If you need advice when trailing by two sets in a Wimbledon quarterfinal there is surely no one better placed to offer it than the man who has won the last three titles. Which was handy for top seed Novak Djokovic on Tuesday (July 5) after he left Centre Court for a toilet break having, in his own words, been ‘dominated’ by 20-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner.
The 35-year-old Serbian admitted addressing himself in the mirror and whatever he said clearly worked as the 20-time Grand Slam champion returned to Centre Court inspired to reel off a 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 ,6-2 victory. Asked whether it had been a ticking off, Djokovic said it had been a friendly conversation.
“There was no aggressivity there. It was just a pep talk, positive talk,” Djokovic, who has reached his 43rd Grand Slam semi-final and 11th at Wimbledon, told reporters. “As negative and down as you feel about yourself in those moments, even though as fake as it looks or sounds to you, it really gives you an effect and support. It kind of re-animates yourself in a way.”
Djokovic returned to quickly break serve in the third set and, sensing Sinner’s self-doubt, ruthlessly took control as he began peppering the lines with his serve and groundstrokes. It was a stark contrast to the opening two sets when Djokovic, for once, looked short of ideas as 10th seed Sinner dominated the baseline exchanges with power and precision.
“After that, I kind of played a new match, to be honest. From the start of the third, I played three really very solid, very high-quality tennis sets,” Djokovic said. “I found my rhythm and tempo on the shots. I feel like Sinner, you know, coming into the match didn’t have much to lose, but he had a lot to lose when he was two sets to love up. I could feel that mentally with him.”
In only one year out of the last 13 has Djokovic failed to reach at least one Grand Slam final – in 2017 which was also the last time he lost a match at Wimbledon. After being deported from Australia, losing to Rafa Nadal in the French Open quarters, and likely to be barred from the U.S. Open over not being vaccinated against COVID-19, Djokovic will now need to beat Briton Cameron Norrie to maintain that record.
“I know his game well. He’s been around. Of course I will do my homework and get ready,” Djokovic said.
(with Reuters inputs)