Djokovic purg­ing past strug­gles

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

EAST­BOURNE, Eng­land — When No­vak Djokovic walked into Wimbledon 12 months ago, he pos­sessed all four Grand Slam tro­phies.

On Tues­day, he’ ll re­turn empty-handed.

Last year’s third-round loss to Sam Quer­rey at the All Eng­land Club was the stun­ning start of a pro­longed slump — one which Djokovic hopes he is fi­nally on the way to end­ing af­ter claim­ing his sec­ond ti­tle of the year in East­bourne on Satur­day.

Djokovic won the East­bourne In­ter­na­tional beat­ing Gael Mon­fils 6-3, 6-4 in the fi­nal, his first ti­tle since Jan­uary and his third in a year.

“It’s been a while now that I have been try­ing to find my best game and kind of con­sis­tency,” said the Serb.

“It hasn’t been the case for me in the last 12 months to win many big tour­na­ments.

“In or­der to, in a way, reach the next peak, you need to have a lit­tle drop, be­cause, you know, that’s how life kind of cir­cu­lates around, as waves go­ing up and down.”

His philo­soph­i­cal pon­der­ings have be­come more fa­mil­iar than the grit and in­ten­sity that saw him win six of the eight ma­jor ti­tles avail­able over a two-year pe­riod begin­ning at Wimbledon 2014.

Roger Fed­erer and Rafael Nadal ap­peared to have been pushed to the brink of re­tire­ment, and Andy Mur­ray to de­spair, hav­ing so of­ten been Djokovic’s prey in fi­nals.

Yet, the other three mem­bers of the Big Four, plus Stan Wawrinka, have each added a Grand Slam ti­tle in the past year, while Djokovic has been try­ing to work out what’s gone wrong.

To that end, he jet­ti­soned coach Boris Becker in De­cem­ber, and long-serv­ing mem­bers of his sup­port team in May.

Another “su­per coach” in An­dre Agassi was hired just be­fore the French Open, where Djokovic fal­tered in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

He’s since added for­mer world No 7 Mario An­cic to his team.

Nei­ther was in East­bourne, but Agassi fol­lowed Djokovic’s progress closely on tele­vi­sion, and will meet up with him in Lon­don on Sun­day.

“An­dre no­ticed that my game is go­ing in the right di­rec­tion ev­ery match, and the com­pet­i­tive spirit and fight­ing spirit is there,” Djokovic said.

“I have been in the game long enough to know what I need to do. Play­ing at Wimbledon and play­ing at any other tour­na­ment, as a mat­ter of fact, gives me a lot of joy, and I think that’s the key.”

The three-time Wimbledon winner, this year’s No 2 seed, will open against Martin Kl­izan of Slo­vakia.

MATTHEW CHILDS / REUTERS

No­vak Djokovic cel­e­brates win­ning the East­bourne In­ter­na­tional fi­nal against Gael Mon­fils on Satur­day.

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