Djokovic: "One Of The Most Special Moments In My Career"
It is undoubtedly one of the most impressive accomplishments in all of professional tennis. Where many players would dream of lifting one ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy, Novak Djokovic now has a piece of silverware from all nine.
Nine different cities, nine different court conditions, nine different world-class draws to navigate. After falling in five previous finals at the Western & Southern Open, the Serbian was at a loss for words when describing the impact of the moment.
"Definitely one of the most special moments in my career," Djokovic told the assembled media in Cincinnati. "Achievements, making history in the sport that I truly love is a great privilege and honour and something that I'll be very proud of for the rest of my life.
"I was saying previously that during this week this trophy has been a motivation. A big motivation for me. But at the same time I tried not to think about the pressure of really making history too much, because I have had already some failed attempts.
"Coming into today's match, it wasn't easy psychologically because I knew I lost to him every time I played him on this court. But at the same time, I liked my chances because I felt better and better as the tournament was progressing. It was by far the best performance of the week."
Djokovic was a demon throughout his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Roger Federer on Sunday, dismissing the seven-time champion in one hour and 24 minutes. While Federer struggled to find his rhythm off the ground and on return, Djokovic did not lift his foot off the gas, refusing to concede an inch from the baseline.
The triumph carried added significance for the Serbian, who overturned a handful of streaks with his long-awaited victory. Not only had he entered the match having lost five previous finals in Cincinnati, including three to Federer (2009, 2012 and 2015). Djokovic also stopped the Swiss in extending his perfect 7-0 mark in finals at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Despite having met on 46 previous occasions, second-most in the Open Era, it was their first encounter in more than two years, and the Serbian admits that he had a clean slate in his mind. There were no secrets on the court, but as Djokovic says, it was a 'strange' feeling.
Novak's Masters 1000 Title Haul
|Tournament||No. of Titles|
"For me it was fresh because it's the first time that I won this trophy and against him here. It's a pleasure to share the court with him, with the all-time great and I truly mean that. With him, with Nadal, these guys have been such an integral, important part of my life and my career and my evolution as a tennis player.
"They make me play my best tennis. They make me improve. They made me think about what I need to do in order to try to be the best player in the world. Having not played Roger for over two years was really strange, to be honest. I thought that we haven't played for maybe a year or something like that, but then I remembered that actually the last time was in Australia. Was quite a long time ago, which is unusual, because we got to play so many times over the decade."
Djokovic will next head to New York for the US Open, where he enters as one of the favourites to lift the trophy. The Serbian, who had lost six of nine matches upon return from elbow surgery in March, has flipped the switch as the year has progressed.
Now one of the hottest players on the planet, Djokovic holds a 19-2 record since the start of the grass season, including a title at Wimbledon and runner-up finish at The Queen's Club. Even despite succumbing to Stefanos Tsitsipas last week in Toronto, he was confident that he could finally emerge victorious in Cincinnati.
"Coming in this year, obviously the Wimbledon win made things quite different for me in terms of approach to both Toronto and Cincinnati. I felt more confident on the court. I felt I just needed to get a few more matches. I haven't played really very well in Toronto, but I felt if I got two or three matches under my belt, then things will start to work better than as they did in the past. And having that experience obviously helps to have that self-belief and the right approach.
"I'm pleased and proud and very satisfied. Just filled with great emotions. I tried for five times. I didn't succeed. I kept on coming here and I felt, to be honest, more pressure every time that I kept coming. It's very fulfilling. It's hard to compare."