How Djokovic turns 5-set matches

Like others, Feliciano Lopez was amazed at how Novak Djokovic could win after losing the first two sets to Jannik Sinner. “He believes he only needs one game in the third set to turn around the match,” he told me at the Wimbledon media center. “He has experience winning this way and he knows he can do it.”

At the post-match press conference, Djokovic described how he dealt with the phases of the match. 

“I thought I started very well, was 4-1 up and breakpoint for double break. He served well. I was playing against the wind and just played a very bad game, two double faults, two missed dropshots to lose the serve 4-3, and just momentum shifted to his side.”

“I started doubting my shots. He started believing in himself more. He just had a better mentality on the court. He had confidence to step in and dictate the play. I was not staying in the rallies. I was missing, I was too passive. On grass everything happens very fast.”

“I was not serving well at all from the end of the first and the entire second set, he was reading my serves, he was attacking my serves. So I was really in a defense mode, to be honest. Just not much positive happening for me in terms of my game.”

After the second set, Djokovic went into the locker room, looked in the mirror, and gave himself a pep talk of positive, encouraging words. “As negative and down you feel on yourself in those moments, even though as fake as it looks or sounds to you, it really gives you an effect and support if you are trying to find the right and positive affirmations and tell it to yourself and kind of reanimate yourself in a way.”

“I just felt like I had to change something. I was not playing well, I was not feeling well on the court, I was dominated by Sinner. Thankfully Grand Slams are played in best-of-five, so I had opportunity to come back.”

“I always believed that I could come back. I know that, you know, experience that I have could eventually prevail in these kind of situations. I didn’t have any physical injuries or anything like that. It was just a matter of momentum shift. I felt that beginning of the third set is crucial to start well, try to break his serve early. That’s what happened.”

“From the start of the third, I played three really very solid, very high-quality tennis sets. From the very beginning of the third when I broke his serve early I felt that I found my rhythm and tempo on the shots.”

“The more, the better your record in fifth set, the better you feel every next fifth set you play. Of course it’s logical. Particularly if you play against young players like Sinner who didn’t have too many five-set matches in his life and was first quarterfinals for him, not too many matches on the Centre Court for him in his career here in Wimbledon.”

“It does definitely help knowing mentally that you have been in these particular situations and you had success in the past. You approach these particular situations when you’re two sets down a bit more calmly, a bit more confident, with self-belief. Whereas if you don’t have the experience there, you’re just maybe sometimes you don’t have anything to lose and you’re feeling like you’re not thinking about various scenarios in the future.”

“But most of the times, in these kind of occasions for the young players, they get to experience maybe something they have never experienced before.”

“I feel like Sinner 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.”

“So I’m sure he’s gonna get better as the time passes by, because he’s a fantastic player and very mentally present, devoted, professional. Sure we are going to see a lot of him on the big stage.”

words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media, all rights reserved