Sitting in his court-side seat, Novak Djokovic’s right arm seemed to spasm as he buried his face in his towel.
The 35-year-old Serbian was pushed to the physical limit by Daniil Medvedev and prevailed 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) in Turin to remain undefeated in the ATP Finals.
Inhaling deep gulps of air after some points and shaking after others, Djokovic looked to be in distress a few times.
Afterward, the five-time ATP Finals champion said it was fatigue and not illness that posed problems today.
“I was just fatigue from grueling battle,” Djokovic said. “That’s all I can say. I mean, there was no illness. There was no particular part of the body that was bothering me. It was just overall physical exhaustion from the rallies and from the length of the play.
“I had a day off between the first two matches always, so I felt fresh coming into the match. But as you always are, I was a bit more nervous and tense coming into the match against one of the top players of the world, top rivals, that Medvedev is for me in the last several years. You want to win regardless of the qualification that I already have, the elimination he has before the match. It doesn’t matter.”
When the body is weary, then the biggest battle is sometimes between the ears, Djokovic said.
“It’s really in your head. It’s really about perspective and approach and your perception of how you see things in that given moment,” Djokovic said. “Of course, when you’re going through physical struggles, it affects the game, it affects how you feel mentally, it affects your body language.
“Of course, the opponent likes seeing you down, and he’s trying to dominate in the rallies, he’s trying to get the upper hand of the match, which was kind of the situation that was happening today. But I think the biggest battle, as I’ve said before, is always the inner battle. If you manage to find yourself in that optimal state of mind and body as often as you possibly can, I feel you can extract the best and reap the best results for yourself in every moment, every point, every match.”
Five-time champion Djokovic said he’s confident he will physically recover ahead of tomorrow’s semifinals against American Taylor Fritz. Djokovic is 5-0 lifetime against ATP Finals debutant Fritz.
“I’m not the freshest guy right now talking to you as I was maybe yesterday,” Djokovic said. “I feel that every big win against one of the best players in the world, particularly Medvedev in these conditions, can only boost your confidence.
“On the physical side, I’m not worried because, I mean, worry just depletes you of the vital energy you need. If something happens tomorrow in a good or bad way, it happens and I have to deal with it then tomorrow. I’m going to do everything I possibly can today with my physio, with myself, with my team in order to get the good rest, the good recovery. I have things that have always been part of my routine. I know what I need to do.”
Photo credit: Shi Tang/Getty
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