Saturday 18 August 2018

'I have someone screaming daddy, daddy!' - Novak Djokovic reveals the emotional motivation behind fourth Wimbledon title

Novak Djokovic was thrilled to have his son Stefan in the crowd
Novak Djokovic was thrilled to have his son Stefan in the crowd

Paul Newman

Novak Djokovic said that the prospect of having his three-year-old son Stefan see him lift the Wimbledon trophy here had been his biggest motivation.

“I was visualising, imagining this moment of him coming to the stands, cherishing this moment with my wife and me and everyone,” Djokovic said after claiming his fourth Wimbledon title by beating Kevin Anderson in Sunday’s final. “It's hard to describe.”

Djokovic said that under All England Club rules children under the age of five are not allowed to watch matches in the stands.

"For the first time in my life, I have someone screaming daddy, daddy!"

“I had never had him in the box watching a match, though I had been hoping that Wimbledon could be that tournament because he's big enough now, I think, to stay quiet maybe for 30 minutes or so.

"I can't be happier. I'm very emotional for him being there.

“He was not there till the very moment when I was walking over to be interviewed on court. That was when he walked in. It was a moment that I will carry inside my heart for ever.”

Asked whether he considered this to be the greatest achievement of his career, given the elbow injury and other issues he had had to overcome in the last two years, Djokovic said it ranked alongside his first Wimbledon triumph in 2011.

“It really is special considering the last two years,” he said. “I've never faced a major injury in my career before. I changed my racket. I also made some compensations in my game. I had to adjust. I had to get comfortable with that game. It took me a while.”

Djokovic, who was also watched in the stands by the surgeon who operated on his elbow in January, said that at the start of this year he could not have imagined winning Wimbledon.

“If you had asked me after Roland Garros, I would maybe have doubted it then as well,” he said. “At the same time there is a part of me that always believes in my own abilities, believes in my own quality of tennis. Whenever I come to a tournament, and especially a Grand Slam, I believe I can have a good opportunity to fight for the trophy.”

The Serb said that his performances in his last two matches here had proved something to himself.  “I wasn't playing my best in the decisive moments,” he said. “That was something that I was missing, to be honest, that kind of competitive match play, the feeling of being toe-to-toe with an opponent in a big match in the later stages of Grand Slams.

“Playing against [Rafael] Nadal in the semi-finals here was the biggest test that I could have specifically for that, just to see whether I could prevail.”

Djokovic reunited with his long-time coach, Marian Vajda, only during the clay-court season and said they discussed the future immediately after his victory here.

“It seems like he's planning to keep on working with me, which is great news,” Djokovic said. “We’re going to keep on working till the end of the year for sure and then we'll see after that.”

He added: “We are family. We love each other. We nurture our relationships.”

Djokovic said that although Anderson had not played well at the start of the final, he felt the first two sets were the best he had played for a long time.

“Breaking serve in the first game was the perfect start,” he said. “After that I cruised for two sets. In the third set, he started hitting his spots with the serve much better. He started swinging through the ball, making fewer errors.

“He was the better player in the third set, without a doubt. I was just trying to hold on and keep my composure in decisive moments.I served well, played some good shots when I was set points down and then played a perfect tie-break to finish.”

Djokovic said he found it hard to predict how he might perform in the future but added: “I like to play on hard courts and the US Open has always been a successful tournament for me. I didn’t play it last year because of injuries. I'm looking forward to going out there and playing my best and seeing where it takes me.”

Anderson said he had struggled to find his form at the start of the final. “Of course, my body didn't feel great,” he said. “I don't think you're going to expect it to feel great this deep into a tournament when you've played so much tennis.

“But I was definitely quite nervous starting out the match. I didn't play great tennis in the beginning. I tried my best to keep at it. I definitely felt much better in the third set. I thought I had quite a few opportunities to win that third set, especially a couple of the points where Novak hit a couple of balls which I thought were going out but which landed right on the line.”

He added: “What separates the top guys who have done so well and guys further down is maybe not necessarily just their raw abilities, but it's their ability to play their best tennis in these sort of matches.I wasn't able to do that in the beginning. He was.”

Asked how he had tried to recover between his six-and-half-hour semi-final victory over John Isner on Friday and today’s final, Anderson said: “Saturday was pretty tough. There were a lot of thoughts going through my mind like: ‘Am I going to be ready to play another three-out-of-five-sets match on Sunday against somebody like Novak?’

“I got here to the courts, saw the doctors, saw the podiatrist for my feet. I had a very light hit. I probably only hit for 10 or 15 minutes. You go through certain exercises. When things aren't feeling the way they should, you always have a little bit of doubt.

“I barely slept on Friday night. Actually last night I was able to get in a pretty good night. Waking up today, I actually felt OK. I don't think the match was entirely just because I wasn't feeling the freshest. It was a bit about being able to play the kind of tennis I needed to at this stage.”

He added: “I had high hopes and expectations that going out there I was going to be a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more free. That wasn't meant to be. The way the ball was coming off my racket, the quality of my footwork and my ball-striking wasn't where it needed to be to compete with somebody like Novak.”

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