It has been a bittersweet year for Novak Djokovic on and off the court. And the fiercely competitive Serbian believes that his past has helped him ‘develop a thick skin’ and cope with adversity better than most.
“I kind of grew up in adversity when you think about it,” Djokovic said in London ahead of the ATP Finals.
“Growing up in a war-torn country during the 1990s. So, I got accustomed to that. In my case, it did help me to develop a thicker skin, to be able to prove myself even more.”
Djokovic started the year on a high, winning the Australian Open and compiling a perfect 18-0 record before the Tour shuddered to a halt due to Coronavirus.
His first loss of the season came at the US Open, when he was defaulted in the fourth round for accidentally hitting a linesperson with a ball. He is 39-3 for the season, but two of those losses have come in majors.
Off the court, the Serb has been criticized for the Adria Tour, which saw four players, including Djokovic, test positive for the novel virus. He then polarized the tennis world by forming a breakaway players’ body, the Professional Tennis Players Association.
“I respect when someone has a different opinion and expresses that publicly, say the players’ association, the PTPA,” the 33-year-old said.
“I found myself being criticized a lot, but I do what my heart tells me.”
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) November 13, 2020
“Sure, everyone makes mistakes, I have flaws as everybody else, but I don’t have an issue being honest and transparent.”
The Serb, though, is set to finish the season on a high. He has secured the No 1 ranking for 2020 and is now tied with his childhood idol Pete Sampras for six year-end No 1 finishes.
He is also vying to go level with Roger Federer for the most number of ATP Finals titles (6). Djokovic has been placed alongside Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Diego Schwartzman in Group Tokyo 70 for the round-robin stage.
“Coming into the tournament knowing I already clinched the year-end No. 1 releases some of the pressure definitely,” he said.
“But at the same time it doesn’t change what I hope to achieve in this tournament and why I’m here. I really want to win every single match that I get to play and try to get my hands on the trophy.
“I’m really hoping that I can end the season in the best possible way.”
Djokovic, who last won the ATP Finals title in 2015, will begin his campaign against Schwartzman on Monday.