Winning isn’t everything for Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic was the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, but he returns to Wimbledon at a crossroads after the worst period of his career
London: Novak Djokovic admits he may not be as single-minded in his pursuit of success any more because he would rather focus on being happy in his personal life.
Just 12 months ago, Djokovic appeared poised to join the tennis immortals after winning the French Open for the first time.
The Serb was the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, but he returns to Wimbledon at a crossroads after the worst period of his career.
Djokovic hasn’t won a major since the 2016 French Open, leading him to part ways with coach Boris Becker and long-time advisor Marian Vajda.
The 30-year-old’s woes have prompted pundits to question whether he has lost his hunger for silverware and, with Wimbledon starting on Monday, Djokovic offered a response that suggested winning is no longer his only focus.
“When I was winning constantly and being dominant in the tennis world, you’re happy, you feel like everything is kind of revolving around tennis,” Djokovic told reporters at Wimbledon on Sunday.
“But it’s not like that. Some other things were suffering during that time. So it’s always figuring out what’s the right balance to be completely in peace and satisfied with yourself.
“I used to base all my happiness on winning a tennis match. I think many athletes today are doing that.
“So I try not to do that any more. I would love to win every single tennis match, but I don’t try to take that as the very essential moment in my life which determines my happiness.
“It’s a different approach, but I’m still here and I’m still motivated.”
Djokovic has taken to consulting regularly with ‘spiritual adviser’ Pepe Imaz, a former player who runs a tennis academy in Spain for underprivileged children, called “Amor y Paz” (love and peace).
In recent months Imaz’s influence has been seen in Djokovic’s new habit of forming a heart shape with his hands and gesturing to the crowd after he wins a match.
Djokovic didn’t reference Imaz as he talked about his new perspective on life, but he conceded he prefers to define himself as a person first rather than a tennis star these days.
“It seems to me that everything is observed through the lens of material success, who lifts more trophies gets more respect, more fame, more money, and a better status in the society,” he said.
“For me, it’s equally important, even more important, to take care of myself as a human being. What goes around off the court, as well.”
Success may not be Djokovic’s main motivation, but with his world ranking down to fourth, he took the unusual step of entering the grass-court tournament at Eastbourne this week.
It was the first time the 12-time Grand Slam champion has played a competitive tournament between the French Open and Wimbledon since 2010.
Djokovic, a three-time Wimbledon winner, won the Eastbourne title on Saturday and he hopes his extra time of grass will help him have a strong run at the All England Club.
“I felt like I needed a proper tournament rather than just playing couple of exhibition matches,” he said.
“I’m glad I made that decision because it was a very positive experience on and off the court.
“People were very kind. It was a great week with a lot of good, positive energy.
“Just overall very happy with the way it went, and where my form is at.”
Djokovic will be joined at Wimbledon by his new coaches Andre Agassi and Mario Ancic, a Croatian who once beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
“Mario’s someone I’ve known for so many years,” Djokovic said. “He’s happy to spend some time with Andre and myself during Wimbledon.
“We’ll see how everything flows, see where that takes us.”