Djokovic & The Art Of Mindfulness

For the past two years, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has been nigh on untouchable on the ATP World Tour, with the Serb himself saying, “I’ve been playing the best tennis of my life.”

The signs of Djokovic’s impending domination came in 2011 when, on the back of a historic Davis Cup triumph for Serbia, Djokovic went on a 41-match winning streak, taking in seven titles, before being halted by Roger Federer in the Roland Garros semi-finals.

It was the best streak to begin a season since John McEnroe’s 42-match run in 1984 and, from there, Djokovic has gone from strength to strength. The Belgrade native has more than double the amount of points as his closest rival in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Andy Murray, and was only denied the feat of the calendar Grand Slam in 2015 by an inspired performance from Stan Wawrinka in the Roland Garros final.

Indeed, after three runner-up finishes, Roland Garros is the one trophy yet to adorn Djokovic’s collection. But the Serb insists that success in Paris is not an obsession as he works his way through the European clay-court swing, which culminates at the second Grand Slam of the season in May.

Instead, speaking at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Sunday, the 28 year old explained that it his belief in the power of the mind and holistic approach to both tennis and life that enables him to produce his highest level so consistently and absorb the relentless pressure at the top of the game.

“I believe in the power of the mind, very much so,” said the Serb on the eve of his campaign for a third title at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. “If we all trained our minds as much as we are training our muscles and physical body, I think we would achieve and maximise our potential. We don’t know how much we can really achieve until we have this kind of mindset of wanting always to evolve and improve.

“I believe in the power of the mind and visualisation, which is a big part of my everyday life. I know I cannot influence physically the next day or what’s going to happen in the next weeks or months. But I can send good vibes to the future and then do everything in my power to get myself prepared. Then, when the time comes, I’ll try to seize the opportunity.

“It’s mindfulness, this kind of holistic approach in life that allows me to maximise my potential as a human being, from every aspect of my being, not just physical, but mental, emotional, spiritual,” continued Djokovic. “I try to be disciplined with all these different kind of exercises that I execute on a daily basis that make me feel good and present and calm and happy. At the end of the day that’s the purpose of life, to have inner calmness and be happy and do what you love to do and enjoy every moment of this life.

“I don’t like the word obsession because it doesn’t come from the right emotion. Roland Garros is a wish and it is a goal. Honestly I haven’t had any difficulty in my thinking in order to really tell myself that. I feel like in the past couple of years I managed to train my mind to stay as much as possible in the present moment and focus on what’s coming up next. Of course, like all players, I do think in advance and try to plan in advance. But when you need to operate as a human machine, you need to do that only in the present moment and in the present time. When that time comes for me, I will start thinking about it more than I do now.”

Djokovic comes into the third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the year having lost just one match so far in his 2016 campaign, commanding a 28-1 record. The right-hander has triumphed in Doha, at the Australian Open and claimed back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami, taking his Masters 1000 trophy haul to a record 28.

It has been another stunning start for the Djokovic, fast becoming the norm on the ATP World Tour. Over the next week, the Serb will look to keep his streak going in Monte-Carlo, where the defending champion finds himself in the same half of the draw as Federer. And the Belgrade native is only too aware that such is the strength in depth on the ATP World Tour, he cannot afford for his level and consistency to drop one notch.

“Thankfully I haven’t lost too many matches in the past couple of years and I’ve been playing the best tennis of my life,” he said. “It came as a result of many years of dedication, evolution, growth, understanding myself as a person and a player and getting the most out of my team, who have developed a great strategy and routine to keep me going at this high level throughout the whole season. That’s what keeps me in top spot. If I don’t continue playing that consistently, I am aware of the fact that there are some other players that will definitely challenge that place.”

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