Novak Djokovic says a five-day hike in the mountains with his wife transformed a season that has brought back-to-back Grand Slam titles.
The Serb added the US Open crown to his Wimbledon trophy with a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 victory over Juan Martin del Potro.
After a shock defeat by world number 72 Marco Cecchinato in the French Open quarter-finals in June, Djokovic went trekking and took stock on a peak.
“We sat down and we just looked at the world from that perspective,” he said.
“I breathed in the new inspiration, new motivation. I thought of tennis, thought of the emotion that tennis provokes in me.
“It was all positives. I just felt like I had a new breath for this sport.
“The rest is history in terms of results. I played finals of Queen’s, won Wimbledon, won Cincinnati, and won US Open. I guess we’ll be hiking some more very soon.”
Djokovic, who climbed Mont Sainte-Victoire in the south of France with wife Jelena, added: “I strongly recommend you to climb it. Some great things will happen in your life.”
Sunday’s win at Flushing Meadows in New York meant Djokovic, 31, moved level with American great Pete Sampras’ tally of 14 Grand Slam titles, a feat he described as “truly incredible”.
Only Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (17) have claimed more.
“There is a lot of significance of me being now shoulder to shoulder with Sampras,” Djokovic said.
“The first thing I saw related to tennis on the TV was his first or second Wimbledon championship. That inspired me to start playing tennis.”
Sampras won his titles, which included a then record seven Wimbledon triumphs, between 1990 and 2002.
Sampras beat Australian Roy Emerson’s 33-year record of 13 titles by winning Wimbledon in 2000, and extended it by winning the 2002 US Open – the final tournament of his career.
“I grew up playing and thinking that one day I’ll be able to do what he does,” former world number one Djokovic said.
“To actually be here, it’s a dream come true.”
Federer broke Sampras’ record at Wimbledon in 2009, with Nadal also surpassing the American with victory at the 2017 French Open.
Djokovic said he owes his own success to the rivalries which he has developed with 37-year-old Federer and 32-year-old Nadal over the past decade.
“Maybe 10 years ago I would say I’m not so happy to be part of this era with Nadal and Federer. Actually today I am. I really am,” he said.
“The rivalries with these guys, the matches with Federer and Nadal, have shaped me into the player I am today.
“We have pushed each other to the limit every time we get to play each other.”
|Most Grand Slam titles – men’s singles|
|14||Pete Sampras, Novak Djokovic|
‘Winning Wimbledon and US Open hard to believe’
Djokovic had dropped to 22nd in the world rankings earlier this year after needing surgery in January to fix a long-standing elbow injury, a problem which ruled him out of last year’s US Open.
He also said he suffered personal issues in 2017, both key factors as he was unable to reach a semi-final in seven consecutive Grand Slams until his Wimbledon victory.
He won in Cincinnati in August to become the first player to win all nine Masters 1000 tournaments on the ATP Tour.
“If you told me in February this year when I got the surgery that I’ll win Wimbledon, US Open, and Cincinnati, it would be hard to believe,” he said.
“But at the same time there was always part of me that imagined and believed and hoped that I can get back on the desired level of tennis very soon.
“Life showed me that it takes time for good things; it takes time to really build them. The last two months have been terrific.
“I feel like I’m on a whole new level. Winning Wimbledon and US Open is hard to believe.”