Coach Vajda: Champion Djokovic "was almost not ready for Wimbledon"

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Marian Vajda, Novak Djokovic's coach, was a bit surprised that his charge entered Wimbledon, even after a final-round run at the Queen's Club tune-up tournament. (Getty Images)

LONDON—After almost not playing Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic returned to a Grand Slam final at the All England Club for the first time since 2016. There, the former No. 1 defeated current No. 1 Rafael Nadal in a five-set semifinal, and then beat Kevin Anderson to win his fourth Wimbledon title and 13th Grand Slam singles title.

WATCH—Match point, as Novak Djokovic wins Wimbledon:

A few weeks ago, Djokovic said he did not know if he would play the grasscourt season. But he took a wildcard into Queen's Club and reached the final, and kept up that momentum at Wimbledon.

Djokovic's coach, Marian Vajda, said even he was a little surprised.

"No I did not expect," said Vajda to "But he found it. It was a good thing he played Queen's. Was almost not ready for Wimbledon. I was doubting a little bit, five sets, a Grand Slam is different—stamina, fitness. But he started very good."

Djokovic won his first two rounds in straight sets, and dropped just two sets to reach the semifinal. His coach saw improvements in his game during the tournament.

"Serving, [and] especially returning," Vajda said. "Before he wasn't like this. We worked on it a lot and he found it."

Djokovic, who underwent elbow surgery following the Australian Open, described his win against Nadal as one of the best matches he has played.

"The key was to stay in the match," Vajda said. "It was a long time since he played against Rafa in five sets."

Djokovic was two sets to one up when play was stopped at 11 p.m., as required by local rules. The Serb then dropped the fourth set before coming back to take an extended fifth set.

"It was a disadvantage for Novak, he started of fpace," said Vajda, who spoke to Djokovic in the morning and advised him to stick with the previous day's tactics. "He was up and down in the fifth [but] mentally great."

But the players also began and resumed play under the roof, which Vajda said was an advantage for Djokovic.

"It doesn't look like it helped Novak, because Rafa was playing good. It helped Novak a little bit more," he said. "No wind, different conditions. Novak sometimes has problems [with] the wind."

Vadja was also pleased with Djokovic's shot selection and play. "Novak used the qualities of the surface," he said, noting also that ''Rafa adapted" very effectively to the grass.

Djokovic, the No. 12 seed at Wimbledon, then beat Anderson in a match that started off comfortably but changed in the third set. The Serb won the first two sets by 6-2 scores, then saved five set points in the third set before winning in a tiebreaker.

Strokes of Genius is a world-class documentary capturing the historic 13-year rivalry between tennis icons Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It is timed for release as the anticipation crests with Roger as returning champion, 10 years after their famed 2008 Wimbledon championship – an epic match so close and so reflective of their competitive balance that, in the end, the true winner was the sport itself.


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