Novak Djokovic admits he’s had a tough time but is sure he can get back to the top

Novak Djokovic only has his eyes set on getting back to the very top of the game.
Updated 02 May 2018
0

Novak Djokovic admits he’s had a tough time but is sure he can get back to the top

  • Super Serb has been struggling since elbow injury ended his 2017 season last July.
  • Is without a title for nearly a year, but is sure he can deal an ace to his faulty form.

Novak Djokovic admitted his confidence had been rocked by a string of poor results after a premature return from elbow surgery but the former world No. 1 vowed to work hard to get back to winning ways.
Having exchanged a few shots with a young prospect after an intense training session in searing heat at his own tennis complex in central Belgrade, the 30-year old Serb conceded that the last 18 months have been testing.
“I have always believed in myself and that’s why I was able to make all my childhood dreams come true, but right now my confidence is not at the highest level,” he said.
“That’s not surprising given the lack of results and all I can do is knuckle down to hard work to restore it. A few good matches and one good tournament and it will come back.”
Djokovic’s slump began after he won his maiden French Open title in June 2016 to complete a career Grand Slam and amass 12 major titles.
A string of below-par performances were followed by Djokovic having to retire against Czech Tomas Berdych in last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals with an elbow injury which kept him sidelined until January’s Australian Open.
After a last-16 defeat by South Korean unknown Hyeon Chung in Melbourne, Djokovic had another spell on the sidelines following elbow surgery and said he had come back too early because he was hungry to play again.

EARLY EXITS

Since returning he has suffered early exits in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Miami and Indian Wells.
“That was my decision because I missed playing tennis so much but I was not ready and it backfired,” he said.
“After everything I have been through in the past year or so, I have had to lower my expectations but my motivation and my ambitions remain unchanged.
“After this year’s Australian Open I wasn’t sure whether I’d have elbow surgery or not. I was reluctant but then I realized it was the best long-term solution.
“The recent results have not been what we are used to but coming back is a process and all I can do now is knuckle down to some hard work.
“I have had some similar situations in the past but not one quite as challenging as this, so I have to accept it as part of a learning process.”
Judging by the ferocity of his shots in training and the vehement exchange of instructions with his coaching staff, Djokovic, currently the world No. 12, is determined to break back into the top echelon of the men’s game.
Mobbed by primary school children as he posed with them for photos after the claycourt practice session, Djokovic cut a relaxed and confident figure ahead of upcoming tournaments.
He also rubbished suggestions made by several local nutritionists, who were quoted by Belgrade media in recent weeks, that his meat-free diet was hampering his fitness.
“I don’t want to elaborate because people have been twisting facts in the past two years and all I’ll say is that I reckon I know what’s best for me as an athlete and a person,” he said.
“It doesn’t affect me what people say, but it does affect those who are close to me.”


‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

The podium for the Athletics Mens 200m: Haruto Deguchi JPN (centre, Gold Medalist), Daniel Huller HUN (left, Silver Medalist) and Mohammed Duhaim M Almuawi KSA (right, Bronze Medalist) at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park. The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday 16th October 2018. Photo: Ivo Gonzalez for OIS/IOC. (Handout image supplied by OIS/IOC)
Updated 17 October 2018
0

‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

  • Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12

BUENOS AIRES: With his bag packed and preparing to leave the Youth Olympic Park one last time on Tuesday night, Mohammed Al-Muawi was called back to the scene of the 400-metres Hurdles event, in which he had just finished fourth overall. With doping officials thronged at the entrance, he assumed he must have been randomly selected for testing. Instead, he got the news he will now never forget.

The 17-year-old Saudi is an Olympic bronze medallist.

“Man, I was so surprised to find out,” he told Arab News after being promoted onto the podium after South Africa’s Lindukhule Gora was disqualified. “It was my first competition and my first medal, so it’s amazing. This here means everything to me. When I finished the race, I was like ‘OK, fourth is OK’. I put my clothes back on and got ready to leave, but then they told me: ‘Come back, come back! You have a bronze medal!’ I was like, ‘What? How is that even possible?’”

Under a blistering sun and having led for much of the first 300m, Al-Muawi tired as the home straight loomed, crossing the finish-line fifth with a time of 53.05s. With Gora being disqualified for stepping out of his lane, however, Al-Muawi was immediately pushed up a place. Then, having bettered France’s Martin Fraysse’s time in the first-stage heat, it came down to the calculator.

Al-Muawi was 0.37s faster than Fraysse in the first heat, while Fraysse finished the second just 0.33s ahead. The result: the Asian Youth Championships silver-medallist posted a combined time of 1.45.81, making him the third quickest across a field of continental winners, beating Fraysse by just 0.04s.

“It's confusing for sure, but across the two heats, I was second and fourth, so I feel third is deserved," he said, looking down and caressing the bronze medal hanging from his neck. "It was a very strong field in the final. I started well, but the last 100m or so was very tiring and I was unable to really open my legs. It’s been an amazing experience though. Wow. I love the competition, the village, eating the different foods…it’s been unforgettable. And this just tops it all off.”

Al-Muawi splits his time between schooling in Bisha in the south of the Kingdom and training in Los Angeles, California, with World Championships silver-medallist Ryan Wilson. Saudi athletics delegation head, Saad Al-Asmari — himself a former 3000m Asian champion — expects this to be the start of more success not only for Al-Muawi but for Saudi athletics.

“Mohammed did very well,” said Al-Asmari. “He ran very well and it was only in the final 100 metres he had some problems. This result is very good for him and I’m very happy because he is only 17. Also, we have many other talents like this in Saudi Arabia. We have many athletes, but we need good coaching.

“Mohammed has been training since May in LA, which is where we send all our best athletes. When they come back, we always notice little differences: their body shape changes, their technique, endurance, everything.”

Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12. He will head home to Bisha now to spend time with his family and continue his studies for two months before returning to LA to prepare for next year’s Asian Championships. The most important lesson he has learnt from Wilson in the United States is not physical, but rather psychological, he said.

“It’s has been a great experience for me over there so far,” he added, his English having improved considerably since his switch. “My coach there has shown support throughout, always telling me that I can do it. Always urging me to never give up. He tells me that before every competition I must tell myself: ‘I am hungry’. He tells me always that I’m a different breed too, so I guess I then begin to believe it — yes, I am a different breed."