Novak Djokovic has chosen a philosophical approach to dealing with his perplexing second half of 2016 that saw him lose his No1 spot to Andy Murray as the Serb insists his mini-slump was a blessing in disguise.
The world No2 returns to action on Monday at the Qatar Open in Doha, where he kicks off his title defence against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.
A serene-looking Djokovic addressed the media at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on Sunday, happy to reflect on the year gone by, and eager to get the new season started.
By his own stratospheric standards, the second half of 2016 was not a good one for Djokovic, even though he won Toronto, made the US Open final and reached the title match of the ATP World Tour Finals. The 29-year-old let an 8,000+ points lead slip from June until the end of the year to surrender his top ranking to his rival Murray.
The 12-time major champion is certain that has only fueled his hunger for success in 2017.
“I don’t see the second six months of 2016 as a failure or anything like that. It’s not in my mindset, I guess, in my philosophy of life to observe things in this way. That I didn’t succeed; that I failed; that I’ve fallen or something like that,” said Djokovic.
“I just feel like every experience is a blessing one way or another.
“I felt like the second six months of the year were very valuable, because I was always saying that you can learn a lot more from your lost tennis matches. Then you can really sit down, dig deep, and really figure out what are the things that you can do better.
“So that’s how I felt. I definitely don’t see it as an unsuccessful year. I don’t see it as a crisis. I don’t see it as any of that.
“I actually see it as a great, I would say incentive, challenge, experience that has helped me to rise and hopefully get even stronger, get even better, and keep going.”
Djokovic has placed special emphasis on meditation in recent years in order to deal with the pressures of being a dominant force in tennis.
It seems he is also opting for a lighter schedule in the first part of the season, with only Doha, Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami confirmed so far on his calendar. That means he can spend a period of 40 days or more without hitting a ball in a competitive match between Melbourne and Indian Wells, with Dubai being a notable fixture missing from his schedule.
There is a possibility that he might play Davis Cup in February, post-Australian Open, and he could ask for a wildcard for Dubai but he said it all depends on how he feels “physically, emotionally, mentally”.
“In the end of the day, it’s my choice to play this sport. It’s my choice to be out there. To stay hungry and really want to push more, but hungry in a way to really see and to feel and to understand how far I can go, what are my capabilities,” he added.
Djokovic caught me sprinting to catch Safwat's last game. When he found out y I was excited, he started chanting "yalla Safwat yalla Egypt"?— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) January 1, 2017
“Because I don’t believe in limits in life, in general. I like to keep pushing forward as long as I have the drive, which of course comes from the love and passion for this sport.
“That’s I guess the whole point of it.”
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