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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Djokovic Credits Belief in Going for Shots in Victory over Nadal

Novak lifts the US Open trophy wearing a FD NY hat

If we learned anything from US Open, especially the final 3 days, you have to hit out and go for your shots to win. Stosur did it to beat Serena Williams, and Wozniacki was unable to do it and lost to Williams. Djokovic exacted revenge for last year's lost in the US Open Final by beating Rafa Nadal. Despite Rafa's efforts to impose his will on the match in the third set, Novak, as he has done all year, bounced back and played a dominant fourth set to win the US Open.

What's the secret to Djokovic's brilliance? Is it the gluten-free diet? No, I don't think that's the key. I believe it was his willingness to go for his shots under pressure. Two years in a row Djokovic saved match points against Federer by hitting a pure winner. Djokovic explained this in his post-match interview.

Q. Congratulations. Last year at this time it was obviously a different result. Was there something that triggered in your mind that moment that made you believe that a year like this was possible? And what was it? 

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, last year I played finals of US Open and I played another great match against Rafa. I had a tournament that could easily end already in the first round when I was two sets to one down and very close to losing to my countryman Troicki.

When I won that match, I overcame the challenge and I managed to come to the finals and win a great match against Roger. So I guess at this level you need those matches, those tough matches against top guys to win in order to get confidence, get self-belief on the court that you can really win majors and win the big matches.
So I guess it just clicked in my head. I think that throughout last couple of years I didn't change my game in any major way. I think most of the strokes are the same that they were in last two, three years.

It's just that I'm hitting the shots that I maybe wasn't hitting in last two, three years now. I'm going for it, I'm more aggressive, and I have just a different approach to the semifinals and finals of major events, especially when I'm playing two great champions, Rafa and Roger.

In last couple of years that wasn't the case. I was always kind of trying to wait for their mistakes or being out there and playing my best tennis and not really having the positive attitude and kind of believing that I can win.
So this has changed, I guess, and the US Open 2010 was one of the turning points in my career, definitely.

Q. Tennis on this level is played with very thin margins. Andy Murray had you down on clay; Roger had you down. What do you think makes the difference to make those margin fall on your side and not your opponent's side?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, work, I think self-belief on the court. As you said, we're all working very hard in our off seasons. We're all dedicated, especially the top players to this sport. We all want to improve. You see what Federer and Nadal have been doing the past couple of years. They've been so dominate it's incredible.

It's true, especially in the big events and matches, winner is decided by small margins, couple of points. I guess the winner is the one that believes in victory more than the other. That's all there is.

So, the take home message is be the aggressor, impose your will on the match. Make your opponent play your game, beat you when you are hitting out on the ball and going for it. Going for your shots comes down to self-belief and acceptance of if I miss and lose I will be ok with it. This is what Djokovic had to do to dominant the slams this year, and it is exactly what every player can learn and use to take their game to the next level.

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