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Novak Djokovic battles past Jannik Sinner at Wimbledon on Tuesday.

Man In The Mirror: How Djokovic Stared Down Defeat

Serbian extended winning streak at Wimbledon to 26 with five-set win

A little self-reflection can go a long way for Novak Djokovic.

The six-time Wimbledon champion was two-sets-to-love down and struggling to find his best level in his quarter-final clash with Jannik Sinner at the grass-court major on Tuesday afternoon, and the top seed admitted a quiet moment off court had been pivotal in his 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 comeback victory.

“The first two sets compared to the last three, we had probably two different matches,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview after surging to the semi-finals in London for the 11th time. “He was the better player for two sets. I went out, had a little bit of refreshment at the toilet break and had a little bit of a pep talk in the mirror.

“Sometimes in these kinds of circumstances, where not much is happening positively for you on the court and the other guy on the court is dominating the play, these things are necessary. A little break, a little pep talk, to try and recuperate and regather the thoughts. Reassemble everything that you have to come at your opponent with the best possible game.

“Even though I’ve played tennis on the big stage for 20 years now, I go through the same doubtful moments as anybody else. The inner fight is always the biggest fight on the court and off the court, so trying to win that internal fight is a big challenge. Once you do that, I feel like external circumstances are more likely to go in your favour."

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Despite Sinner's fast start, Djokovic admitted that he never stopped believing he could turn things around as he sought to keep his bid for a fourth consecutive crown at Wimbledon alive.

“I always believed that I could come back,” said the Serbian in his post-match press conference. “I know that experience that I have could eventually prevail in these kinds of situations. I didn't have any physical injuries or anything like that.

"It was just a matter of momentum shift. I felt that beginning of the third set was crucial to start well, try to break his serve early. That's what happened.”

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The win was Djokovic’s seventh two-set comeback and improved his record in five-setters at Wimbledon to 10-1. The 20-time Grand Slam champion felt his experience had helped him engineer a momentum swing against his younger opponent.

“It depends on the opponent and the surface, but the better your record in fifth set, the better you feel every next fifth set you play. Of course, it's logical.

“Particularly if you play against young players like Sinner, who didn't have too many five-set matches in his life and was in his first quarter-final [at Wimbledon], not too many matches on the Centre Court for him in his career.

“All these things play a role. How big of a role, that really is dependent on both players. I don't think it plays a decisive role, even though it does look like that if you see the scoreline today. But it does definitely help knowing mentally that you have been in these particular situations, and you had success in the past.”

Djokovic was impressed with Sinner, the 2019 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion and a five-time ATP Tour titlist at the age of 20, in the pair’s second ATP Head2Head meeting. The Italian had not won a tour-level match on grass prior to The Championships, but Djokovic believes the Italian will only benefit from the experience.

“I feel like coming into the match [he] didn't have much to lose, but he had a lot to lose when he was two sets to love up. I could feel that mentally with him.

“I'm sure he's going to get better as the time passes by, because he's a fantastic player and very mentally present, devoted, professional. Sure, we are going to see a lot of him on the big stage.”

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