For the past two days, Novak Djokovic has invited tennis fans around the world into his home and into his mind, on Instagram Live. The world No. 1 spoke candidly with fellow pros about a variety of topics, including questions that have surrounded him throughout his career.
On Saturday, with Stan Wawrinka, the Serb was posed a very interesting question by the Swiss: “How do you deal with the lopsided crowds when you play Roger Federer?"
His answer was both honest and refreshing.
Djokovic: “Of course its not that easy, when you have most people in stadium cheering for your opponent. As long is there is respect, I am ok with that. I understand it.. I’m not proud of some of my reactions to the crowd, I know it’s not necessary for me to react but we are all people and we all get emotional. Especially when you are alone on the court.”
“Earlier in my career against Roger and Rafa it was tougher for me, I felt like it wasn’t fair, I felt like I deserved more support, I was spending a lot of energy, but through my own evolution of an athlete I began to accept it, I felt a huge relief and was able to conserve more energy.”
Wawrinka: “Why do you think it’s still like that?”
Djokovic: It’s really hard to say, for sure one thing is that Roger is arguably the greatest ever, he’s the guy that is loved around the world. Most of the places they are going to support Roger and I’m ok with that, it’s a similar situation playing Rafa.”
“I think it’s more the greatness of Roger and Rafa, not just as tennis players but as people, they’ve made a huge mark in our sport. What do you think?”
Wawrinka: “I think in your young age you were a bit different, they took the nice guy spot already, in a movie you can’t have three good guys. When you were all three younger that’s the direction everybody went.”
Djokovic: "I think you are absolutely right, in the beginning I was this confident young player that was saying yes I respect Roger and Rafa but I can win against them, I can be number 1. I was feeling like it was me against the world, I don’t feel that way anymore.”
Earlier this year, Djokovic wrote a heartfelt note dispelling all notions of his sensitivity toward the subject. He has clearly come a long way since his younger days, when he admittedly let his emotions get the better of him. The Serbian wants to be remembered for his accomplishments on the court, which will likely be unmatched, and not his perceived standing among the world’s tennis fans.