Djokovic doubts give way to Wimbledon joy

Darren Walton
Djokovic doubts give way to Wimbledon joy

Novak Djokovic admits he doubted he'd ever return as a grand slam force, let alone join the pantheon of all-time greats to have won Wimbledon at least four times.

Barely a month after saying he wasn't sure if he'd even play the grass-court season following a despairing French Open quarter-final loss to Marco Cecchinato, Djokovic is savouring his most unexpected triumph.

"There were several moments where I was frustrated and questioning whether I can get back on the desired level or not. But that makes this whole journey even more special," the Serbian said after seeing off spirited South African Kevin Anderson 6-2 6-2 7-6 (7-3) in the championship climax at The All England Club.

After two years battling a chronic elbow injury and slumping to 22nd in the world, Djokovic bit the bullet in February to go under the knife, but he never dreamed he'd be back winning his 13th slam so soon.

"It's easy to talk now and look back at it, but I really am grateful to go through these mixed emotions, turbulences as well mentally, moments of doubt and disappointment and frustration, anger.

"But I'm human and we all have to face that. We all have to go through that.

"It's a learning curve, it really is. It helped me, not just as a tennis player, but just as a human being to get to know myself on deeper levels.

"It's usually in a struggle that you get to know yourself, you get to have an opportunity to rise like a phoenix and evolve and get better."

Djokovic ranks his victory as the second most satisfying of his grand career, behind only his first Wimbledon success in 2011.

So unlikely was it that the 31-year-old is refusing to promise there may be more to come.

He hopes so, but can't be sure, saying only that major No.13 would give him huge confidence heading into the American hard-court swing and, ultimately, next month's US Open in New York.

Sunday's triumph elevated Djokovic above Roy Emerson into fourth place on men's tennis's all-time grand slam title leaderboard behind only Roger Federer (20), Rafael Nadal (17) and Pete Sampras (14).

"Pete Sampras has 14 slams. He was, out of everyone that I looked up to, probably my biggest role model and idol growing up. To be just one step away from his record is quite incredible," Djokovic said.

Having now surpassed the Wimbledon feats of legends and three-time champions John Newcombe, John McEnroe and his one-time coach Boris Becker, only Federer (8), Sampras (7), William Renshaw (7), Bjorn Borg (5) and Laurie Doherty (5) have won the sport's greatest prize more times.

The big three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have also now amassed a staggering 50 slams between them to cement themselves as arguably the most dominant triumvirate in sports history.

"There is no better place to make a comeback this is a sacred place of tennis. This is really special," Djokovic said after dedicating his victory to wife Jelena and their three-year-old son Stefan.

"I had to really trust the process, and trust myself. I owe a great thanks to my team, everyone who have supported me when things weren't so good."

Djokovic will also return to his rightful place in the world's top 10 on Monday after arriving in London a fortnight ago ranked 21st, his lowest standing in more than a decade.