Wimbledon finalist Novak Djokovic truly believed he would rediscover his best form.
Djokovic, a 12-time major champion, overcame Rafael Nadal 6-4 3-6 7-6 (11-9) 3-6 10-8 in a stunning match that spanned two days to make the final at SW19 for the first time since 2015.
After completing a career grand slam by winning the 2016 French Open – a victory that also made him the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four majors simultaneously – the Serbian endured a significant drop-off.
A series of changes to his coaching staff and a persistent elbow injury resulted in him sliding down the rankings, yet he still retained hope his game would come together eventually.
"There were moments of doubt, of frustration, disappointment, where you're questioning whether you want to keep it going in this way or that way, where is that taking you. Everybody goes through that process of thinking," said Djokovic.
"I don't know anybody that always manages to stay positive, to always have 100 per cent have self-belief. It's life. We humans, we go through that.
"Obviously, the entire process, speaking from this position right now, it makes it even more special because I managed to overcome challenges and obstacles, get myself to the finals of a slam. If you told me that six months ago, I would take it right away.
"But did I truly believe that I can get back on the level? Yes. It's hard for me to play tennis and not believe that I can be the best in what I do.
"I've been fortunate to achieve so much in my career that every time I go to the tournament, I have [the] highest of ambitions. That's always kind of a mindset."
The 52nd meeting between Djokovic and Nadal was one of their fiercest battles.
When asked about the physical toll a clash with the Spaniard takes on the body, Djokovic offered an unusual way to provide an explanation.
"If I show you my feet, you would understand," he joked.
"[Nadal is] probably the greatest fighter ever to play this game. He battles every single point like it's his last. That's something that is so impressive with Rafa. That's what makes him so difficult to beat on any surface.
"You come into the match against him knowing that you have to earn your points. You have to be ready for it. That's why you put in X amount of hours on the practice court, preparation, trying to be as professional as you can, because you need it to compete with a guy like Nadal. He does the same.
"If you want to be able to compete on such a high level, eventually get a win against him in the big tournaments, then you have to give it all you've got."
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