Indian Wells: Novak Djokovic leaned back in his chair in the hot sun, took a drink of water, and couldn’t stop his hands from shaking.
The world number one had just double faulted three times to lose a second-set tiebreaker to world number two Roger Federer in the Indian Wells championship game on Sunday.
“I managed to overcome the frustration of handing that tiebreak to him with three double faults in crucial moments,” said Djokovic, who went on to win the match in three sets for his 50th career singles ATP Tour title. “We are all human. We all fall under pressure.”
The Serbian tennis star and now back-to-back Indian Wells Masters champion described the victory as a roller-coaster of emotions.
It’s all in a day’s work for the world’s elite tennis players and Djokovic is no different. Against Federer he went from the shaking hands episode to smashing a racquet in anger in the third set, to the euphoria of beating his biggest rival on one of the biggest stages in tennis.
“I managed to regroup,” he said. “But that is sport. Those things happen under pressure sometimes.
“Knowing I was close to victory, making three double faults, the pressure, it was all part of it. But I managed to calm down and get calmer kind of movement in the third set.”
As for the racquet-smashing incident, he says he once again had a heart-to-heart discussion during the changeover with himself.
“When I finished with what I have done I just told myself, ‘OK, this is it. Let it go.’ Now I have to refocus and stand up in a minute and play my best.”
Djokovic said when he goes through those moments — when he really feels the pressure getting to him — he reminds himself of the bigger picture.
“I don’t think that these challenges that I go through are actually harming me or that I find that is a burden on my back,” he said. “It is a privilege because I earned it. I earned the position to be in.”
Djokovic isn’t of course the only one who battled demons in the middle of a tight match over the last two weeks in the California desert.
Italy’s defending women’s champion Flavia Pennetta almost let her emotions get the best of her in a two-hour marathon with world number two, Maria Sharapova.
After dropping the first set, Pennetta had to leave the court and go under the stands into the tunnel area where she could yell, scream and “cry” as loud as she wanted.
Pennetta came back out onto the court after her meltdown and rallied to beat Sharapova 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
– Uncertainty, insecurity –
Canada’s world number six Milos Raonic said the wave of feelings in a tennis match can be overwhelming at times but the most important thing is to not lose focus and fight through it.
“You face a lot of things before you go out on court,” Raonic said. “Yeah, you can be confident, but there is a lot of uncertainty about how things are going to play out that day.
“That uncertainty, when things aren’t going well, can cause obviously insecurities, which make all the difficult things that are going on magnified and make them seem bigger than they really are.
“There are a lot of wins that you have where, rather than joy, it feels like a good relief. Then there are a lot of wins that are the most amazing feeling.
“You have a complete range of emotions that everybody and anybody can face. It’s just how you deal with them that really makes a difference, that separates the three guys that are at the top from everybody else.” AFP