After Novak Djokovic finally returned to America last month with his vaccine-related ban lifted, all talk of his Wimbledon defeat was out of bounds.
Five weeks later he is leaving, with not just another US Open title in the bag, but talk that he might be around for another five years.
‘We came to Cincinnati. It was not even mentioned one time that Wimbledon,’ recounted his coach, Goran Ivanisevic. ‘When you lose it’s past. You know you can’t get it back, and that day Carlos (Alacaraz) was the better player and he won. Very simple.’
‘Novak won Cincinnati. He’s the guy who just forgetting the things and moving on. that’s why he’s so good.’
Ivanisevic has become used to the demands of his client’s perfectionism, and ventured that he might carry on until the Los Angeles Olympics of 2028.
Novak Djokovic is becoming such a repeat winner that his victory ceremonies are becoming like rituals
The Serbian firmly brushed aside his Wimbledon loss to Carlos Alcaraz with a confident win over Daniil Medvedev
Djokovic has memorised his victory speeches and expects his staff to prepare new clothing every time he wins another Grand Slam
‘He’s taking care of every single detail, it has to be perfect, prepared. He’s never happy on the court. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, not good for us,’ reflected Croatia’s one-time champion of SW19 ruefully. ‘That’s why he has unbelievable results.’
At 36 Djokovic is such a repeat winner, that certain rituals are emerging for the moment of victory. His team now have to produce an updated item of clothing to wear at the presentation ceremonies, with the latest number of his Grand Slam titles, this time 24, prominently displayed somewhere.
His post-match speech has become a boilerplate that he knows off by heart: praising his opponent before referring to his early struggles to make it in tennis and paying tribute to the sacrifices his parents made when he was young.
‘Eventually one day I will leave tennis, in about 23 or 24 years,’ said Djokovic later, presumably joking. ‘There are going to be new young players coming up. Until then, I guess you’ll see me a bit more.’
Djokovic joked he could be around for another 24 years and there is no reason why he will not win again at the Australian Open in January
In the immediate future there is little reason to see why he will not win again at his most favoured venue, Melbourne, come January. This is especially likely if the Australian Open persists with last year’s policy of continually giving him his preferred first slot in the evening schedule.
At some point age will catch up with him, but it is not as if players going deep at the US Open into their late-thirties is unprecedented. While they were in different eras, it is not entirely irrelevant that Ken Rosewall made the semi-finals in 1974 aged 39, as did Jimmy Connors at the same age in 1991.
What still separates Djokovic is his extraordinary mastery of the pressure situations. His tiebreak record this season stands at a staggering 23-2, and in Sunday night’s final he came through yet another one.
Medvedev got him to 5-5, and had he been able to choose better options and eke out that second set it might all have been different, because there were signs the older man was starting to wilt.
The 36-year-old is remarkably calm under pressure – having come through another tie-break in Sunday’s final to extend his amazing record
By the same token Djokovic was probably just a missed drive volley away from winning the Wimbledon final, on break point early in the fifth set. Even he can make mistakes on the most pivotal points, but the fact is that he does it far less often than anyone else.
It is a strange period for the men’s game, in a state of suspended animation while it awaits for Alcaraz and the twentysomethings to take advantage of a physical deterioration that has to come from Djokovic.
After an emotional reunion with his watching family the Serb also revealed another dimension that is driving him on – lifting trophies in front of his two children: ‘When I became a father it was one of my wishes, that I would live to experience winning a Slam in front of them when they are old enough to understand what’s going on. They’re both aware, I’m blessed it has happened twice this year.’