A little self-reflection can go a long way Novak Djokovic.
Six times Wimbledon the champion lost two sets to love and struggled to find the best level in his quarter-final clash with Jannik Sinner on Tuesday afternoon at the grass-court major, and the top seed admitted a quiet moment off the court was key to his 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 comeback victory.
“We probably had two different games the first two sets compared to the last three,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview after reaching the semifinals in London for the 11th time. “He was the better player for two sets. I went outside, got some refreshments during my bathroom break and had a little chat in the mirror.
“Sometimes in those circumstances where you don’t have a lot of positive things happening on the field and the other guy on the field is dominating the game, those things are necessary. A little break, a little pep talk to try to recover and collect your thoughts. Reassemble everything you have to to come up with the best possible game on your opponent.
“Even though I’ve been playing tennis on the big stage for 20 years, I have the same moments of doubt as anyone else. The internal battle is always the biggest battle on and off the field, so trying to win that internal battle is a big challenge. Once you do that, I feel the external circumstances will be more likely to be in your favor.”
Despite Sinner’s fast start, Djokovic admitted he never stopped believing he could turn things around as he sought to maintain his bid for a fourth straight crown. Wimbledon alive.
“I always believed I could come back,” the Serb said at the post-match press conference. “I know the experience I have could ultimately win out in situations like this. I had no physical injuries or anything like that.
“It was just a matter of shifting the momentum. I felt the start of the third set was crucial to get off to a good start, try to break his serve early. That’s what happened.”
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The win was Djokovic’s seventh straight comeback and improved his record to five sets Wimbledon at 10-1. The 20-time Grand Slam champion felt his experience helped him build momentum against his younger opponent.
“It depends on the opponent and the surface, but the better your balance in the fifth set, the better you feel in every fifth set you play. Of course it’s logical.
“Especially when you’re playing against young players like Sinner, who hasn’t had too many five-set matches in his life and was in his first quarter-final. [at Wimbledon]which wasn’t too many center court matches for him in his career.
“All these things play a role. How big a role it is really depends on both players. I don’t think it plays a decisive role, although it looks like it when you see today’s score. But it definitely helps when you know mentally that you’ve been in those specific situations and had success in the past.”
Djokovic was impressed by Sinner in 2019 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion and five-time ATP Tour titlist at the age of 20, in the second meeting of the pair of ATP Head2Head. The Italian had not won a match on grass at tour level prior to the championships, but Djokovic believes the Italian is only benefiting from the experience.
“I want to enter the match [he] he didn’t have much to lose, but he had a lot to lose when it took him two sets to love. I felt it with him mentally.
“I’m sure he’ll improve over time because he’s a fantastic player and very mentally present, dedicated, professional.” Sure, we’ll see a lot of him on the big stage.”