Novak Djokovic revealed Sunday that the thought of his son seeing him win a Grand Slam title for the first time inspired him to his fourth triumph at the All England Club and 13th crown at the majors.
Written off as a spent force – and even doubting his own famed powers of recovery – after seeing his world ranking slump to its lowest in 12 years, Djokovic swept past a weary Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) in the final, adding the 2018 title to his wins in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
His crowning moment, however, was seeing three-year-old son Stefan watch the trophy ceremony from up in the players box in the arms of his mother Jelena.
“Actually, I didn’t talk about it, but it was the biggest motivation I’ve had for this Wimbledon this year,” said the 31-year-old Serb whose win will see him return to the top 10 in the world.
“I was imagining this moment of him coming to the stands, cherishing this moment with my wife and me and everyone.
“I never had him in the box watching the tennis match. I was hoping that Wimbledon can be that tournament because he’s big enough now I think to stay quiet maybe for 30 minutes or so.”
Stefan was not allowed to watch the match itself from courtside as All England Club rules ban under-fives.
But Djokovic had already introduced the toddler around the grounds, even hitting with him in practice.
“He was by far the best sparring partner I had in the last couple of weeks,” joked the champion.
Sunday’s triumph was Djokovic’s first at the majors since the 2016 French Open when he secured the career Grand Slam.
It was his first Slam final since finishing runner-up at the 2016 US Open.
Twelve months ago, his Wimbledon ended in the quarter-finals when an elbow injury forced him to retire against Tomas Berdych.
He didn’t play again in 2017 and underwent surgery before admitting Sunday that he probably returned to action too soon.
His struggles on the court saw a fourth round exit at the Australian Open at the hands of Hyeon Chung, then ranked at 58.
Taro Daniel, the 109-ranked Japanese player, stunned in him in Indian Wells before Benoit Paire, at 47 in the rankings, knocked him out in Miami.
In what was becoming a familiar tale, Martin Klizan, at 140, ousted him in Barcelona before a shocking quarter-final loss to world number 72 Marco Cecchinato at Roland Garros even prompted a threat not to play Wimbledon.
- ‘Long journey’ -
“It was a long journey, especially considering that the elbow injury took me out from the tour for six months,” he said.
“But I got back to the court too fast. I wasn’t ready to compete.”
“I did not expect to be back in the top shape at Wimbledon so quickly. If you asked me after Roland Garros, I would probably maybe doubt that.”
Djokovic believes his five-set semi-final victory over old rival Rafael Nadal, a match which lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes and was the fifth longest ever at Wimbledon, gave him the belief that this could be his year.
It took his record over the Spaniard to 27-25 in their 12-year rivalry.
“I proved something to myself,” said Djokovic, the lowest-ranked champion at Wimbledon since Goran Ivanisevic in 2001.
“Playing against Nadal in the semi-finals here was the biggest test that I could have specifically for that, just to see whether I can prevail.
“That’s why I spend a lot of energy and I put a lot of effort to win that match.”
Djokovic also admitted that Sunday’s victory was on a par with his first Wimbledon crown in 2011 which paved the way for him to become world number one for the first time.
“I dreamed of winning it when I was a seven-year-old boy. I made a lot of improvised Wimbledon trophies from different materials.
“If I can pick one, that would be probably the first one and this year’s winning because my son was at the trophy ceremony, which made it extra special.”
(With AFP inputs)