Novak Djokovic, the No.1 tennis player in the world at the moment, went through a series of nutritional and technical changes midway through his career which helped him turn things around spectacularly in 2011.
The Serb, who had won just one Slam before 2011, now has 17, and is just behind Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19) in the overall tally. And one of the major reasons behind the phenomenal rise of Djokovic is the technical evolution of his game.
However, not many are aware that Novak Djokovic underwent another significant overhaul in the latter half of his career. This second change came during his slump period in 2018, during which he failed to win a Slam in seven attempts.
Djokovic had to work on his serve extensively at this time, and he eventually managed to change the action and make it more suitable to his body and help avoid wear and tear.
Novak Djokovic explains the reasons behind changing his serve
In an extensive interview with Graham Bensinger, Novak Djokovic spoke about why it was necessary for him to bring changes to his serve. The 32-year-old explained how his elbow was getting affected due to the original action, adding that the surgery he had on it is the only major one he has had in his career.
"I did struggle [with my initial serve], particularly back in 2009-2010," Djokovic said. "I changed my serve bio-mechanically. My elbow was going too open, I started to have a little bit of an issue with it. That was the only major surgery I had, in 2018.
"My racket was far from my head [in my previous serving technique]. Right now, it (the serve) is how it's supposed to be. Before, there was a lot of wear and tear on the kinetic chain of my arm, back and hips," he addded.
During the Australian Open earlier this year, Novak Djokovic spoke about how he turned his serve from a liability into one of the most reliable aspects of his game. The Serb won the tournament in style, defeating Austria's Dominic Thiem in a thrilling five-set final.
“I think my serve was probably underestimated as one of the weapons because I was so fortunate to return so well throughout my career and get myself in the rallies, moving pretty well and playing an accurate baseline game," he had told Eurosport earlier this year.
“But the serve was getting me out of trouble a lot in my career, giving me a lot of free points especially when I was playing my best seasons like 2011 and 2015 [when] I had a lot of great percentages on first serves.
Despite not being regarded among the best servers around, Novak Djokovic has won 85.8% of the service games in his career - placing him 17th on the all-time list. He is also sixth in the all-time second serve points won percentage, with 55.6%. Both these numbers have increased since 2018, showing the effectiveness of his new service motion.
Novak Djokovic is widely considered the greatest returner of all time, but he has somehow found a way to become one of the great servers too.