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Djokovic: 'I Stepped It Up. I Matured'

ESPN the Magazine

Djokovic© AFP/Getty ImagesDjokovic reflects on his first match-point return against Roger Federer at this year's US Open.

Leading American sports publication ESPN the Magazine has published their first "Interview Issue" and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is among the 17 stars included in the debut edition. Below is an excerpt of  Djokovic's interview with ESPN tennis analyst Patrick McEnroe.

People ask me, "What's been the difference for Novak? The serve? The forehand?"
It's true that I have improved but by a very small percentage. It's the same game I've had the last couple of years; it's my mental approach on the court that's changed. That was the difference. I stepped it up. I matured and said, "It's my time. I can do it. I can win major titles." I think luck falls on not just the brave but also the ones who believe they belong there.

You had some difficulties with your serve last year. How were you able to get through that?
Everybody could see that I changed my service motion, and my shoulder suffered a bit. In 2009 and the start of 2010, I played nearly 100 matches, the most in my career, and that's one reason my shoulder suffered. It got tired and heavy. I started feeling in practices that I really didn't feel comfortable with my serve, and then I tried to compensate with other muscles. But it just turned around. In six months I came back, got back my old service motion, and it was just something that came automatically. I was saying, "It's not me intentionally." In the next six months of 2010, starting around the U.S. Open, I felt my serve was getting back. Reaching the finals was a springboard. That moment was a turning point.

The shot people remember most is from this year's U.S. Open -- your first match-point return against Roger Federer. What was going through your mind?
When Roger's serving for the match at a grand slam, there is a very small chance that he's going to let it go. But I was surprisingly relaxed. I said, "Okay, I have nothing to lose." I stopped thinking too much about what could happen and relied on my physical and mental strength to play the right shots at the right time. I didn't want to do what I'd done the last three, four years, where every time I got to the semifinals or the finals of a grand slam, I lose to Roger and Rafa--not because I'm playing bad, just because they are more dominant than I am mentally.

Text reproduced with permission from ESPN the Magazine. This interview originally ran in print, in the debut "Interview Issue", which hit newstands on 2 December 2011.

Click here to read the full interview

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