Tennis

Djokovic draws strength from injury hell

Serb says six-month absence teaches him not to take career for granted

Former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic admitted that his six-month absence from tennis has taught him never to take his career for granted, describing his injury agony as a "roller-coaster ride".

The 30-year-old Serb has not played since Wimbledon in July when a long-standing elbow injury forced him to shut down his 2017 season.

As a consequence, the 12-time Major winner saw his world ranking slip to 12th, his lowest place in 10 years.

"It's been a real roller-coaster ride for me for a year-and-a-half with this issue. I've never had surgery in my life, I've never had any major injuries that kept me away from the Tour for such a long time," Djokovic told Sport360 in Abu Dhabi.

"I never missed a Grand Slam in my career. It was a big decision, a big call to make. I couldn't play anymore, there was no choice. It was like, that's it, you can't lift your arm."

Djokovic will return to the court in Abu Dhabi at the pre-season Mubadala World Championship which runs from Dec 28-30.

He is then due to kick-off his competitive season as top seed at the Qatar Open next week before launching a bid for a seventh Australian Open crown, reported AFP.

Having added mercurial former Tour player Radek Stepanek to a coaching team spearheaded by Andre Agassi, Djokovic only started hitting again in Monaco four weeks ago.

"I've learnt a lesson because I really want to avoid getting to that stage of an injury ever in my career after this," Djokovic added.

"And it was a great lesson to learn to be honest. It was not easy for me to be absent for so long.

"I can't wait to get back on the competition level but it was a great experience for me to have.

"And it was a somewhat necessary experience because I got maybe too comfortable with not having major injuries."

In the interview with Sport360, Djokovic also expressed optimism about his return.

The success of veterans Roger Federer, 36, and Rafael Nadal, 31, last season, he said, is ample proof that he can still get back to the top.

Federer and Nadal defied time to sweep the Grand Slams in 2017. Spaniard Nadal ended his campaign as the world No. 1 while Swiss Federer finished second.

Said Djokovic: "My general goals in tennis and life is to really enjoy what I do and that's what drives me still.

"That's what drives Roger (Federer) by the way. I mean you saw what he has done in the last year after coming back from a six-month, similar to me, absence from the Tour and coming back and almost becoming No. 1 and Rafa is world No. 1. That's proof that you can do it.

"It doesn't matter the age or not, if you take care of your body, your body's kind of reversing that age clock and your mind as well, if you have that kind of spirit of a child enjoying what it does then you get energy. You get energy from above, I believe in it, I strongly do."

Tennis