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Djokovic pays tribute to icon Navratilova for get­ting him back to sum­mit

Sport360 - - Atp Finals News - By Reem Abulleil @ReemAbulleil ✉

No­vak Djokovic re­vealed that a con­ver­sa­tion with Martina Navratilova – among oth­ers he had with sev­eral sport­ing leg­ends – helped him get passed the emo­tional “wall” he hit dur­ing his slump.

Djokovic, who was voted ATP Come­back Player of the Year this sea­son, climbed from 22 to No1 in the world over the past 11 months, and ended a two-year Grand Slam drought by claim­ing the Wim­ble­don and US Open crowns.

The dif­fi­cult pe­riod he went through from mid-2016 up to this year’s spring has been well-doc­u­mented but on Fri­day at his ATP Fi­nals pre-tour­na­ment press con­fer­ence, Djokovic fur­ther ex­plained how he re­gained his com­pet­i­tive edge.

“A few years ago af­ter win­ning Roland Gar­ros, hold­ing all four Slams at the same time, I was re­flect­ing on this many times be­fore, that I kind of emo­tion­ally hit a wall. I never thought that would hap­pen, that I would have a difficulty to com­pete, emo­tion­ally at a high level, and try to reen­gage my­self to per­form,” said the 31-year-old Serb.

“I’ve never lost the pas­sion for ten­nis, I en­joyed prac­tic­ing, I en­joyed play­ing, but try­ing to com­pete at that time was a struggle.

“And talk­ing with some other ten­nis and sport greats, I un­der­stand that ev­ery­one went through that kind of par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stances at cer­tain stages of their ca­reer sooner or later.

“Navratilova was ac­tu­ally very kind to me and we spent time talk­ing about that, she was re­flect­ing on that and talk­ing about how you kind of have to ex­pe­ri­ence that mo­ment in or­der to reach a new peak and to find new ways of mo­ti­vat­ing your­self and in­spir­ing your­self.”

Over the past few years, Djokovic had to tran­si­tion from be­ing a guy who lived, breathed and pri­ori­tised ten­nis above all else, to be­ing a fa­ther of two and a fam­ily man who can still com­pete and win at the high­est level in the sport.

He added: “For me when I be­came a fa­ther [for the first time] I had an amaz­ing wave of con­fi­dence and mo­ti­va­tion and I had the best sea­son of my life ar­guably in 2015 and the af­ter that ’16 was great un­til half of the year, sec­ond half was so and so and then the [el­bow] in­jury started to get worse. I thought the in­jury af­fected on the emo­tional level as well, I’m quite sure about it.

“So it took me some time to jug­gle ev­ery­thing and un­der­stand how I can find an op­ti­mal bal­ance where I can func­tion at my very pos­si­ble best as a ten­nis player and also as a hus­band and a fa­ther and I feel like in the last six months I man­aged to find that bal­ance. What will hap­pen in the fu­ture, years to come? I don’t know, I don’t have a crys­tal ball un­for­tu­nately but right now I’m just try­ing to en­joy the mo­ment.”

Djokovic has al­ready se­cured the year-end No1 rank­ing now that the bat­tle be­tween him and Rafael Nadal for the top spot is over due to the Spa­niard’s with­drawal from Lon­don.

The top seed is gun­ning for a sixth ATP Fi­nals crown, and shares a group with Alexan­der Zverev, Marin Cilic and debu­tant, John Is­ner.

Djokovic be­gins his cam­paign at the O2 Arena on Mon­day night against Is­ner.

Don’t call it a come­back: No­vak Djokovic has fought back to the top of ten­nis af­ter a dif­fi­cult 18 months.

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