Few players have produced seasons in more sharply contrasting halves. Djokovic’s first six months of 2018 were characterised by uninspired tennis, perplexing losses to lowly-ranked opposition, physical frailty – including elbow surgery after the Australian Open – and zero titles. Yet from July onward he was practically unbeatable, scooping the Wimbledon and US Open titles plus Masters trophies in Cincinnati and Shanghai to end the year at world No.1 – the first player in history to rise from outside the top 20 to end the same season in top spot. After experimenting with the make-up of his entourage throughout 2017, the Serb reunited with longtime coach Marian Vajda and trainer Gebhard Phil-Gritsch during the clay court season and very quickly experienced an upswing; a semifinal in Rome, quarterfinal in Paris and final at Queen’s preceded his fruitful fortnight at the All England Club. Djokovic narrowly missed claiming a tour-high six titles, falling in the Paris and ATP Finals deciders in his last two events of 2018.
After 65 matches played in 2018, Djokovic was:
“I don’t know if I’m going to play on grass. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I just came from the court. Sorry, guys, I can’t give you that answer. I cannot give you any answer.”
– contemplating his immediate future after losing to Marco Cecchinato in the Roland Garros quarterfinals
“I understand that people are questioning whether I can consistently play on this level. Trust me, I am, too (smiling). At the same time I can’t look too far on the road because I have to embrace and cherish this kind of accomplishment. If you asked me a month and a half ago whether I think I can win Wimbledon, part of me yes, I hope, but maybe I wasn’t that sure at that time of my level of tennis.”
– after triumphing at Wimbledon for his first Grand Slam title in two years
“It comes down to whether the mind serves you or you serve the mind. I try to take control over that and over my destiny, how things work out.”
– explaining the factors behind his excellent end-of-season form during the ATP Finals
Djokovic got back to nature following the Cecchinato loss at Roland Garros. “I had to kind of disconnect a little bit. I went hiking with my wife for five days in the French mountains. We just isolated ourselves and took things from a different perspective,” he revealed. “Ever since then, the tennis is completely different for me. In terms of results, I played finals of Queen’s, won Wimbledon, won Cincinnati, and won US Open. I guess we’ll be hiking some more very soon (smiling).”
Despite parting ways with spiritual adviser Pepe Imaz at the behest of Vajda, Djokovic continued to take a holistic approach to tennis during 2018.
The father of two children, Djokovic expressed the importance of spending quality time with loved ones. “I have to balance my family life. I’m so grateful to my wife and my kids for being here with me … I’m just glad that they travel with me, especially for the big tournaments, so I can spend some time off the court with them, which gives me a great foundation for the tennis that comes after that,” he said at the US Open. On his social media channels, Djokovic posted pictured of moments with his wife, his brothers, his mother and his children, an indication of the off-court contentment that accompanied his return to world No.1.
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[Part 1] Dear Family & Friends, I am writing this message between nappy change and a dinosaurs ???? book. I wish to share, with all of you, how it felt to go through the journey of winning Wimbledon 2018. First of all, let me start by writing that the feeling of having my son in my wife’s arms at the trophy ceremony in the Player’s box was the most wonderful sensation I have had at any tournament that I have ever won in my career. When I became a father, one of my biggest dreams was to have my children present at the stands while I am playing. Let alone winning trophies. That dream came true several days ago. Everyone keeps on asking me to describe the feeling. I have said it is unforgettable, special, fulfilling, wonderful, joyful. But most of all, it is magical! When I thought that moment could not get any better, he shouted “Daddy, Daddy!“. That’s when I completely melted. Overwhelmed with emotions. Happy and joyful beyond belief. I am so GRATEFUL to have experienced that. I have imagined and prayed that one day I would win a Grand Slam trophy in front of my child. Luckily for me, Tara is growing up and I can’t wait for her to see me do the same as I did in front of Stefan. My whole (more or less) was about tennis until I became a father and husband. Everything I did was aimed at tennis success. When I became father and husband, my “world” evolved. It didn’t change, it evolved into something more beautiful. Of course, more responsibilities add up but at the end of the day, it unlocks a new dimension of Love and Energy inside of you that you never knew existed. And the biggest gift that you receive from God is the enhanced feeling of empathy, compassion and devotion to your kids. But it’s not all clear once you become a father. It takes learning and openness to reach that “golden balance” in Life which everyone is in pursuit for. For me it was balance between tennis, priorities and family. My wife was so helpful and supportive all the way since she gave birth to both Stefan and Tara. She always took time to discuss whatever bothered me and to help me find a way where I can feel like I am giving my best at home with kids and her and at the tennis court.
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