Novak Djokovic says his fourth-consecutive Wimbledon win has more significance after he needed time to “weather the storm” following his deportation from Australia.
The Serb was deported shortly before the start of January’s Australian Open after a row over his vaccine status.
“Wimbledon historically has come at important stages of my life,” he said.
Djokovic has won seven of his 21 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon, with only Roger Federer claiming more in the men’s competition.
He was unable to compete at the Australian Open – where he is a nine-time winner – because of not being vaccinated for Covid-19 but arrived in the country after being granted a medical exception.
However, a 10-day saga ultimately led to his visa being cancelled on “health and good order” grounds and he was subsequently deported and given a three-year visa ban after spending time in detention.
“This year started the way it has started and it has affected me definitely in the first several months of the year,” the 35-year-old said.
“I was not feeling great generally. Mentally, emotionally, I was not at a good place.
“I realised at that point that it’s going to take some time, that I have to be patient, and sooner or later I will get myself in the optimal state.”
Wimbledon win ‘more emotional’ after start to year
Djokovic has also missed tournaments in the United States because of his unvaccinated status and had his French Open title defence ended by Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals last month.
However, he has dominated Wimbledon in recent years and has not lost a match there since retiring injured in the quarter-finals in 2017.
“It’s not a coincidence that Wimbledon has such relevance in my life and career,” he said.
“It’s a relief, as well, considering what I’ve been through this year. It adds more value and more significance and more emotions, of course.”
Despite retaining his title, current world number three Djokovic will drop to seven in the world rankings as there were no points available at this year’s Wimbledon.
Daniil Medvedev, who was unable to compete at SW19 because of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players, will retain his number one position.
“I doubt that I’ll go and chase points,” Djokovic said of his future schedule.
“Things have changed in the last year, year and a half for me. I achieved that historic [most] weeks for a number one that I worked for all my life.
“Now that that’s done and dusted, I prioritise Slams and big tournaments really and where I want to play, where I feel good.”
‘Not many people could still play tennis after Australia’
As it stands, Djokovic will not be able to compete at the US Open because non-residents who are not vaccinated are not allowed to enter the United States.
Djokovic said that an exemption allowing him to enter the United States was “not realistically possible”.
“I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or exemption,” he said.
“I don’t know what exemption would be about. I don’t have much answers there.”
Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, who has coached Djokovic since 2019, said it was “heroic” his charge had returned to tennis after his problems in Australia.
“People, after that they never come back to tennis or to anything,” the Croat said.
“[It is] unbelievable how he recovered and how he got through that. It’s really, for me, heroic because it was not easy to digest all the things and come back to play tennis.
“Now it’s better. You know where you can go, where you cannot go. It’s easier.”