Novak Djokovic felt Sunday’s epic Wimbledon final against Roger Federer was the most mentally challenging match of his career as he called on all his psychological strength to edge a five-set thriller.
World number one Djokovic prevailed 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 13-12 (7-3) after almost five hours on Centre Court on Sunday.
Djokovic rescued two championship points at 8-7 down in the final set before going on to claim his 16th grand slam title with a fifth triumph at the All England Club.
“It was probably the mentally most demanding match I was ever part of,” Serbian star Djokovic told a news conference.
“I had the most physically demanding match against [Rafael] Nadal in the  finals of Australia that went almost six hours. But mentally this was different level, because of everything.
“I obviously try to play the match in my mind before I go on the court. I probably could not play this kind of scenario.
“I always try to imagine myself as a winner. I think there is a power to that. Also there has to be, next to the willpower, strength that comes not just from your physical self, but from your mental and emotional self. For me, at least, it’s a constant battle within, more than what happens outside.
“You need to be constantly playing well throughout five hours if you want to win a match like this. I guess there is an endurance part. But I think there is always this self-belief.
“You have to keep reminding yourself that you’re there for a reason and that you are better than the other guy.
“As hard as the moment is that you are in, the more you have to remind yourself, the more you have to talk to yourself. That’s at least in my case.”
Victory saw Djokovic move to within four of Federer’s record number of men’s singles grand slam wins, but the 32-year-old is not setting an explicit target to overhaul the Swiss maestro.
“Whether I’m going to be able to do it or not, I don’t know,” Djokovic said. “I mean, I’m not really looking at age as a restriction of any kind for me at least. What I said on the court, I really meant it: Roger really inspires me with his effort at his age.
“It just depends how long I’m going to play. It depends not only on myself, it depends on circumstances in life. I’m not just a tennis player, I’m a father and a husband. You have to balance things out.”