Novak Djokovic's finest victory
Ahead of the Dubai Tennis Championships, the world’s best tennis player, Novak Djokovic, tells Esquire Middle East about his most important victory:
It’s easy for people outside Serbia to forget that in the 1990s my country was involved in the brutal breakup of Yugoslavia. Because of the war in the Balkans, and the international sanctions imposed, it was a very difficult and uncertain period for the country. More so than ever, people looked to sport as a source of joy and a light at the end of the tunnel.
Serbia has always been a sport-obsessed country, but most of the success tended to come from team sports that we were traditionally strong at, such as basketball. Something like tennis did not have deep roots in our country and its popularity really came out of the blue. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it before a court was built near my house and I first picked up a racquet.
But I quickly fell in love with it.
Ever since that moment when I started playing, it was my dream to win Wimbledon. As a child I used to pose in front of the mirror with a replica of the winner’s trophy that I had made out of cardboard.
It’s for this reason that, despite the fact that today I have been lucky to win many Grand Slams in my career, winning my first Wimbledon title in 2011 is one that particularly stays with me.
After that final point, I remember falling to the floor and looking over at my box to see my family and team going crazy. I crouched down, had tears in my eyes and then pulled a few blades of grass out of the surface and ate them. I don’t even know why I did that.
“Here was a guy from Serbia, a small country, who had just become world number one, after winning the biggest tournament in the sport”
On returning to Serbia, there were thousands of people waiting for me. I was with my family, coaching team and closest friends, and we all climbed onto an open-top bus that was organised to drive us from the airport into Belgrade. As we drove, a huge convoy of cars started followed us. Everyone was beeping their horns and waving flags as they joined the parade going all the way to the city’s main square.
I am told that more than 100,000 people were there on the streets that night, singing songs and waving banners. We eventually arrived at a large stage in the main square and from it I could see a sea of people smiling. I got on the microphone and told them how eternally grateful I was for all the support that they had given me, and that I would always feel the love for them.
It was a rather humbling feeling, as though I had become a symbol for the country and a source of pride that the people could gather around. Here was a guy from Serbia, a small country, who had just become world number one, after winning the biggest tournament in the sport. It was something unexpected, and it proved that we, as a people, could achieve anything.
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Novak Djokovic is the face of Jacob’s Creek’s Made by Moments campaign, and will be competing at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Feb 15 to 27, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud, Dubai. dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com