LONDON: Novak Djokovic admitted he feared he’d never win another Grand Slam, but with a second Wimbledon title wrapped up, the new world number one is now planning on catching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The 27-year-old Serb beat Federer, as well as his own doubts and demons, 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-4 in a rollercoaster Wimbledon final on Sunday to add to his 2011 All England Club title and take his majors tally to seven.
But he is still lagging behind the Swiss and Spaniard in the overall Grand Slam chase -- Federer had 17 while Nadal’s record ninth French Open last month moved him to 14.
Next up for the sport’s supermen is the US Open in August and September where Djokovic was champion in 2011 but was runner-up on four occasions in 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
It is that sort of maddening inconsistency that had become a curse with Djokovic having lost all three of his most recent Grand Slam finals and five of the last six.
“This is the most special Grand Slam final I’ve played. At the time of my career for this Grand Slam trophy to arrive is crucial, especially after losing several Grand Slam finals in a row,” he said.
“I started doubting of course. I needed this win a lot. I’m going to try to use it in the best possible way and for my confidence to grow for the rest of my season and the rest of my career.”
The belief that Sunday’s epic win, which had almost slipped away from him when he squandered a 5-2 lead in the fourth set and then a match point, could also be a springboard for more majors was shared by coach Boris Becker.
The three-time Wimbledon champion was brought on board in December last year in an attempt to help push Djokovic over the finish line at the majors.
It didn’t work at the Australian Open, where he lost in the quarter-finals or at the French Open where his hopes of completing a career Grand Slam were thwarted, again, in the final by Nadal.
But the partnership paid dividends at Wimbledon even if Djokovic spent almost five hours more on court than Federer in getting to the final.
“We’re looking pretty good now -- he’s back to number one, Wimbledon champion, obviously he’s going to take a couple of weeks off now but the next big one is the US Open,” said Becker.
There was little evidence of what made Becker famous in his 1980s pomp on show in the final with Federer the keener of the two to serve-and-volley in deference to the influence of his coach, Stefan Edberg, a rival and contemporary of Becker.
Federer served-and-volleyed 36 times but Djokovic said he was prepared for the Swiss star’s game plan as he chased what would have been a record eighth title at Wimbledon and which would have made the 32-year-old the oldest champion of the modern era.
“Those were particular changes in his game that I noticed before coming to this match. I paid attention to it and I was ready for it,” said Djokovic.
“That’s why he has been winning so many Grand Slams, because he feels confident to play these shots at the important time.”
Djokovic insisted that Sunday’s win even topped his record-breaking 2012 Australian Open final win against Rafael Nadal.
“Sincerely, this has been the best quality Grand Slam final that I have ever been part of,” said Djokovic, whose Australian Open final win two years ago lasted almost six hours.
“But this is definitely the best match. It’s the most special Grand Slam final I’ve played.
“I didn’t allow my emotions to fade away, as was probably the case in the Roland Garros final. I am just very glad to win a Grand Slam final after losing the last three out of four.
“But I managed to not just win against my opponent but win against myself as well and find that inner strength that got me the trophy today.” Djokovic will now take a break to be his fiancee Jelena Ristic, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child.
“There are few important things coming up. Getting married. Of course in a few months becoming a dad,” he added.
“I think I can close the chapter of my tennis career just for little bit now. I think I deserve that for few weeks to rest, to enjoy, be with my fiancée, my wife to be, and my family.”