The ability to hit the reset button to erase those painful memories of a near-miss is crucial for any great champion.
Grand slam final disappointments will often sting more than other losses. Novak Djokovic is not immune to the letdown but is adamant he starts afresh as the defending Gentlemen’s Singles champion.
The relocation across the English Channel is short, but there is still no shorter turnaround in the sport than that between the French Open and Wimbledon and no greater contrast in surfaces at the majors.
Twice – in 2006 and 2007 – Roger Federer has cast aside the letdown of falling in a Roland Garros decider to stand victorious on the final Sunday at Wimbledon only a month later.
Djokovic will attempt to do it for the second time in his career this coming fortnight. “You need to be able to reset very rapidly and get yourself a new motivation and inspire yourself to keep on going. This motivation and faith has to be even stronger than it was three weeks ago,” Djokovic said.
“I’ve been in these particular situations before. It’s brought me a lot of mental, emotional strength. Because of the matches like against Stan (Wawrinka in the French Open final), I have become stronger and I’ve learned how to grow in the process. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that again.”
A French Open title continues to elude the Serbian. Twice before it was Rafael Nadal who would deny him. Falling to Wawrinka this year though came as a bigger surprise.
“That’s the match that I wanted to win, but it didn’t happen, mostly because I lost to a better player that day,” Djokovic said. “I could only just congratulate him because he was the one that was taking his chances, stepping into the court, being brave, coming up with some incredible shots. He deserved to win. There’s no doubt about that.
“Maybe I could have done a few things differently. But it’s all behind me now. I’m experienced, and something that tennis has taught me over the years, is to move on, and to be able to do that very quickly.”
Djokovic returns to the All England Club as the top seed for the third time. Being the title favourite is par for the course for the world No.1 these days.But for the first time, his three greatest rivals – Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray – have each won a grass-court lead-up event.
“It’s not of my concern, honestly,” he said. “I just want to get myself in a best possible shape. I’m aware of the adjustment that is required movement‑wise, game‑wise, and also mentally for the grass courts coming from clay courts, playing for three months on the slowest surface where you can slide, where you have a completely different balance, different tactical approach.
“Not just Roland Garros, but all the five months of the year have been really intense for me. I played a big amount of matches. Before Roland Garros, I’ve lost only two. I had one of the best season starts in my career.
“I needed some time to just mentally recover, rest – more than physical rest, I needed that emotional, mental rest to recharge my batteries and get myself in a proper state of mind so I can start all over again.”
Whether the letdown of losing that final, in which he was a heavy favourite for the first time, remains to be seen. There was deep disappointment, sure, but as Djokovic pointed out, this one was different.
He admitted to a profound new level of mutual respect for an opponent. “I felt something I never felt before in any Grand Slam final with any of my rivals that I played against before, this connection with Stan. It was a really tough match, but when the match was over, I felt something that was very special.
“I thought we shared these unique moments on the court and we showed to the world that even if we fight for the biggest title, we still have respect for each other and appreciation,” Djokovic said. “That’s what I felt and I think people experienced that day.”
Beaten by a better player on the day, Djokovic has hit the reset button. Now it’s a matter of hitting the replay button on his 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon title runs.