Novak Djokovic admitted it ‘was not easy to be absent for so long’ as he spent time away from tennis with an elbow injury, but he’s looking to draw positives from the experience upon his return.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion has not competed since retiring from his Wimbledon quarter-final against Tomas Berdych after struggling with the elbow issue for some 18 months.
After withdrawing at the All England Club, Djokovic called time on his season early and couldn’t pick up a racquet for the next four-and-a-half months.
‘It’s been a really roller coaster ride for me for a year and a half with this issue,’ he told Sport 360. ‘I’ve never had surgery in my life, I’ve never had any major injuries that kept me away from the tour for such a long time. Never missed a Grand Slam in my professional career. It was a big decision, a big call to make.
‘And I could not make that call for a long time until I got to the point where the universe just sent me something, that it was inevitable for me.
‘I couldn’t play anymore, there was no choice. It was like, that’s it, you can’t lift your arm.’
The Serb has fully recovered and enjoyed a good pre-season training camp in Monte Carlo along with his new-look team.
Djokovic will now compete at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi this week as he steps up his return ahead of the Australian Open.
And while time away from tennis was tough, he believes he’s learned a lot during his period of absence.
‘I’ve learned a lesson because I really want to avoid getting to that stage of an injury ever in my career after this,’ he added. ‘And it was a great lesson to learn to be honest.
‘It was not easy for me to be absent for so long, I’m looking forward to speak to you more hopefully in the year to come,” he adds with a laugh. “But also to play tennis. And it wasn’t easy for me to watch tennis, follow it on TV.
‘I can’t wait to get back on the competition level but it was a great experience for me to have. And it was a somewhat necessary experience because I got maybe too comfortable with not having major injuries.
‘I spent a lot of time really always trying to find new ways how to get my body to a different level of recovery and performance and my mind, my brain, my eyes, everything. I try to get into sports science as much as I can, naturally but also with technologies.
‘We’re so blessed to have different ways where we can train better and harder and more efficiently. So I had this time to really dig deep into these things that kind of take my interest a little bit and it’s great to, as we’re kind of close to the season, to have more time on the court.
‘This is the first time I don’t play for four months or something, four-and-half-months. I was hitting the ball well from the first practice but the thing is that your muscles, and bone structures and ligaments and joints and everything has to get stronger and fall into place and get used to the stress of hitting the ball and all this stuff.
‘I’ve had an opportunity, for the first time ever since I started playing professional tennis, to have this much time to, first of all, relax mentally, physically, emotionally, re-calibrate, be there for my wife for the second birth, be there for our son more.
‘But also I could do other stuff. I had time to do some other stuff aside of tennis, some things that are attracting me a lot. I could dedicate my time a little bit more to my foundation, meetings and stuff like this.
‘Preparing some different projects. I found an inspiration in other things that were always on standby, and will be on standby again because of tennis, and I choose that, I’m not complaining.’
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