Following the culmination of Wimbledon 2019, Novak Djokovic, in his press conference, said something that sounded a little weird–but brought laughter from all the attendees. In that famous final that nearly went on for five hours, the Serb was not only fighting Roger Federer, but also against an extremely loud pro-Federer crowd. He said that while the crowd was chanting “Roger,” he assumed that he heard them chanting “Novak.”
It was a fine example of how one can turn a negative, unfavorable situation into a positive. Djokovic has done that in abundance throughout his glittering career, especially when he has faced his arch-rivals Federer and Rafael Nadal. While some, even the greatest of champions, seem to buckle down under pressure, Djokovic finds another layer to his character to turn adversity into opportunity. In tennis, arguably there has been no one better than the Serb at not only dealing with pressure–but also like the cornered tiger, knows how to bring the best out of him when he finds himself in a precarious situation to achieve monumental heights of success.
His ability to believe in oneself even in the face of adversity and his clarity of thought when under pressure is impeccable. His mental toughness transcends well beyond normal human capabilities, and his grand success at this year’s French Open is a testimony to his resilience, self-confidence and his uncompromising hunger to win.
Novak Djokovic at the 2021 French Open
In the second semifinal at Roland Garros, in a battle that lasted four hours and eleven minutes to be precise, Djokovic clinically diffused a missile called Rafael Nadal to breach the fortress the Spaniard had so dearly held year after year. Following his second title at the French Open, Djokovic has now achieved unprecedented success as the only man in the Open Era to win all the Majors at least twice. Not even his longtime rivals Federer and Nadal have achieved that.
In beating the 13-time champion Nadal multiple times at Roland Garros, Djokovic has once again proved that he is the man for all surfaces and a player for all seasons. While the other two members of the “Big 3” have considerably slowed down, Djokovic, who is now 34, has once again grown and is showing absolutely no signs of slowing or breaking down. The 19-time Major champion now has won seven Grand Slam titles since turning 30 and appears to be hungry for many more. Despite being down two sets to love, the 34-year-old Serb appeared to be a stronger player, mentally and physically, throughout the next three sets. This speaks heavily about what a mental giant of a player Djokovic has evolved into, especially since 2011.
While the debate about who is the greatest of all times is a sensitive topic, one cannot deny what Djokovic has achieved over the years against his arch-rivals. He was slow to start off the blocks against both Federer and Nadal. Now, though, the Serbian leads both his rivals head-to-head. While Djokovic has never lost to Nadal at the Australian Open, he has beaten the latter twice at Roland Garros (2015 and 2021) and has conquered Federer thrice in the finals at Wimbledon (2014, 2015, and 2019).
Looking ahead to Wimbledon
With Nadal out of Wimbledon, and with huge concerns hovering around Federer’s form following his shock loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime in Halle, Djokovic starts as a firm favorite–not only to bag his sixth title and record-equalling 20th Major at the upcoming Wimbledon Championships, but also to finally win a singles Gold Medal at the Tokyo Olympics later this summer.
Djokovic’s continued success story is a source of inspiration to millions to those who view themselves as slow starters. He is still providing mind-boggling performances at the age of 34. Considering that he is just a Major away from equaling all-time record–especially after starting pretty slowly compared to his rivals–he sends a strong message that it is okay to take your time to figure out things in life ,and that success will eventually follow if one has faith in their own abilities.
Novak Djokovic is the epitome of mental toughness. That should remain for at least a few years as the man is closer than ever to scaling the unprecedented heights of men’s tennis history books.
Main Photo from Getty.