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Djokovic learning from past mistakes as Grand Slam quest continues

Novak Djokovic is chasing the calendar slam for the second time, and the world No 1 is using lessons learned from the past while doing so.

Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2021 Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2021, © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

16 straight Grand Slam wins – and 16 straight at Wimbledon. You would think that world No 1 and 19-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic had it all figured out. But even the world-beating Serbian admits that there are lessons he can learn as he continues his quest to become the first male player to win the first three Grand Slams of a tennis season since the great Rod Laver in 1969.

With the calendar slam a real possibility – just as it was in 2016 – Djokovic is in a far different place than he was five years ago in London. Will that make all the difference in the world? Hard to say, but there’s no denying – experience counts.

Djokovic has been here before…

Djokovic has been at this exact same place before, in 2016, when he had just completed what we like to call the “Nole Slam”, as he captured his fourth consecutive major by winning his maiden Roland-Garros title.

He stood at the same precipice. Two rounds of Wimbledon in the books, 12 victories away from the calendar slam, though one could make the argument that he his tank was far closer to empty then than it is now. As Djokovic stretched his career-best Grand Slam winning streak to 30, he was starting to hit the wall. That wall emerged in the third round at SW19, in the form of bomb-serving Sam Querrey, and Djokovic could not get over it.

“It’s an amazing feeling, obviously, to be able to hold four Grand Slams at the same time,” he said in his post-match press conference that day. “Coming into Wimbledon, obviously here, I knew that mentally it’s not going to be easy to kind of remotivate myself. But the importance of this tournament is so immense that, you know, you always find ways to really get inspired and prepare and try to give your best. Obviously my best wasn’t enough this year.”

And lessons have been learned

Today after his tidy 6-3 6-3 6-3 win over 2018 Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson on Centre Court, Djokovic reflected on 2016, and told reporters that he hopes to learn from the experience.

“I was mentioning in the press conference prior to the tournament that I’m going to try to learn from that experience that I had in 2016, winning the first two slams of the year, coming in here in Wimbledon, actually feeling great, playing great, but then I lost the third round against of course a great opponent, Sam Querrey, who was a better player that day,” he said.

Djokovic admitted that he felt spiritually deflated at the time, and it’s something he will likely have a better grip on handling this time around. So far it seems to be the case. He has not only been brilliant over his first two matches, even if his first-round match with British wild card Jack Draper was more complicated than he would have liked, he has also been extremely centered, and positive.

He looks like an athlete ready to tackle the enormous task ahead of him.

“I felt a little bit different, maybe a little bit deflated,” he said of his 2016 Wimbledon experience. “I don’t want to say demotivated because playing Wimbledon is always a dream for any player, including myself. I just felt slightly different than I felt before. It was the first time I experienced that kind of situation and circumstances. So this time I’m probably, I would like to think, a bit wiser and a bit more experienced as a player and person.”

“But now I’m in the third round. Again, it only has been two matches into the tournament. Still a long way to go. Hopefully I can go very deep in the tournament. That’s the goal. But I’m very pleased with the way I’ve been playing so far.”

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