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Sunday 22 October 2017

Becker made a difference - Djokovic

Boris Becker, the coach of Novak Djokovic of Serbia, sits on Centre Court for the men's singles semi-final tennis match between Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London July 4, 2014. Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville.
Boris Becker, the coach of Novak Djokovic of Serbia, sits on Centre Court for the men's singles semi-final tennis match between Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London July 4, 2014. Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC knew all along that his game was good enough to win more Grand Slam titles. It was his mind that was the problem.

And so after failing to convert a match point against Roger Federer in the fourth set of the Wimbledon final, and after losing five games in a row to get pushed to a fifth set, Djokovic left the court for a bathroom break so he could give himself a pep talk. What Djokovic needed right then, he explained, was "positive encouragement," a way to confront the "disappointment that is bringing with itself the fear and the doubt and all these different demons inside."

It worked.

"I managed to have my convictions stronger than my doubts in this moment," he said, "and managed to push myself the very last step and to win the trophy."

Djokovic's 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Federer on Sunday earned the 27-year-old Serb his second Wimbledon championship and his seventh major title overall, matching the career totals of John McEnroe and Mats Wilander. It pushed Djokovic back to No.1 in the rankings after a ninth-month absence.

What it also did, more importantly for the future, was restore his self-belief.

Entering Sunday, Djokovic had lost three major finals in a row, and five of his last six.

He said he feels more mentally prepared than ever, and gave some credit for that to Boris Becker, the three-time Wimbledon champion who joined Djokovic's coaching staff at the start of this season.

More than any sort of tactical improvements, Becker was hired to provide counsel so Djokovic could deal with hard times during the biggest matches.

"That's what we talked about most - and trying to prepare myself psychologically for what's (awaiting) me on the court in the critical moments, if they come. And there were many, many yesterday. We pushed each other to the limit. We both played some top tennis," Djokovic said.

"And, of course, having Boris on the side in the box ... was definitely helpful."

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