‘I played tennis against Novak Djokovic and now I understand what he does to opponents’

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Novak Djokovic‘s long unbeaten run at Wimbledon continued on Tuesday, with the Serbian surviving an early scare to win in four sets against Andrey Rublev.

Before the meeting, Djokovic was coming off four successive singles crowns at SW19.

His exit in 2017 came when he was forced to stop early due to injury, which means you have to go back to 2016 for the last time he lost three sets against one opponent at the London grand slam.

Tom Victor of Mirror Sports has relived his game-time with the tennis superstar as he gleaned from his expertise:

If you watched Carlos Alcaraz’s struggles at the French Open, you’d have seen how tough it is to play against the Serbian star. And if that wasn’t enough Mirror Sport got a feel for just what it takes to stay in a rally with him for just a matter of seconds.

In the days before Djokovic began this year’s title defence against Pedro Cachin, he stopped by at ASICS’ House of Tennis.

A pop-up inside someone’s literal house, just a stone’s throw from the All England Club, it is being used by ASICS’ athletes to relax during the tournament, but also provided a chance for members of the media to hone their own game before the inevitable Wimbledon-inspired bookings on neighbourhood courts are made.

On a personal level, the timing was ideal. I had a court booked on the Saturday – my first (extremely low-level) game in years, so anything to iron out some kinks was welcome.

ASICS’ name comes from the Latin for ‘sound mind, sound body’, meaning there were mental warm-ups as well as physical ones. If your first thought was ‘what, like group meditation sessions?’ then you’re spot on.

‘While there, I interviewed two of the brand’s other ambassadors, Belinda Bencic and Harriet Dart, ahead of their appearances in the women’s singles draw,’ Tom said.

Then came the physical exertions, with the kind of running drills that will instantly take you back to year 10 P.E., followed by volleying practice where the standard was mostly what you’d expect from a group of people who spend most days sat behind a desk (with apologies to any fellow journalists reading this).

As we hit balls against a wall with tennis markings painted on, the sound of cameras flashing finally begins to drown out my internal monologue.

Djokovic has arrived, and he’s asking if he can join in.How hard can it be, right? He’s coming in cold while we’ve been practicing for at least four minutes. And besides, he’s only world number two now. Piece of cake.

Naturally, I do what anyone would do in the situation: I forget everything I’ve just been taught when it comes to racquet handling, technique and foot movement – in fact, I probably forget years’ worth of knowledge, never to be regained.

Suddenly it’s easy to see why so many crumble to dust against Djokovic. He doesn’t miss, and when your opponent doesn’t miss it becomes hard to stay hopeful.

Then comes the aura of Djokovic. Regardless of your personal opinions of the man with a record 23 grand slams, you can’t deny he has the kind of tan it’s impossible for most people to achieve.

Oh, and also he’s quite good at what he does for a living.

At this point you’re probably wondering how many balls I got back. To which I will say 1) that’s a bit of a personal question and 2) at least I didn’t drop the racquet.

After the session, which I think left me with an official ATP ranking by association (ed. – we’ve checked and it didn’t), Djokovic was presented with special customised shoes to mark his 23-slam record.

It was suggested the shoes didn’t bear the number 23 because it will be 24 in a couple of weeks, and it felt like that wasn’t really a joke.

Djokovic then shed some light on his training methods. You know, the ones which have led him to destroy some of the world’s best players. Less than a fortnight later, he would have worked his way into the Wimbledon semi-finals after dropping just two sets along the way.

‘In individual sports in particular, you’re by yourself on the court so you don’t have anybody to rely on. If things go south, you have no substitution,’ Djokovic says in a discussion with former Grand Slam finalist Alex Corretja, with the pair standing in front of the practice wall where he has embarrassed so many of us.

‘I feel that half of the work is already done before you step out on the court.

‘If you fail to prepare, it’s going to be a much more difficult mountain to climb on the court for you to actually succeed and win a tennis match. Tennis is not a sprint, it’s a marathon as well.

‘For one to understand that, you need to have a long term and short term strategy. For me, at this stage of my career, it’s about titles. This allows me to sustain the level of pressure, tension and intensity, be it physical, mental or emotional, throughout the entire two weeks.’

So there’s the secret. A lifetime of preparation, proper diet and the mentality to win. Sounds easy when you write it down.

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Ola Alabi
Ola Moses is a certified writer, He writes technically and creatively. He is the CEO of WORDSWORTH, a house where writing is made easier for all. He is a content creator at EsB TV, since 2019. He is a young man that showcases professionalism in all that he does, he was announced as Child and Green Foundation Person of the Year 2018, one of his many lists of honours.

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