Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic did not expect to return to his highest level so soon after elbow surgery.
Djokovic retired from his 2017 quarter-final against Tomas Berdych due to the injury and did not return to the ATP Tour for the remainder of the year.
The Serbian confirmed in February he ended up undergoing a "small medical intervention" following his fourth-round defeat to Hyeon Chung at the Australian Open.
It was the latest obstacle for the former world number one, who suffered a crisis of confidence after completing his career Grand Slam at the French Open in 2016.
That was his last major triumph until he overcame Kevin Anderson 6-2 6-2 7-6 (7-3) on Centre Court on Sunday for his fourth Wimbledon crown and 13th grand slam title, something he had not been anticipating.
"I did not expect to be back in the top shape here in Wimbledon so quickly. If you asked me after Roland Garros, I would probably doubt that," said Djokovic, who suggested he might skip the grass-court season after losing his French Open quarter-final against Marco Cecchinato.
"At the same time there is a part of me that always believes in my own abilities. Whenever I come to the tournament and a grand slam especially, I believe I can have a good opportunity to fight for the trophy.
"My ambitions are quite high. I think maybe I went against myself especially the first few months post-surgery because the expectations were so high from myself that I could not understand why I could not perform and play on the level that I'm used to.
"Right now it's easy to talk. I had to go through it. But I want to thank all the people who were really close to me and really believed in me, as well."
Coming through a five-set semi-final classic against world number one and 17-time major winner Rafael Nadal, the opponent he has faced more than any other on the ATP Tour, was exactly the sort of challenge Djokovic felt he needed.
Asked if he had proved anything at Wimbledon, he said: "To myself the most. I lost in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros. There was a similar fight, long match. I wasn't playing my best in the decisive moments.
"That was something that I was missing, that kind of competitive match-play feeling of being toe-to-toe with an opponent in a big match in the later stages of grand slams.
"Playing against Nadal in the semi-finals here was the biggest test that I could have specifically for that, just to see whether I can prevail. That's why I spent a lot of energy and I put a lot of effort to win that match because I knew ... how much that will mean to me.
"I thought the first two sets against Kevin, even though you could feel he was nervous, you could feel that he wasn't playing at his best. [He] was making a lot of errors, but I thought that I was very, very solid. Probably the two best sets I've played in a long time."
16. Oktober 2018
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