Djokovic On Return To Form: 'I'm There'
Novak Djokovic was just one point away from capturing his first tour-level title in 51 weeks. Perhaps if Marin Cilic did not blast a nearly perfect serve out wide at 4-5, 30/40 in the second set of the Fever-Tree Championships final, the former World No. 1 would be celebrating his first triumph at The Queen’s Club.
But instead, it was the Croatian who enjoyed an ATP World Tour 500-level victory on Sunday. Is it disappointing for Djokovic? Sure. But the 31-year-old is happy to be near his top form once again after dealing with a right elbow injury since the end of Wimbledon last year.
“I’m there,” Djokovic said. “I think that the level of my tennis has been as good as it has been the past 12 months.”
Djokovic did not lose a set in his first four matches of the week on the London grass, including a straightforward 66-minute win against reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion and No. 2 seed Grigor Dimitrov.
“I'm really happy that I'm able to play this way coming up to Wimbledon,” Djokovic said. “This is as big of a tournament as it gets prior to Wimbledon, and I played [in the] final and almost won it. It's a great result.”
So why wasn’t the Serbian able to finish Cilic off when he led 4/1 in the second-set tie-break? What will it take to get over the proverbial hump and rejoin the winners’ circle? According to Djokovic, there’s no magical recipe.
“Our task as people is to evolve and, especially as athletes at this level, trying to understand what it takes to make that final step,” Djokovic said. “I don't think I made too many things wrong, even in these big moments, except that double fault at 4/3 in the tie-break. Other than that, I was in it, and credit to him for just going for it and playing well.”
Despite the loss, the 68-time tour-level champion has won 12 of his past 15 matches, thanks to a semi-final in Rome, quarter-final at Roland Garros and his performance at The Queen’s Club. While he has yet to capture glory this year, he is still heading in the right direction.
It’s not that long ago that Djokovic lost his opening-round encounter against Benoit Paire in Miami to suffer his first three-match losing streak since 2007.
“That was probably one of the lowest points I have had in terms of state of mind, where I was at that point, [and] also my game,” Djokovic said. “It's quite a significant difference.”
That low moment, which came just three months ago, feels like it came longer ago. Now, Djokovic will go home for a couple of days to reboot with his family, return to London, and set his sights on Wimbledon, which he has won three times. When a reporter asked, after his injury struggles in the past year, where a return to Grand Slam glory would rank among his many achievements, Djokovic could only smile.
“It's what I'm playing for.”