BELGRADE/STARNBERG, April 20, 2021 (Press Release)
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is happy that he will once again have the opportunity to play in front of his home crowd at this week’s Serbia Open, which is being held at the Novak Tennis Center in Belgrade.
On Monday, the 33-year-old met the media virtually and spoke about the developments on the ATP Tour in 2021 so far.
“It is always good to have new names, new brands that will be recognized worldwide. They will obviously be compared to us, but I do not mind seeing new champions. Of course, I always want to be on the winning side. However, things are sometimes different – there are players who beat the best players in the world. We must accept the fact that we will not always be the best in the world and that it is a natural cycle of life,” said Djokovic.
The Serbian is looking forward to competing on home soil again.
“I get emotional when I play at home, and when I get to represent my country at competitions such as the Davis Cup, ATP tournaments, the Olympics. I have the fondest memories from the times when I played with my family and friends in attendance. I can experience that kind of support only a handful of times in my career, but unfortunately, these matches will not give me this opportunity. I try to enjoy every moment I spend in Serbia, being with my friends and family, because I travel so much. Being able to feel the energy and having the desire to play my best game this week is a unique feeling,” stated the best tennis player in the world.
“I have not played much against my countrymen, especially against those I grew up with, Troicki, Tipsarevic, also Krajinovic, Kecmanovic, who are the leaders of the new generation. We are friends, we respect one another, support one another and we do whatever we can for one another at competitions. But, when we meet, we perceive each other as an opponent to beat,” said Djokovic, who also spoke about reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem, who withdrew from the Serbia Open.
“We are very sad that he will not participate, I am sorry that he got injured. Tennis needs him, he is a great champion and a great guy. He competed last year at the Adria Tour on these courts, and was looking forward to returning. I’ve heard he’s been struggling to find motivation lately, I understand him completely. You travel for weeks on end and it’s a big mental challenge for everyone.”
Djokovic clear about his goals
Djokovic mentioned that he was not obsessed with anything in his life – including tennis records – which was something Rafael Nadal had stated.
“What he wants, the way he thinks and how he sees all this, that is his business. I can’t speak on his behalf, he has every right to express how he sees me when it comes to records. I don’t think that I am obsessed with anything in life but I feel that I have passion, great desire and big goals. I’m going towards it and I have no problem verbalizing it. I have never had a problem saying that my goal is to break a record. I have been verbalizing my goals since I was a young tennis player, and even then I did not hesitate to announce them – I wanted to become number one and win Grand Slams. These goals, of course, keep growing; when one is achieved, another one emerges. I continue paving my unique path.”
The 18-time Grand-Slam champion stated that the Spaniard is the player he probably respects the most.
“He is my biggest rival in life. His dedication to sports, everything he has achieved, the way he treats training are admirable and, in that context, I have only words of praise for him,” Djokovic said.
Vaccination against Covid-19 was also one of the topics on Monday.
“I have heard some things being discussed on the subject, such as that vaccinated players will be enabled to have better and easier living and accommodation conditions and that they will not have to be in a bubble created for all players. We’ll see, nothing has been decided yet, there is a lot of speculation. There are ambiguities, there are different campaigns on several sides and I can’t say anything until the ATP decides on something, at least when it comes to our sport. Until then, we must accept the conditions as they are. I don’t understand why people don’t follow the rules, restrictions and conditions of local governments, in locations where tournaments are being held. Just follow the situation in the country where a tournament takes place. There are many unknowns, ambiguities and illogical things,” Djokovic said.
Only a player in Belgrade
Between the tournaments, Djokovic announced that he would come to Belgrade more often and he briefly commented on the organization of the tournament in Belgrade:
“The organization is entirely up to Djordje and his team. I am mostly just a player who is part of the tournament, I try not to interfere too much They are a well-oiled team, there is a lot of work, it is a complex event to organize. I don’t envy them at all because they work all day. We do this for the good of tennis because many of our tennis players will have the opportunity to compete, to win points. Hamad Međedović won against number 115 in the world. He is part of our system, he has made a lot of progress, he is going in the right direction. His play shows that he can be at that level but many elements have to align in order for that to happen. He had the opportunity to win points, he will experience a significant jump on the list and that will allow him to enter tournaments more easily. The essence of these tournaments is that as many of our players as possible participate and the Tennis Association will organize several Futures. A lot of money is being saved, you don’t have to spend it on travelling and PCR tests; it’s great that we have that. That makes things easier for them.”
Club tennis is important
Djokovic also emphasized the importance of opening Tennis Academies.
“When it comes to club tennis, there were no academies until Janko opened one. I am now in the process of creating my own academy, Janko and I are aware that this is something that is very important systemically for the development of tennis in Serbia and the region. Considering that this is something new, it is clear that the mentality here must change. Most coaches see each other as competition and you help each other in the academy, you try to make a good player out of them. We used to have strong clubs. Why did Ana, Jelena, Janko, Viktor, I and many others achieve good results? We had strong clubs, Zvezda, Partizan, Vojvodina, Niš, they all had tough competition. There were equally good players, from our or a slightly older generation, that we could play with. This prepared us. That is not the case today, club tennis in Serbia needs to be revived but Janko and I can’t do that on our own, we must see how we will address the issue with the Federation. While I am active, I will try to correct that because we have to bring club tennis back, we have to create strong tennis centres that will support families and children.”