Novak Djokovic: Patience a virtue for Wimbledon champion but rest of season looks unclear

Serbian claimed his 21st Grand Slam title on Sunday and now waits to see if he can compete at the US Open

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Novak Djokovic put his seventh Wimbledon title down to patience, both on the day and over the course of the year, before admitting he is not sure what the rest of his season looks like.

Djokovic sealed his fourth straight Wimbledon title on Sunday with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 victory over Nick Kyrgios, the Serb producing a returning masterclass against the Australian's fearsome serve to win a fascinating final.

The 21st Grand Slam title, moving him one behind Rafael Nadal's all-time record, was achieved after a challenging season for Djokovic, who started the year embroiled in a visa row in Australia, which resulted in his deportation due to being unvaccinated against Covid-19.

Djokovic eventually started his season at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships but fell to a shock defeat in the third round, followed by a first-round exit at the Monte Carlo Masters. He finally won his first title at the Rome Masters, and after the disappointment of a quarter-final loss to Nadal at the French Open, found close to his best level to triumph at Wimbledon.

"Certainly this year has not been the same as past years," Djokovic, 35, said. "The way it started has affected me; definitely the first several months I was not feeling great generally. I was not in a good place.

"I wanted to play but when I went out on the court in Dubai for the first tournament of the year, I felt so much pressure and emotion and wasn't feeling myself. I knew then it would take some time, so I needed to be patient and sooner or later I would get myself in the optimal state for where I would like to be.

"When I left Australia I was ready to move but it wasn't that easy to close that chapter because I had the media and many people reminding me. It caused a lot of turbulence inside of me that I needed time to weather the storm. The game was there, it was just all these things off the court that were causing so many distractions that I had to deal with, not just myself but the people around me.

"Coming into Wimbledon, I felt good for my tennis because I had won three titles in a row here and feel good on the grass. I came from Paris after an emotional loss to Nadal but after Rome and Paris I was already playing the sort of tennis that would allow me to compete, so I felt good about my chances."

Practising that sort of patience proved an asset over the past two weeks at Wimbledon, where Djokovic had to fight back from losing the first set in each of his last three matches, including from two sets down in his quarter-final against Italy's Jannik Sinner.

After struggling to contend with Kyrgios' lights-out tennis for the first set of Sunday's final, Djokovic kept composed and soon found his touch and timing. Once he had a read on the Australian's serve, there was only going to be one winner.

"From the baseline I didn't miss much in those [last] three sets," Djokovic said. "It was part of the strategy when playing someone as talented and flashy as Nick, who has one of the best serves in the game. He puts constant pressure on opponents when he's cruising through his service games.

"It was frustrating at times to see balls fly past and having to deal with more work on my service games, but I felt the ball really well from the back of the court. I served well at moments but it's the Wimbledon final against a player who had nothing to lose, plus I had lost to him twice. All of those things were present but I think I managed everything pretty well."

A seventh Wimbledon title secured, the question now turns to what Djokovic does for the rest of the year. The ATP Tour will soon make its way to North America, culminating in the US Open. Both the United States and Canada require all foreign visitors to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, so at present Djokovic will not be able to compete at the two Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati, nor at the US Open.

Combined with the absence of ranking points at Wimbledon, which has resulted in Djokovic remarkably slipping to No 7 in the world, it leaves the Serb in an unusual position of needing to chase points if he wants to extend his record of year-end world No 1s to eight.

However, Djokovic was calm about how the rest of the year might unfold and insisted that at this stage of his career, his focus is on big tournaments and majors.

"I am on vacation. Whether I'm playing tournaments soon or not, I'm definitely resting for the next couple of weeks because it has been quite an exhausting and demanding period," he said. "Then I will wait hopefully for some good news from the USA. If that doesn't happen then I will have to see what the schedule will look like. I doubt I will go and chase points.

"From what I understand, winning a Grand Slam will qualify me for the ATP Finals unless I'm out of the top 20, so I will not burden myself to play tournaments to gain points.

"I don't feel any pressure to play certain tournaments and things have changed in the last year or so for me. I achieved the historic No 1, so now that is done and dusted I prioritise big tournaments and Slams. We will see what happens with the States and take it from there."

Updated: July 11, 2022, 6:32 AM
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