TORONTO—Novak Djokovic is back to his winning ways and is in Rio to capture a tennis prize that still eludes him.
The Serbian world No. 1 firmly put his shock third-round Wimbledon loss behind him with a dominant Rogers Cup win on July 31. Djokovic didn’t drop a set and, despite being the only representative of tennis’ “Big 4” along with Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Rafael Nadal in the event, still had to beat the game’s hottest player in Gael Monfils and Kei Nishikori, one of the principals favoured to become the next first-time grand slam winner.
It may sound strange to say but the Wimbledon loss may have been a blessing in disguise. It allowed Djokovic to recharge his batteries, spend time with his family, and begin the hardcourt season with renewed motivation.
“Everything in life happens for a reason,” said the ever-positive Djokovic about the Wimbledon loss.
And after his quarterfinal win over Tomas Berdych, Djokovic admitted, “Things are not clicking 100 percent, but, I’m moving on and hopefully it’s going to get better.”
But facing Monfils, winner in Washington the prior week and conqueror of Canada’s Milos Raonic in the Rogers Cup quarters, Djokovic played the type of tennis that won him 12 grand slams. He was simply too good for the red-hot Frenchman.
And in Sunday’s final, Djokovic made Nishikori pay dearly for his mistakes. The match might have only been in doubt for half a set when Nishikori broke Djokovic’s serve and pushed the second set to 5–5.
“The two best performances have arrived in the semifinals and finals at the right moment for me,” Djokovic said. “So that gives me a lot of confidence that I will try to carry into Rio.”
With the win, Djokovic bagged his fourth Rogers Cup and tour-leading 30th Masters 1000 title. Masters 1000 tournaments are the next most important level of tournaments after the four grand slams and are highly prized by the Serb.
Earlier this year, he captured his first French Open to complete a career grand slam. So now, along with the Cincinnati Masters 1000 title, an Olympic gold still elude the prolific Djokovic.
Djokovic’s positive attitude is a key input to his holistic view of his tennis.
He said each day is an opportunity to right the wrongs from the prior day.
“Each day is different,” he said. “The player and the person you were yesterday is no more today.”
He wasn’t surprised at how he turned his game around against Monfils after a less-than-spectacular performance against Berdych.
“I have had previously these particular situations where I wasn’t comfortable one day, but next day it feels better, because when you don’t play well and you win, it gives you a mental boost and confidence that you carry into the next day,” Djokovic said after beating Monfils.
But participating in the Olympics is not just about winning gold. One of the proudest moments for Djokovic was being Serbia’s flag-bearer at London 2012.
Djokovic has tremendous respect for the Olympics and says being there is a huge honour and privilege that he’ll cherish.
“You’re part of something much larger than just the tennis event,” Djokovic said. “I’m going to try to extract that positivity out of that huge attention and energy that will be directed into the Olympic Games.”
And the “Djoker” is not worried about health concerns or that other big names, like Raonic, have pulled out.
“I really don’t think about negative stuff and stuff that might cause a fear or concern like viruses or security issues,” Djokovic said.
“Millions of people will be there. Many other millions will watch it on the TV. That’s the kind of vibe that I feed on,” Djokovic said. “So I can’t wait to be there.”
But success in Rio could mean a title in Cincinnati may have to wait until 2017. Djokovic hinted that playing singles and doubles in Rio could be very taxing.
“I’m playing singles and doubles in Brazil and that’s a lot of matches. Let’s see how that goes and we will speak about Cincinnati later,” Djokovic said.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports