Professional tennis player
B orn May 22, 1987, in Belgrade, Serbia; son of Srdjan (a restaurant operator) and Dijana (a restaurant operator) Djokovic.
Addresses: Contact—201 ATP Tour Blvd., Ponte Ve-dra Beach, FL 32082. Home—Monte Carlo, Monaco.
B egan playing tennis, c. 1991; turned pro, 2003; won first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) title, Dutch Open, Amersfoort, Netherlands, 2006, and followed up with another win, the Moselle Open, Metz, France, 2006; won five ATP singles titles in 2007, including Australia’s Next Generation Adelaide International, the Miami Masters, Portugal’s Estoril Open, Canada Masters (Rogers Cup) and BA-CA Tennis Trophy, Vienna, Austria; won Australian Open, Melbourne, 2008; won Indian Wells Masters, Indian Wells, CA, 2008; won Rome Masters, Italy, 2008.
Awards: Most Improved Player, ATP Awards, 2006.
S erbian tennis standout Novak Djokovic hit the pro circuit in 2003 and enjoyed a rapid rise through the rankings despite being one of the youngest players on the tour. At the start of the 2007 season, the Association of Tennis Professionals ranked Djokovic 16th in the world. He ended the season at third after notching an amazing victory over Swiss master and world No. 1 Roger Federer in the Rogers Cup. The next year, Djokovic proved the triumph was no fluke. In 2008, Djokovic won the Australian Open after knocking out defending champion Federer in the semifinals and besting Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the finals. The victory ensured Djokovic’s place in history as the first Serbian to win a Grand Slam singles title.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova told the Sydney Morning Herald’s Linda Pearce that Djokovic has many admirable qualities that will keep him at the top of the game for years to come. “I love his head— he’s such a smart guy out there,” Navratilova said. “I like his attitude, on and off the court.”
Djokovic was born on May 22, 1987, in Belgrade, Serbia, to Srdjan and Dijana Djokovic. Although Djokovic is the first member of his family to play tennis, sports run deep in his bloodline. Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, skied competitively and taught lessons at a ski school in the Serbian resort town of Kopaonik. Kopaonik is one of the largest mountain ranges in Serbia. It was there that he met Djokovic’s mother, who also taught skiing.
Following in his parents’ footsteps, Djokovic took up skiing as a youngster. By this time, his parents were running a pancake and pizza restaurant in Kopaonik. When Djokovic was about four years old, a construction team built some tennis courts near the family restaurant. Jelena Gencic opened a tennis camp there and in no time, Djokovic was on the court. Speaking to Emma John of the Observer, Gen-cic described an early encounter with the aspiring youngster. “He arrived half an hour early with a big tennis bag. Inside his bag I saw a tennis racket, towel, bottle of water, banana, wrist-bands, everything you need for a game.” Gencic asked Djokovic if his mother had packed his bag and he said that he had. When Gencic asked Djokovic how he knew what to pack, he replied, “I watch TV.”
As an adolescent, Djokovic remained loyal to his workout routine, despite the crisis going on in his country. In 1999, NATO forces began bombing Serbia in an effort to persuade Serbian President Slo-bodan Milosevic to withdraw his troops, which were at war with the Albanians in Kosovo. NATO forces targeted Belgrade, the city where Djokovic lived. The air raids continued for more than two months but never scared Djokovic off the court. He honed his backhand and practiced his serves even as warning sirens pierced the air and bombs burst in the distance.
Djokovic’s father believes the experience helped Djokovic develop the nerves of steel and exceptional concentration skills that help him win on the court today. “Novak was very scared then, but he never showed it,” Srdjan Djokovic told the New York Times’ Juliet Macur. “Now he is scared of nothing.” Djokovic’s mother told Macur that Djokovic’s tennis gave the family focus, which helped them survive. “I think tennis saved us,” she said. “If we didn’t have tennis, we would have spent the days scared, always looking to the sky, wondering when the bombs would come.”
At age 12, Djokovic left home to train with former Croatian standout Nikola Pilic at his tennis academy in Munich, Germany. Before long, he was competing across Europe. In 2002, Djokovic was one of the hottest 16and-under players on the European Tennis Association circuit, winning the U-16 championship at La Baule, France.
In 2003, Djokovic turned pro and played mostly in the Futures and Challenger circuits, ending the year with an ATP ranking of 676. In 2006, he earned his first ATP tour victory at the Dutch Open, followed with a second victory at the Moselle Open in Metz, France. In 2007, Djokovic’s career took off—he won his first Masters Series event with a victory at the Miami Masters and followed up with another Masters victory at the Rogers Cup with an upset over Federer, the world’s No. 1 player. Djokovic had never beaten Federer before. Within a few weeks, Djokovic reached his first-ever Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open, where he faced Federer again. Shaky—and playing before a crowd 23,000strong—a nervous Djokovic, just 20, lost the final. He did, however, win five titles that year and ended the season ranked third, making him the youngest player in the top 20.
The year 2008 proved to be a breakout year for Djokovic as he beat Federer in the Australian Open semifinals and went on to defeat Tsonga in the finals. This gave Djokovic his first Grand Slam title. Djokovic was the youngest player in 23 years to win the Australian Open, and the first Serbian. He went on to win two more Masters events—at Indian Wells and Rome.
On the court, Djokovic is flashy and fun—people like to watch him play. Skinny and known for bouncing the ball 10 to 15 times before a serve, the 6foot2inch, 176pound rightie has a smooth, two-fisted backhand he can shoot down the line. Djokovic’s success has inspired a new generation of Serbian children to take up the sport—including his younger brothers, Marko and Djordje. The Djokovic boys are all about four years apart. Djordje Djok-ovic is said to be more talented than his brothers. Perhaps the two will face each other on the court someday.
In an interview before the Pacific Life Indian Wells tournament, posted on the event Web site, Djokovic said that winning theAustralian Open was fantastic. “You get the feeling that everything you have done, you know, in your life, has paid off in one tournament. Everybody’s dream is to win a Grand Slam, any Grand Slam, and I’ve done it. Still I’m only 20 years old and still have a long way to my lifetime goal, which is to be No. 1, and hopefully I can stay healthy and play professional tennis in another ten, 15 years.”
Complete Marquis Who’s Who Biographies, Marquis Who’s Who, 2008.
New York Times, June 3, 2007, p. 8 (sports).
Observer (London, England), January 6, 2008, p. 20 (sports).
Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia), September 30, 2007, p. 92 (sports).
Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia), January 12, 2008, p. S38; January 25, 2008, p. S32; January 29, 2008, p. S30.
Times (London, England), January 22, 2008, p. 70 (sports).
“Biography,” Novak Djokovic Web site, http://www.novak-djokovic.com/eng/about_nole/more.php (April 13, 2008).
“Djokovic Upsets Federer to Cap Rogers Cup Title Run,” SI.com,http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ (August 13, 2007).
“Djokovic Wins Australian Open,” SI.com,http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ (January 28, 2008).
“Novak Djokovic,” Pacific Life Open, http://www.pacificlifeopen.com/4/players/interviews/2008/djokovic314.asp (April 13, 2008).