Novak Djokovic reflected on the “life lessons” he has learned in the last 12 months after his resurgence saw him crowned the Sportsman of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco.
The Serbian was convalescing from elbow surgery a year ago and his subsequent struggles on his return to the ATP Tour a couple of months later left many fearing he was in terminal decline.
But Djokovic wiped out any doubts in the second half of last year by winning Wimbledon and the US Open en route to reclaiming top spot back in the rankings.
He has since added a record seventh Australian Open title to move to 15 grand slams, and his 2018 achievements saw him honoured in the principality for the fourth time in his career, pipping fellow nominees Lewis Hamilton, LeBron James, Kylian Mbappe, Luka Modric and Eliud Kipchoge to one of the evening’s top prizes.
Djokovic said: “Twelve months ago I was on the surgery table so I hope that was the last surgery that I ever have.
“But at the same time I’m really pleased with how the surgery went because it allowed me to be – five weeks after the surgery – back on the court.
“I was very anxious to be back on the court to compete, and very impatient, because I was not ready emotionally and my game was not there and not even close.
“But in my mind knowing what I’m capable of and the quality of my tennis I felt like it’s not going to take much time for me to get there. That’s where I had the reality check.
“Then for several months I was experiencing some really challenging and difficult months mentally on the court where I was questioning everything and really doubting as well.
“There were many, many life lessons that I’ve learned along the way in the last 12 months and to be able to be recognised for that was a privilege and an honour.”
Djokovic admitted there were moments when he was at his lowest where he would sometimes lash out at either himself or those around him.
Having ended a two-year wait for a grand slam win at SW19, Djokovic believes he had to attempt to find satisfaction from within.
He added: “Probably one of the biggest takes I’ve had in the last couple of years is that it really does depend only on me: whether I’m going to take these challenging situations and obstacles as an opportunity to grow, to rise, to get better or let them defeat me.
“That kind of a mindset was very helpful in the moments where I really needed that strength. I had to find it inside rather than outside.
“I didn’t know that a couple of years ago, I was looking for things outside and maybe blaming people around me or blaming myself and not really understanding that things are as they should be and you just have to learn.
“There’s a learning curve of life and you have to embrace it and accept it.”
Simone Biles scooped her second statuette after becoming the first female to win four world gymnastics titles in the all-around discipline in Doha last November.
The American overcome Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Ester Ledecka, Mikaela Shiffrin and Daniela Ryf to earn Sportswoman of the Year.
Elsewhere at the ceremony, Naomi Osaka won the Breakthrough award following her maiden grand slam victory at the US Open, Tiger Woods claimed the Comeback prize after winning his first PGA Tour title in five years, while France’s World Cup winners saw them scoop the Team accolade.
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger received the Lifetime Achievement Award following his revolutionary 22 years with the Gunners.
– The Laureus World Sports Awards celebrate the most remarkable men and women from the world of sport along with their achievements from the previous calendar year. The Awards also showcase the work of Laureus Sport for Good, a charity which uses the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage.