Novak Djokovic made this statement on Saturday in Madrid, after his semifinal win over Kei Nishikori. What were “these things” that he had gone through, exactly? Djokovic was referring to the fact that, while serving for the match at 5-4 in the second, he had blown a 40-0 lead before bouncing back to clinch the victory in a tiebreaker a few minutes later.
“Winning against one of the top players in the world in this particular situation like I experienced,” Djokovic said, “especially in the last half hour, will definitely serve as a great confidence boost and incentive for tomorrow.”
Djokovic obviously knows himself well. On Sunday, in the final against Andy Murray, he again struggled with a lead, and again bounced back to win anyway, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. In retrospect, it’s enough to make you wonder whether, in his first full week of the clay-court season, Djokovic intentionally tried to make himself go through as many of “these things”—i.e., pressure moments—as he could to prepare himself for the greater pressure that’s still to come.
In reality, of course, this is just how Djokovic goes about his business. He’s the master of the detour, of the circle route, of taking the long way to the front door. Djokovic’s wins over Nishikori and Murray, like so many of his wins, weren’t straightforward, but they were never really in doubt, either. In both cases, Djokovic had to battle both his opponent and his own nerves, which suddenly rose up to grip him when he served for the match. As he said, going through that battle against Nishikori on Saturday helped him do it again at the end of his match against Murray on Sunday.