After winning 12 Grand Slams and having reigned at the top of the rankings for as many as 218 weeks, one expects Novak Djokovic to continue hunting the biggest prizes in tennis with the same determination that he has shown so far. But the Serb has made a surprising confession in an open press conference held in his hometown Belgrade on Friday.
He pointed out that his priorities have changed now and the Major titles and the No. 1 ranking do not find themselves at the top of his agenda anymore.
“Number one and titles are not a priority anymore, but I’ll be as motivated as always,” said the 29-year-old.
Did not feel well emotionally after the French Open
The World No. 1 completed the much-coveted Career Slam in early June after winning the elusive French Open title that he had been chasing for so long. That also made him just the third man to hold all four Major titles at the same time – a feat that was last accomplished in 1969. Since then, however, he has not been the same player anymore.
He tasted glory only once at the Canadian Masters and lost in three big tournaments – the Wimbledon Championships, the Rio Olympics and the US Open. Considering how invincible he had been in the first six months of the season, his frequent losses were perplexing, to say the least.
His fitness for one, had been a major area of concern. Djokovic suffered from a number of niggling injuries post the French Open and even alluded to a personal problem.
But more disconcerting was the fact that he looked to have lost some of the motivation and hunger after his momentous achievement. Tennis fans suspected if winning the Roland Garros title for the first time in his career took a lot out of him.
Djokovic confirmed those suspicions during his interaction with the media as he admitted that he did not feel “very well at an emotional level, neither at training nor at tournaments or during official matches... without doubt because I set historic goals for myself.”
The unnecessary pressure and the subsequent failures made him recalibrate what he wanted of himself and he now wants to play the game only to enjoy himself on the court again.
“I am now in a position to be able to redefine the goals. I want to enjoy every moment on the court again, the attitude and approach to psychological changes,” the Australian Open and French Open champion said.
Planning to return at the Shanghai Masters
The Serb, a six-time winner of the China Open, recently pulled out of the elite ATP 500 event that is scheduled next week. He had cited his elbow injury as the cause of his withdrawal.
Djokovic said that he is recovering well but there is still a ‘micro-injury’ that was also the reason why his serve was hampered at the US Open final resulting in a defeat to Stan Wawrinka. The Serb was, however, quick to underline that despite the injury, he is still close to his best and that he expects to have a full recovery in order to defend his title at the Shanghai Masters.
“There is still a micro injury, but it is not such that it could be a long-term problem. So far, as per our plan, the next stop is Shanghai. I had to skip Beijing because I was not ready for the highest level, even though I’m close to the maximum, but the injury affected my serve.”
Djokovic also talked about his partnership with coach and six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker. Since he joined forces with the former World No. 1, the Serb has added seven Grand Slam titles to his illustrious resume.
Acknowledging that the German has helped him mentally, he said that they will soon sit and talk about whether to continue the collaboration after this season.
“We need to talk. We continue to work in a team, and we follow the internal discussions. We look to all things. He has helped me very much mentally. Boris has been through what I am experiencing, has long been in the world of tennis, and the results speak enough about how much we are successful.”