“I didn’t feel in a good place emotionally for several months” – Djokovic explains how he found his ‘serenity’ after trying start to 2022

A season that began with a deportation from Australia hits a high point at Wimbledon. Novak Djokovic details how he made himself ready to take advantage of this opportunity.

Wimbledon 2022 Novak Djokovic Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates in the stands with his coaches after winning the men’s singles final against Australia’s Nick Kyrgios || AI / Reuters / Panoramic

The first half of the 2022 season was an unmitigated disaster for Novak Djokovic. Thrust into a brewing controversy over his vaccination status that quickly became political, Djokovic was denied an opportunity to defend his Australian Open title, and rudely deported from the country. Other dominoes would soon fall. The Serb, who started 2022 tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slam titles, didn’t get to play Indian Wells or Miami either.

The constant scrutiny took a toll on Djokovic emotionally, and it showed in his tennis. He had three matches under his belt before April and when he finally took the court on the clay, he was – understandably – nowhere near his best.

Soon he would watch Nadal win his 22nd major in Paris, just a few days after the Spaniard bounced him out of Paris.

The fact that Djokovic claimed his seventh Wimbledon title on Sunday, given all that has transpired, says a lot about his restorative powers.

Novak Djokovic 2022 Wimbledon
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the second set during the men’s singles final against Australia’s Nick Kyrgios || AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Djokovic : “I found myself in foreign waters”

Asked about it on Sunday, Djokovic said that he simply had to be patient, to bide his time, and to trust that time would help him heal.

“I don’t take anything for granted, I’m blessed to be in this position, especially considering everything that happened this year, at the beginning of the year, I just didn’t feel emotionally in a good place for several months and I was trying to find the serenity and the balance on and off the court, to get myself in a position to fight for big trophies,” he said.

“First of all, I had the great support of my family and close people in my life and but even with their support, I still felt lonely, to be honest, because of just the incredible pressure that I never faced before. It was outside of sport, it was nothing related to sport and everything related to all the other things; I just found myself in, basically, foreign waters.

Ivanisevic: “Novak’s response was heroic”

His coach, Goran Ivanisevic, has enormous respect for the way that Djokovic was able to soldier through a brutal period.

“Unbelievable how he recovered and how he got through that,” he said on Sunday at Wimbledon. “It’s really, for me, heroic because it was not easy to digest all the things and come back to play tennis. Then you’re thinking, ‘Why [do] you have to play tennis?'”

The Croatian legend says the uncertainty, due to Djokovic’s decision to remain unvaccinated, and the fact that several countries require proof of vaccination from foreign travelers, made it nearly impossible to train productively.

“We cannot make any schedule,” he said. “We practice but we don’t know for what we are practicing. It was not easy.

“Now it’s better. You know where you can go, where you cannot go. It’s easier.”

Djokovic Wimbledon 2022
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates with Goran Ivanisevic after winning his final match against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini

Ivanisevic: “you don’t doubt Djokovic”

Asked if he ever doubted that Djokovic would return to Grand Slam glory, Ivanisevic quickly said no.

“People like him you don’t doubt,” he said. “He’s a great champion. They say maybe took him a long time, but didn’t take him a long time. Took him exact time that he needed to recover and to digest all the things what happened to him.

“I never doubt him. We were there. Not me, but all the team, everybody there working. But just he needed to find the peace. Like I said, was not easy to plan anything because one week he can play, next week he cannot play at that tournament.

Djokovic : “People looked at me differently and I didn’t like that”

The Serb will face the same uncertainty next month as he hopes to gain entry to America for the US Open, as the United States still does not allow unvaccinated travelers to enter. Whether he plays or not, Djokovic knows that deep down he has what it takes to handle whatever difficulties are thrown his way.

These days, some people seem to view his anti-vaccination stance differently then they did at the beginning of the season, and that’s welcome news to Djokovic.

“I enjoyed training, but when I would go on to an official tournament, it would be different,” he said. “People, especially right after Australia, where I played in Dubai, or first couple of tournaments, were looking at me a little bit differently, and I was not enjoying that at all.

“I had to just trust that the time will heal and just time needs to pass in order for me to really understand what needs to be done.  

“I mean, there is no one thing that I’ve done that has changed around [my season], it’s just patience, good work, and just trying to be positive about life, optimistic and wait for my opportunities, and when they’re presented, try to grab them which happened today.”

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