World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has revealed he thought of quitting tennis a decade ago following a crushing loss at…
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has revealed he thought of quitting tennis a decade ago following a crushing loss at Roland Garros to Jurgen Melzer.
Djokovic lifted his maiden Grand Slam title in 2008 and was tipped for swift further success, but instead the Serbian struggled to transition consistently to the top of the game, while he also experienced considerable trouble with his serve and fitness.
After bowing out to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open quarter-finals at the start of the 2010 season, telling the umpire he was about to vomit midway through the defeat, Djokovic suffered one of the most demoralising defeats of his career at the French Open, blowing a two-set lead in the quarter-finals to go down against Jurgen Melzer – the Austrian left-hander who had never been beyond the third round of a Grand Slam before that tournament.
It was the first time in his career that Djokovic had lost from a two-set advantage and yet another defeat in a marathon encounter, with the quarter-final lasting four hours and 15 minutes.
“I cried after this knockout,” Djokovic told Sky Sports Italia in a translated interview. “It was a bad moment, I wanted to leave tennis because I saw everything black.”
“It was a transformation. Because after that defeat, I freed myself.”
Djokovic did indeed turn his career around after that loss. Splitting with coach Todd Martin and reuniting with long-term mentor Marian Vajda, Djokovic ended 2010 on the highest of highs as he led Serbia to their first ever Davis Cup victory, before embarking on his extraordinary 2011 season, where he won 10 titles – including the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open, along with a record-breaking five Masters 1000 crowns.
It was a season so incredible that Pete Sampras called it the best he had ever seen in his lifetime, while Boris Becker branded it as ‘one of the best years in tennis of all time’.
Adopting a new gluten-free diet to combat his previous physical struggles, Djokovic also reversed his head-to-head records against his biggest rivals: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
As of June 2010, Djokovic was 7-14 against Nadal and 5-9 against Federer, while he was a combined 1-8 vs the pair in Grand Slams.
Fast forward to today, and the dominant World No. 1 leads Nadal 29-26 and Federer 27-23 and hasn’t lost against either at a major tournament since the 2014 French Open.
“I knew I could do more, but I lost the most important games against Federer and Nadal,” Djokovic said. “From that moment [in Paris], I took the pressure off. I started playing more aggressively. Here was the turning point.”
Djokovic beat Federer again en route to his 17th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January and was a flawless 18-0 for 2020 before play was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.