Twenty-two Grand Slams, 93 singles titles and a record 378 weeks atop the ATP rankings: that’s the incredible record of Novak Djokovic. But Serbian is not finished yet.
He’s still at the top of his game and winning majors. When a player has achieved so much in his professional career, it’s easy to lose focus. The drive to succeed can flag. But not for Djokovic. He’s still as motivated as he was at the beginning of his career.
“I think in the core of my motivation, it’s just a mentality of wanting always to be better than I was yesterday. So, on a daily basis or kind of a short-term goal is to always try to improve every aspect of the game because I always believe that there is something to work on,” the World No. 1 said at a press conference ahead of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship.
The improvements are evident in Djokovic’s game. He’s no longer a baseline-hugger slugging it out. He mixes it up and has added new strings to his bow: he’s unafraid to come to the net to put away the volleys or even produce a drop shot in the middle of a game. Djokovic said persistent effort to improve is the main motivation.
It’s great to be back in Dubai. Always loved coming to play the tournament, but [I] also use Dubai as a great training base, particularly in the off-season.
“Keeping that kind of a mindset also drives me and drives my team members to really take every tournament as a new challenge, [the] biggest challenge we have at this moment. I feel like that kind of attitude got me to where I am in terms of achievements,” the Serbian said.
Djokovic: There’s still that fire burning
The achievements have not stopped. At 35, the Belgrade-born Djokovic comes to Dubai after winning the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup — the men’s singles trophy at the Australian Open — for the 10th time: a new record. It’s ample proof of his ability to perform consistently at the highest level.
“I’m still able to play on a high level at this age. Professionally I have goals. I have ambitions. It’s always the highest kind of goals. I’ve been fortunate to achieve pretty much every achievement that you can have as a professional tennis player. I think that kind of experience allows me to believe that I can always do it again and again,” Djokovic said.
The physical fitness of the World No. 1 is the stuff of legend. His gluten-free diet and body fat percentage (7%) are well known and have been an integral part of preparations that lifted him to the upper echelons of tennis. Even after two decades, his passion remains undiminished.
[It’s] tough to pick which of the five [Dubai] titles is the favourite. I guess the first one is always special.
“I still feel physically very good. Mentally I’m there. I really love the game; I love the competition, and I love to be challenged on the court by anybody. So, there’s still that fire burning,” he said.
Why Djokovic loves coming to Dubai
Dubai has always been a favourite of Djokovic. That’s apparent from his five wins. “It’s great to be back in Dubai. Always loved coming to play in the tournament, but also using Dubai as a great training base, particularly in the off-season, the top seed in Dubai said.
“Dubai is an amazing city that offers so much for a person to enjoy himself or herself: great entertainment, great hotels, great restaurants, and great weather. So, for tennis players, it’s a fantastic place. [The] tournament itself has been voted the best in category 500 for many years in a row. The tournament has been attracting so many top players over the years,” Djokovic said, paying tribute to the emirate and the tournament.
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He also enjoys the tremendous crowd support in Dubai and has relished each of his five wins. “[It’s] tough to pick which of the five titles is the favourite. I guess the first one is always special. I’ve had lots of support over the years, particularly from the big Serbian community in the city,” the 35-year-old said.
Djokovic starts his Dubai campaign against 22-year-old Czech qualifier Tomas Machac on Tuesday. “I’m hoping that I’ll be able to kind of restart in a way my season after Australia, and the injury, in the best possible way,” Djokovic said.