Until now, it was assumed that it only existed in films: a door that leads directly into another person’s brain. Being John MalkovichThis is the name of the work in which a puppeteer finds a way behind a cupboard to get into the head of the actor in question. Who was actually embodied by the genius John Malkovich. Thinking, feeling, feeling like a third person, that is something that, according to scientific judgment, is not practicable. All the more astonishing was what happened on the evening of July 11th in a subdued room on the grounds of a tennis club called the All England Club.
There sat a man, his eyes shining with inspiration, his body ascetic, green cap. If you thought that what had previously been seen on Center Court in front of 15,000 spectators was something special, you couldn’t stop being amazed. The man who sat there answering questions from people speaking to him from screens really did open a door. Invited the world in. To visit. In his head. Come! Discover me! Being Novak Djokovic. I will explain to you what makes the most successful professional in men’s tennis tick.
A few years ago he lost his bileiness for a while – and looked vulnerable
The journey of knowledge lasted 25 minutes. It was one of those classic tennis situations that was so much in focus at the penultimate Grand Slam tournament in Paris. The Japanese top player Naomi Osaka had named the procedure of these media rounds as one of the reasons why she had mental problems in everyday business; she then got out of the French Open. But the power of how far an opening of the soul goes, as last Sunday also showed, still lies with the professionals. There were also times, four years ago, when Djokovic was more withdrawn. At the time, the world puzzled over who this Pepe Imaz was, his whisperer who preached love and peace, apparently too much. In that phase, just after Djokovic had won four Grand Slam titles across the year, he lost the selfish galling that is needed for success.
Djokovic remained without a trophy for eight Grand Slams in a row, there was written reports about a marriage crisis, he lost weight and an elbow injury. Would he ever get stronger again? Today one has to laugh at such doubts. Since Wimbledon 2018, his record reads like a testimony to almost absurd dominance: He was in nine of twelve finals, in Melbourne, Paris, Wimbledon, New York. He won eight titles. Roger Federer last had such a yield when the Swiss won eleven Grand Slams from 2004 to 2007. Djokovic is now in his 328th week as number one in the world rankings. Record, of course.
Now, after the 6: 7 (4), 6: 4, 6: 4, 6: 3 on Sunday against the magnificent Roman Matteo Berrettini, 25, it was time for Djokovic to look back on his “incredible journey”. Not as a conclusion, just as an interim conclusion. He is on the run, how do you say. Go on, go on. Can he really do the next deed that the Australian Rod Laver did last in 1969? Win all four Grand Slams in one season? So the US Open in September? “I’ll try, of course,” he said. “I’m in great shape.” You have to give him credit for that: he doesn’t downplay his ambitions.
But how should that work with the Results. It’s all about records. Old, new, here, there. So the 17th slam title, no, 18th, stop, 19th – nonsense, now the 20th, actually for the first time on an equal footing with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who congratulated in super tiny tweets on Sunday, after all. Now everyone is talking about the 21st title, it’s crazy, this speed. Also because Djokovic has to dim down the big thoughts in between. And it has to be pragmatic that his backhand slice doesn’t fly two centimeters too far.
Being Novak Djokovic. So what does it look like when he’s alone on the pitch?
You guessed it, even on the pitch, he is constantly on his mind. And when analyzing. Multitasking in the brain. First set, he leads 5: 2, but then loses 6: 7. Disappointed? Yes, but also: “I felt relief … I just wanted the sentence to be over so I could start swinging freely through the ball and play the way I wanted to.” You have to come to that first. Only: Resistance does not block it. They do the opposite. And so it is justifiable how he constantly frees himself from dangerous situations. He is not flawless either. Sometimes his game wavers, as if he longs for resistance to bring out his best. It was not without pride that he found that his greatest strength was the ability to “deal with pressure”.
At the moment the competitors are shattered by his mental strength
In the meantime you have to diagnose a Pavlovian reflex in him, only it looks different with the world’s best tennis professional. He senses a problem, looks for a solution, accomplished. In rows it was finally to be observed again how his capable opponents shattered against him at a certain point. Especially mentally. “I’m pissed,” said Berrettini from the bottom of his heart and certainly on behalf of Stefanos Tsitsipas (French Open finalist) and Daniil Medvedev (Australian Open finalist). Even Rafael Nadal shattered on Djokovic in his favorite place in Paris in June.
It is astonishing that Djokovic by no means only lives in a tunnel during a Grand Slam. At Wimbledon he talked about his love for wolves, on other occasions his dispute with the players’ union PTPA was his topic. He often has to get rid of something. Only on the pitch, there he is more with himself than ever. And it is precisely this gift that is his path to dominance. Says himself: “It is really a constant work to try again and again to keep your thoughts only on the present moment. I feel that this takes up the greatest work for me … When you are present, experiencing things and a lot just look at, is it just a tennis match, is it just the next point, you are there – then you are able to do the best. “
Being Novak Djokovic – it’s a complex task. Goran Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon as a player in 2001 and is now a coach with Djokovic, recently said that working for the 34-year-old is exhausting. It’s always about tracking down aspects that make him better. Djokovic once swore by the perhaps somewhat obscure theory of an esoteric who believed that polluted water could be purified with thoughts. Everything is wasted. “I have probably never been as complete as now in my entire career,” said Djokovic. If you don’t believe that, you don’t even have to go into your head. The record lists speak for themselves.