the tennis is completely different for me. In terms of results, I played finals of Queen's, won Wimbledon, won Cincinnati and won US Open. I guess we'll be hiking some more."

A little further exploration revealed that the mountain in question was Mont Sainte-Victoire, which reaches just over 1,000m, and that Jelena had surprised her husband by reaching the top in just three hours of climbing.

"She's so fit," Djokovic added. "I can't believe she managed to get all the way up. We sat down and we just looked at the world from that perspective."

Meanwhile as the sport continued to tear itself apart over the Serena Williams sexism row, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) stepped in last night to defend beleaguered umpire Carlos Ramos.

In the absence of any representative body to speak for tennis officials, it fell to the ITF to say what should be evident to all: despite Williams's repeated insistence that Ramos owes her an apology, he was just doing his job when he penalised her a point and a game during Saturday's tumultuous women's US Open final.

"Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis," said the ITF, which is Ramos's employer. "(His) decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were re-affirmed by the US Open's decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offences."

The statement might not have been necessary were it not for the accusations of sexism levelled at Ramos by two of tennis' major stakeholders.

First head of the United States Tennis Association Katrina Adams told ESPN: "We watch the guys do this all the time, they're badgering the umpire on the changeovers. Nothing happens. There's no equality."

Steve Simon, head of the Women's Tennis Association, put out a statement with a similar theme.

"The WTA believes there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men v women and is committed to ensuring all players are treated the same. We do not believe this was done." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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