When a crestfallen Novak Djokovic embarked on a hiking trip in the mountains after crashing out of the French Open he could not have envisaged scaling such heights in a short space of time.
The Serbian did not know what had hit him as he trudged off Court Suzanne Lenglen following a shock quarter-final defeat to surprise package Marco Cecchinato at Roland Garros in June.
Djokovic had showed signs that he might be capable of ending a two-year major drought with coach Marian Vajda back in his corner on the famous clay where he completed a career Grand Slam in 2016.
Yet in a tiny conference interview room which he curiously retreated to following his stunning loss to Cecchinato, one of the all-time greats sounded like a man who knew he had already reached his peak
Asked if he was back, the 31-year-old, who spent almost six months on the sidelines following elbow surgery last year, said: "I am back in the locker room. That's where I'm back."
In a brief, bizarre press conference, a fuming Djokovic added that he was "not thinking about tennis at the moment" and suggested he may not play in the grass-court season.
Djokovic's decided it was time to head for the hills with his wife and he has never looked back.
Having conquered Mount Victoire, he looked every inch tennis royalty at Queen's Club before losing to Marin Cilic in the final.
With a new lease of life following his alternative French expedition at altitude, Djokovic's swagger was back at Wimbledon, where he claimed a 13th grand slam title just six weeks after sinking to such a low ebb in Paris.
Not content with that triumph at the All England Club, he became the first man to complete a clean sweep of all nine Masters titles at the Cincinnati Masters with a straight-sets victory over Roger Federer.
Extraordinary stamina, flexibility, skill and burning desire which he has demonstrated for much of an illustrious career earned him major title number 14 at the US Open last month.
Asked about his post-French Open break, Djokovic said at Flushing Meadows: "We sat down [at the top of Mount Victoire] and we just looked at the world from that perspective, just kind of breathed in the new inspiration, new motivation.
"I thought of tennis, thought of the emotion that tennis provokes in me in a way. It was all positives. I just felt like I had a new breath for this sport. The rest is history in terms of results, in terms of how I felt. I just felt like a whole wave of energy that I was kind of thriving on from that moment onwards."
His incredible upturn in fortunes continued with a record fourth Shanghai Masters triumph on Sunday, outclassing Borna Coric to extend his winning streak to 18 matches.
From 21st in the rankings after his French Open exit, Djokovic has climbed up to second and closing in on Rafael Nadal.
Far from experiencing vertigo after such a rapid rise, he looks destined to reach new heights.
20. Januar 2019
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