Novak Djokovic has revealed he only put himself back on the path to success this year after shedding the ‘guilt’ he felt for undergoing surgery on his elbow.
The 31-year-old had slumped to world No.22 as late as June before re-emerging as a force with an unexpected triumph at Wimbledon.
Now guaranteed to finish the year as world No.1, Djokovic pushed aside months of natural remedies to undergo an operation in February.
But it wasn’t easy to get to that point, and even in the immediate aftermath he found it difficult.
“I just cried for two or three days,” Djokovic told the Telegraph.
“I cried after I had the surgery on my elbow. Every time I thought about what I did, I felt like I had failed myself.”
The year is not yet over but history already shows he made the right decision.
Including Wimbledon and the US Open, he has won four titles and lost just two matches since July.
The run of success was not unprecedented but it was all a far cry from what essentially became two full years – from Wimbledon 2016 to the same event this year – of ’emotional burnout’, ‘private issues’ and injury.
“I was trying to avoid getting on that table because I am not a fan of surgeries or medications,” he said.
“I am just trying to be as natural as possible, and I believe that our bodies are self-healing mechanisms. I don’t ever want to get myself in the situation where I have to have another surgery.
“But I think it was a call that I had to make. I was not ready to take another six months or 12 months or whatever. I needed to get back on the court and that was the compromise.
“At the time I was filled with mixed emotions. I was doubting. I was also being a bit afraid of whether I am going to recover at the fullest. Because you never know how your body will react to very aggressive medical treatment.
“Luckily for me the surgery was done right, very well. But I was feeling guilty for maybe a month or two afterwards – through March and April this year.
“And then there was one point where I was like, ‘okay, right, I just have to accept that what’s done is done, you can’t reverse time to change events’. I could choose to be grateful or I could be resentful, and I didn’t want to be trapped in that emotion.”
The Serbian reclaimed the world No.1 ranking this week after Rafael Nadal withdrew from the last tournament of the year, the ATP Finals, citing abdominal injury and ankle surgery.
Djokovic will be the ATP’s year-ending No.1 for the fifth time, pulling even with Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors for the second most since the computer rankings began in 1973. Pete Sampras holds the record of six.
Nadal’s spot in the ATP Finals will be taken by John Isner, who has been drawn in the same group a Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Marin Cilic.
Roger Federer, who is seeking his 100th career title, headlines the other group containing Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori.