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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jitters got to me, says Djokovic

Photo Titled Djokovic composed
Novak Djokovic looks cool during his quarter-final match against Tommy Haas.

Novak Djokovic was left to explain another disappointing failure after his quarter-final loss to Tommy Haas. All the talk was of the Serb’s poor Grand Slam record this year: he has lost in the quarter-final of the Australian Open, where he was defending champion, the third round of the French Open, and now this.

Yet away from the Slams, Djokovic, who lost his world number three ranking to Andy Murray in May, arrived at Wimbledon with a good record. In the 13 tournaments he has played this year he won two, finished runner-up in four, was a semi-finalist in three and a quarter-finalist in two.

It was put to the 22-year-old Serb after the defeat to Haas that he has undergone a personality change this year and lost some of his spark. "I haven't really changed," he insisted. "It's just that there are now other players in the spotlight, like [Andy] Murray and [Juan Martin] Del Potro who have been playing really well lately and you always get more attention the more successful you are.

"I have been consistent with my results this year, except in the Grand Slams, but I am still the way I am. I think the difference is a little impatience in the important moments. I get nervous a little bit more than I used to. And I guess that's probably the pressure I'm feeling. But I shouldn't."

It was that nervousness, he claimed, that cost him dearly at important moments in the match against Haas. "I somehow couldn't relax in those moments, especially at 5-5 in the first two sets. I was playing very defensively and making errors that I didn't do in the rest of the match."

After enjoying a tremendous run of success against German players - he won 14 straight matches - Djokovic has now lost three matches against players from that country. He was beaten by Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round at Roland Garros and by Haas in the Halle final and again here.

In addition to nervousness, Djokovic cited his poor return of serve as a factor in his latest loss. "Returning is one of the strength strokes in my game, but today was a real disaster. [Haas] is very aggressive, a perfect player for this surface, and this was just a day when I couldn't deal with his serve."

It has been a disappointing year for Serbia after the glories of 2008, when both Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic won a Grand Slam title and Jelena Jankovic finished the season as world number one. "Everybody goes through a crisis," was how Djokovic explained it. "I can only speak for myself, but I was going through a tough period at the start of the year. Then I had a Miami final and then the whole clay court season was successful and I was happy with the way I was playing. So my game is there. I am disappointed to have lost here because I thought I was playing well and could go all the way. I wanted to do better at Wimbledon.

"Today I could have won the second set, I just made some incredible unforced errors."

As for Haas's chances of beating Roger Federer in Friday's semi-finals, Djokovic said: "Tommy still hasn't lost this year on this surface. He's playing really well and has nothing to lose against Roger, so of course he has a chance."

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