Novak Djokovic says that while fear has not been a driving force in his life, growing up in wartime Serbia did drive him in his tennis career.
“The war had an impact on my approach to professional tennis and also to dedicate more to the sport,” he told La Nacion. “War is something that no one would want. It’s destruction, the loss of families and loved ones. Families are ruined and the country that was attacked takes many years to recuperate. Later, one feels the consequences of it. But the positive aspect of war, if you can say that, is that many people come together to find the pure strength to overcome anything that they have been challenged by. In war everyone loses something, it’s devastating. That’s why tennis has been a blessing in my life.”
Djokovic, who is playing a series of exhibitions in South America, also said that tennis has helped him mentally. He added that had it not been for some nearby courts where he grew up in the mountains around some ski areas, he still might be getting up at 5 a.m. shoveling snow to clear the way for skiers.
“Tennis has given me so many positive things in my life,” he said. “In my family nobody played tennis before me. When I was four I saw it on TV, my dad and my mom had a restaurant in the mountains in Serbia. I saw how they were built and I fell in love with it. My love for the sport is great. In a certain way tennis has saved my life. I was quite lucky to have a father who believed so much in me and my skills, I was also surrounded during my childhood by people who knew a lot about tennis and that gave me the focus to be a champion. And beyond that I came from a country at war and in an economic crisis, when it was virtually impossible to be a professional tennis player.
“The sport has given me everything, even more than sporting success. It gave [the ability] to travel the world, meet people, [experience different] cultures, and for me, the greatest values in life are good friends and to have good relationships with people.”