Novak Djokovic grew up with NATO bombs raining down on Serbia and has develop into one of many best tennis stars of all time.
However as a participant and a person he by no means fails to each unite and divide.
The 34-year-old clinched his twentieth Slam title on Sunday at Wimbledon to attract degree with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
He additionally now simply must win a fourth US Open in September to develop into solely the third man in historical past and first since Rod Laver in 1969 to finish a calendar Grand Slam.
Ought to he seize the Olympic title in Tokyo as properly, he would be the solely man to say the Golden Golden Slam of all 4 majors plus Video games gold in the identical yr.
Regardless of his achievements, nonetheless, Djokovic seems doomed by no means to be held in the identical saintly esteem reserved for Federer or Nadal, the undisputed ‘folks’s champions’ and tennis’ go-to good guys.
There are those that see one thing too calculating within the Djokovic make-up, an intense, brooding presence liable to affectation and somewhat too ‘new age’.
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A fiery temperament, a attribute typically absent from the DNA of Federer and Nadal, bubbles over too typically.
His notorious default from the US Open final yr for petulantly swiping at a ball which speared into the throat of a feminine line decide was a snapshot of the demons that often lurk inside.
Djokovic, who left Belgrade when he was 12 to coach in Munich and escape NATO’s bombardment of his house metropolis, typically feels he can’t arise for falling down.
His resolution to organise a sequence of exhibition occasions within the Balkans in the midst of the pandemic might have been with the perfect of intentions however a sequence of optimistic Covid-19 checks, together with him and his spouse Jelena, highlighted the recklessness of the plan.
Extra lately, he expressed his doubts over the vaccination programme, a stance which noticed him dubbed ‘Novaxx’.
One in every of his most vocal detractors, Nick Kyrgios has accused Djokovic of a determined must be appreciated, describing the Serb’s post-victory on-court “cup of affection” gesture as “cringeworthy”.
Nevertheless, the profession achievements and resolve of a participant who has alsl develop into the primary to smash by the $150 million prize cash barrier can’t be doubted.
Three years in the past, Djokovic’s profession was within the doldrums.
Unable to shake off the lingering results of elbow surgical procedure, he suffered a shock early exit at Roland Garros, the positioning of many setbacks.
Along with his rating outdoors the highest 20 for the primary time in 12 years, Djokovic even threatened to skip Wimbledon.
He modified his thoughts and all of the sudden rejuvenated, swept to a fourth title on the All England Membership and efficiently defended it a yr later, saving two championship factors within the last in opposition to Federer.
Djokovic now has 20 Grand Slam titles in his profession haul of 85, which additionally features a record-equalling 36 Masters.
He has additionally occupied the world primary spot for a report variety of weeks. Within the race for greatness, time is on his facet. At 34, he’s a yr youthful than Nadal and has the perfect a part of 5 years on Federer.
He has successful information over each males, 30-28 and 27-23 respectively. Djokovic captured the primary of his majors on the Australian Open in 2008, however it was three years earlier than he added his second.
He dropped gluten from his food plan, his lithe physique permitting him to chase down misplaced causes, reworking him into the rubber man of tennis with a rock-steady defence.
After main Serbia to a maiden Davis Cup in 2010, he raced by the primary half of 2011, increase a 48-1 successful run.
Solely a semi-final defeat on the French Open prevented him from already capturing a calendar Grand Slam.
Regardless of that, he completed 2011 with a 70-6 win-loss report, a haul of 10 event victories and year-end primary for the primary time.
Again-to-back Australian Opens adopted in 2012 and 2013, though the French Open remained frustratingly out of attain with three heart-breaking losses till his 2016 breakthrough.
The yr earlier than, he received 11 titles and compiled a win-loss report of 82-6. In whole, he has 9 Australian Opens, six Wimbledons, three US Open titles and, now, two French Opens.
His win over Nadal in an epic semi-final finally month’s French Open was solely the Spaniard’s third loss in 108 matches on the occasion.
Djokovic has been liable for two of them.
Off courtroom, Djokovic married long-time girlfriend Jelena Ristic in July 2014. They’ve two youngsters, a son Stefan and daughter Tara.
When he received Wimbledon in 2019, Stefan was in a position to see his father elevate the trophy.
“It feels superb as a result of for the primary time in my life I’ve somebody screaming ‘daddy, daddy’,” mentioned Djokovic.
‘I BELIEVE I’M THE BEST’
Djokovic mentioned Sunday he considers himself the “finest participant” after successful a record-equalling twentieth Grand Slam title however refuses to anoint himself because the “best of all time”.
“I take into account myself finest and I consider that I’m the perfect, in any other case I wouldn’t be speaking confidently about successful Slams and making historical past,” mentioned Djokovic.
“However whether or not I’m the best of all time or not, I go away that debate to different folks.
“I mentioned earlier than that it’s very tough to match the eras of tennis. We’ve got totally different racquets, expertise, balls, courts. It’s simply utterly totally different circumstances that we’re enjoying in, so it’s very arduous to match from 50 years in the past to at present.
“Nevertheless, I’m extraordinarily honoured to undoubtedly be a part of the dialog.”
Regardless of his warning, Djokovic is aware of he has time and momentum on his facet. At 34, he’s a yr youthful than Nadal and has the perfect a part of six years on Federer who turns 40 in 4 weeks’ time.
Nadal skipped Wimbledon after dropping to Djokovic within the French Open semi-finals final month.
Federer made a quarter-final exit on the All England Membership.
– Surpassing Federer – Eight of Djokovic’s 20 Slams have been received since he turned 30. He has additionally received seven of the final eight Grand Slam finals he has contested, together with his solely defeat in that point coming in opposition to Nadal on the French Open final yr.
Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 Wimbledon champion and now a part of Djokovic’s teaching staff, insists there’s “no debate” over who’s the best.
“For me Novak is the perfect ever. He’s writing historical past. He’s going to do it within the US Open. I strongly consider he’s going to do it, he’s going to win all 4 in a single yr. Then I believe story’s over,” mentioned Ivanisevic on Sunday.
“For me it was over a very long time in the past. Between these three guys, 60 Grand Slams. “It’s unreal. For me, not as a result of I’m right here, earlier than I used to be a member of the staff, for me he was the perfect.
“If he wins the US Open, I believe it’s over. He needs to win extra. However for me Novak is the most important ever. I don’t even should debate about that.” There was a time when it was believed Pete Sampras’s whole of 14 majors would by no means be bettered.
However Federer went to fifteen Slams with victory within the 2009 Wimbledon last and reached 20 on the 2018 Australian Open.
Djokovic was on 12 Slams at that stage. Since then, he has additionally handed Federer for whole weeks as world primary.
“I in all probability began excited about attempting to achieve the report of most Grand Slams received, most weeks at No. 1 traditionally, in all probability about two to a few years in the past,” mentioned Djokovic.
“Earlier than that it appeared somewhat bit out of attain. I’ve all the time sort of believed that I might play my finest tennis in Grand Slams and provides myself a very good probability to win any slam actually on any floor as a result of I do know what I’m able to.
“However solely the final two-and-a-half, three years I began to understand that really I can attain probably the most weeks of No.1s, which was my main objective truly within the final two years, and in addition Grand Slams.”dj/pi