INDIAN WELLS (AFP) – Tennis star Novak Djokovic, who won a record fifth Indian Wells title on Sunday, says when he is at the top of his game it feels like he is “in the zone”.
Djokovic has been ranked No. 1 in the world since July 2014 and credits his magical run of success to not only a strict routine off the court, but incredible instincts on the court.
Djokovic describes it as “pattern recognition” — reacting and remembering both consciously and subconsciously to what his opponent is doing then capitalizing on that.
“Subconscious and conscious are directly linked. When you re able to understand both and grasp both sides, you re able to be in the present moment, which I think most of the professional athletes call in the zone kind of moment,” Djokovic said following his 6-2, 6-0 demolition of Canadian Milos Raonic on Sunday.
“Conscious, I think touches the material, physical part, where you can actually do something that s tangible, which means prepare yourself mentally with video analysis, the data, the stats, the previous experiences.
“Subconsciously, I think it relates to yourself and how well you re moving and how focused you are on the court and on your opponent.”
Djokovic, who is one of just three players to have more than 700 career wins, shares the same championship pedigree as a Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, LeBron James or Tom Brady.
“I can see that there is a lot of professional athletes at the very top level in different sports that explain it in maybe different words, but they are thinking about more or less the same thing that I m thinking about,” Djokovic said.
“It all comes down to more or less the same thing, being able to use and maximize your potential as an athlete in every aspect of your being.”
Djokovic needed just 77 minutes to take down the hard-serving Raonic, who regularly clocks first serves at 140 mph (225 km/ph) and is off to a career best 14-2 start this season.
“All the top players have a very high level of sports and tennis intelligence otherwise they wouldn t be here.
“There are people who rely more on the mathematical side and there are people who rely more on gut feeling, instinct and kind of figuring out the situations and doing what they think is most appropriate at the time.
“I believe the best way is somewhere in the middle.”
It is going to take that kind of dedication and devotion to get Djokovic over the next big challenge in his career — winning a French Open.
He is hoping his third straight Indian Wells crown will finally be a stepping stone to his maiden win in Roland-Garros, completing the career Grand Slam.
“Roland Garros has been and is this year again one of the top priorities of the season,” he said.
“I grew up on clay, I love playing on clay. I still haven t won that Grand Slam played on clay courts, but I have gotten very close a couple of times and I know that it doesn t take too much more to win the trophy.”