After one of the greatest seasons in tennis history, Novak Djokovic is one of 17 stars from a variety of sports who appear in the first-ever “Interview Issue” of ESPN the Magazine, on newsstands tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 2. Others include Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, auto racing’s Danica Patrick and Tony LaRussa, who announced his retirement as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals shortly after winning the World Series.
Interviewed by ESPN tennis commentator Patrick McEnroe, Djokovic discusses the little changes – giving more credence to the mental adjustments than the physical – that made all the difference in rising from a solid-yet-perennial No. 3 on the ATP Tour to winning 10 titles in 2011, including three majors. Among other topics, the world’s new top-ranked player also discusses how he felt facing double match point against Roger Federer in the US Open semifinals and what great player from the past would he most like to play.
Here is an excerpt of the interview conducted by Patrick McEnroe for ESPN.
The shot people remember most is from this year’s U.S. Open — your first match-point return against Roger Federer. What was going through your mind?
When Roger’s serving for the match at a grand slam, there is a very small chance that he’s going to let it go. But I was surprisingly relaxed. I said, “Okay, I have nothing to lose.” I stopped thinking too much about what could happen and relied on my physical and mental strength to play the right shots at the right time. I didn’t want to do what I’d done the last three, four years, where every time I got to the semifinals or the finals of a grand slam, I lose to Roger and Rafa–not because I’m playing bad, just because they are more dominant than I am mentally.
Read the entire interview on ESPN.