LONDON (AP) — Novak Djokovic knew all along that his game was good enough to win more Grand Slam titles. It was his mind that was the problem.
And so after failing to convert a match point against Roger Federer in the fourth set of the Wimbledon final, and after losing five games in a row to get pushed to a fifth set, Djokovic left the court for a bathroom break so he could give himself a pep talk.
What Djokovic needed right then, he explained Monday, was "positive encouragement," a way to confront the "disappointment that is bringing with itself the fear and the doubt and all these different demons inside."
"I managed to have my convictions stronger than my doubts in this moment," he said, "and managed to push myself the very last step and to win the trophy."
Djokovic's 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Federer on Sunday earned the 27-year-old Serb his second Wimbledon championship and his seventh major title overall, matching the career totals of John McEnroe and Mats Wilander. It pushed Djokovic back to No. 1 in the rankings after a ninth-month absence.
What it also did, more importantly for the future, was restore his self-belief.
Entering Sunday, Djokovic had lost three major finals in a row, and five of his last six. That included a defeat against Andy Murray at Wimbledon a year ago, and a defeat against Rafael Nadal at the French Open a month ago.
In what is supposed to be the prime of his career, Djokovic went 1 1/2 years without winning a Grand Slam tournament, the sort of drought that makes it hard to gain on the guys whose company he wants to keep: 17-time major champion Federer and 14-time major champion Nadal.
What Djokovic really wanted to avoid was becoming only the fourth man in the Open era, which dates to 1968, to lose four consecutive Grand Slam title matches.
As the tennis circuit shifts to hard courts ahead of the U.S. Open, which begins in late August, Djokovic once again can confront on-court difficulty in peace. He said he feels more mentally prepared than ever, and gave some credit for that to Boris Becker, the three-time Wimbledon champion who joined Djokovic's coaching staff at the start of this season.
Continue reading this story on the...