- Clive Mason/Getty
- Novak Djokovic had a bounce-back season in 2018 after two down years.
- Djokovic, 32, told Business Insider that he learned lessons from Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, two older players who remain on top, despite their ages.
- Djokovic credited Federer for teaching him how to manage the tournament schedule and said Nadal’s competitiveness and work ethic inspire him.
Novak Djokovic is undergoing a career resurgence.
In 2018, Djokovic came out of a years-long slump in which he dealt with injuries and off-court changes. Once the most dominant player in tennis, Djokovic suddenly looked lost in 2016 and 2017, and some started to wonder if his peak was already over.
At 32, if Djokovic wants to peel off another run of titles, he can look at his two biggest rivals who have managed to stay on top late in their careers – Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
While speaking to Business Insider from the ASICS store in New York City, Djokovic said he took some lessons from his counterparts.
“Federer has always had a great way of dealing with the schedule,” Djokovic said. “I think in terms of scheduling, I’ve learned a lot from him, in terms of how to pick certain tournaments and peak at the right time so you can perform your best when it’s most needed, the most important events.”
In recent years, Federer has skipped clay season to preserve his body for other tournaments. At 37, it’s been beneficial for Federer to use that time to restore himself. He did play in the French Open in 2019, but lost to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
Some in the tennis world haven’t been fans of Federer’s decision to pick and choose tournaments. Nadal appeared to jab Federer in early 2017 when he said he couldn’t imagine skipping tournaments.
“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because [they are] tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said, adding: Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me[(it] is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard [courts]. (It) is not in my plan.”
That relentlessness and competitive spirit is something Djokovic has taken from Nadal.
“Nadal’s commitment to practice and to work day in and day out and his never-die spirit is something that is also very important,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic made several adjustments to his game and life. He eventually had to get elbow surgery after playing through pain for months. But before doing so, he changed rackets, he tweaked his serve, he began working with a new team, and he took up meditation in hopes of remaining calmer on the court. All of the adjustments are working so far.
This story was originally published in 2018.