Novak Djokovic nearly called time on his glittering career in his prime after two heartbreaking defeats, his wife Jelena said in a candid admission.
Djokovic is part of the ‘Big Three’ and is in consideration to finish his career as the greatest of all time despite sitting three Grand Slams behind Roger Federer (20) and two behind Rafael Nadal (19).
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But his incredible 2019 season and undefeated started to 2020 may have never happened after the World No.1 Serbian told his family he was leaving tennis a few years ago.
In 2017, Djokovic underwent surgery for a long-term elbow injury that was causing him persistent issues.
He returned after a six-month layoff but was still struggling with the injury after a Fourth Round exit at the 2018 Australian Open.
After treating the elbow again, he rushed back but experienced devastating defeats at the Indian Wells Masters and Miami Open.
This prompted Novak to break down in front of his wife after a heartbreaking admission at the age of 30.
“He said to me that he’s quitting. That’s the truth. He lost in Miami. It was a terrible loss and then he just gather at all of us and said ‘guys I am done’ and I was like what? He said yeah,” she said in an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger.
“Then he said Eduardo you can speak with my sponsors. I want to be clear with them. I don’t know if I am stopping for six months, a year, or forever. Just tell them if they feel like staying around they can. If they don’t, I’m happy. I just want to make sure everybody is okay with this,” she added.
Jelena said she didn’t feel like it was the time to quit and admitted the pair were crying over the decision.
After a short break, the Djokovic’s took a holiday and Novak watched Jelena and his children play tennis.
She said after some encouragement Djokovic picked up the racquet and once again found the love of the game playing with his family.
“He took a few balls and started serving and he was like this is not feeling bad. Then we started playing a bit. After that, he was coming every single day with us to play with the kids,” she said.
“The last day he took the shoes and properly dressed. He said I am gonna call Marian and I’m gonna ask him to come back and be my coach again. I think it was 10 days of him feeling I am not playing anymore.
“But it was that year when he had the surgery and he rushed himself to come back and he didn’t deliver with results.”
Djokovic’s incredible resurgence
Djokovic started the 2018 season ranked World No.11, but finished as World No.1.
After falling short at the French Open, Djokovic went on an incredible run and claimed both Wimbledon and the US Open to bring him to 14 Grand Slams.
He finished the season on a 50-13 winning/loss record.
Incredibly, Djokovic enjoyed an even better 2019 season and started the 2020 season with an 18-0 run before the coronavirus pandemic brought the ATP Tour to a halt.