Novak Djokovic reveals crucial lesson he learned from Roger Federer
Novak Djokovic has revealed how Roger Federer inspired and helped him learn how to organise his schedule in order to peak for the Grand Slam tournaments.
The Serbian also analysed what sets him apart from other players in the return of serve department and highlighted the balance between “speed, anticipation, and timing” as key.
Djokovic faced his great rival Federer, who retired from tennis following the 2022 Laver Cup, 50 times over a 14-year period – holding a 27-23 edge.
The 36-year-old overcame world No 3 Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the final of the 2023 US Open earlier this month to claim a fourth title at the New York major. He has now won a men’s record 24 Grand Slam titles.
The world No 1 won three of the four major tournaments this year, while also losing the Wimbledon final in five sets to Carlos Alcaraz. This is the fourth season of his career where he has secured three majors – a men’s record.
In an interview with John McEnroe for ESPN, Djokovic mentioned the role Rafael Nadal and Federer played in his career while detailing what he took from the Swiss specifically.
“Nadal and Federer, those two guys have really shaped my career, me as a player, in a great deal. One thing I learned from Federer – how to organise my schedule to be able to peak at the Grand Slams,” explained the Serbian.
“He was one of the first players to really take the scheduling, preparation to a different level. I was inspired by that and I was making notes with my team and I was taking a lot from that scheduling. And observing him and his team and how he has gone about it. So thanks Roger.”
The 36-year-old was also asked by seven-time major singles champion McEnroe what he thinks “separates him from everyone else” on his return of serve.
“I wouldn’t say there’s one thing, one secret. Obviously, dependent on the surface you’re playing, I like to change my position. But I would say if I have to highlight a few things that I’m constantly thinking about when it comes to [the] return – is the split step,” said Djokovic.
“I think the split step really determines the right timing of anticipating the opponents serve. And of course I try to do my homework before going onto the court, knowing who am I playing against, what are his patterns.
“But I think more than that, really it’s about timing because sometimes – speed goes against you in returns, if you are too quick. That’s what happens with me sometimes, right? That I want to anticipate too early, then the ball hits me and I’m not hitting it in front. So the right balance between the speed, anticipation, and the timing – makes the formula.
“When I’m facing one of the big servers, I like to back up a bit. But I think it was – as weird as this sounds – a lack of confidence in my return. (Laughs) Yeah, I know, I know. But I did have lack of confidence in my return in some periods, so then I was backing up to give myself a bit more time.”
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