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The Sporting Scene

The Third Man

Novak Djokovic has emerged from the shadow of Federer and Nadal, but can he learn to act like a champion?
b !auren "ollins September #, #$%& Djokovics sensibility recalled the soccer stadium rather than the country club, but he has become more courtly of late. He is an athlete, a professional tennis player. He is six feet two inches tall. He weighs a hundred and seventy-six pounds. His legs, gummy and striated, bring to mind a pair of wi!!lers. He is a lover of animals. "ith his narrow neck and solid pelt of hair, he looks a bit like #ierre, his toy poodle. He has a goofy sense of humor. $ few years ago, he became famous for his imitations%&afael 'adal picking at his wedgie, &oger (ederer prancing swaybacked along the baseline. $t an exhibition in )ratislava last year, he stuffed his shirt with sweat towels and hitched up an imaginary skirt. hat was *erena "illiams. He speaks five languages beautifully. He never met a meme he didnt like. he other night, after a match, he pulled an $fro wig out of his racket bag and danced to +,et -ucky.. $ book he recently enjoyed was + he *ecret,. by &honda )yrne. He absolutely believes one hundred per cent in that kind of philosophy of life. /ou attract things the way you think. /ou are what your thoughts are0 He is *erbian, but he lives in 1onte 2arlo. $fter he won "imbledon, in 3455, a hundred thousand people gathered to celebrate in front of )elgrades #arliament. He wore a white bla!er. 6t was the best night of his life. he #resident of *erbia told +74 1inutes. that he could win the nations highest office. $t one point, a rumor went around that he had bought up the countrys entire supply of donkey cheese. (or eighty-five weeks, he has been the 'o. 5 tennis player in the world. 6n addition to "imbledon, he has won thirty-six other $. .#. singles titles, including a 8.*. 9pen, and three $ustralian 9pens straight. 6n 3455, he played what some people think is the best season of tennis in history, winning seventy of the seventy-six matches he played and recording a forty-one-match winning streak. He hasnt lost before the semifinals of a ,rand *lam in three years. He bounces the ball a million times before he serves. His play is plasmatic. He seems to flow toward the corners of the court. He is an origami man, folding at the waist to dig up a drop shot, starfishing for a high forehand return, cocking his leg behind his head in an arabes:ue as he blasts a backhand down the line. He lunges, he dives, he beats his pecs. He once yelled%in *erbian%+'ow you all will suck my dick0. He is dominant, but he is not universally adored. His showy personality and subtle game are a niche taste. Haters call him Djokobitch. ;er!y ;anowic!, the #olish player, said recently that he was +a fake.. )ut now, with the waning of the (ederer-'adal duopoly, which has fixated tennis for the past decade, the love he craves is within his reach. his week, at (lushing 1eadows, where he was once booed, 'ovak Djokovic will attempt to assert his sovereignty. he (riday before "imbledon began, Djokovic was sitting at an outdoor table at -e #ain <uotidien, on

"imbledon =illage High *treet. He looked as though hed just towelled off and stepped into a watch ad. His clothes were from 8ni:lo, his sponsor> trim trousers, blue leather shoes, blue linen bla!er, good white shirt. His nose had caught the sun. "hen he sat down, he said to the waitress, +1aybe a water, please, would be nice. *till water%not too cold.. ?He avoids ice water%it inhibits the flow of blood to the muscles.@ He also ordered a mint tea. wo weeks earlier, Djokovic had lost, painfully, to &afael 'adal in the semifinals of the (rench 9pen. he (rench 9pen is the only ,rand *lam that is played on clay, tenniss slowest surface. 6t is also the only ,rand *lam that Djokovic hasnt won. ?6t seems impossible, but #ete *ampras, Djokovics childhood idol, never won there, either.@ 'adal, who is nearly untouchable on clay, which he grew up playing on, in 1allorca, had won the (rench 9pen in seven of the past eight years. )ut he had been out for seven months with a knee injury, and Djokovic, surging, had beaten him, for only the third time on clay, a month earlier at 1onte 2arlo. ?Djokovics career record against 'adal is 5AB35.@ Djokovic was scarily fit, and he was no longer distracted by a series of health problems that had afflicted his father in 3453. here was talk among the tennis cognoscenti about the prospect of his surpassing his 3455 season. 9ver a gruelling four hours and thirty-seven minutes in #aris, Djokovic had failed to prevail by the slightest of margins. 8p a break and tied at deuce at CBD in the fifth set, he attacked with the diabolical incrementalism of a medieval torture master, stretching 'adal ever wider across the court, then charging forward to put away an easy overhead, after which he tripped and accidentally tapped the net, forfeiting a crucial point. he set, the match, and the coveted title soon fell away. Djokovic had been so upset that he booked a last-minute vacation and retreated to 2orsica with his girlfriend of eight years, ;elena &istic. )ut now, resurfacing in England, he seemed at ease. he day before, he had played an exhibition match at the )oodles 2hallenge, in )uckinghamshire, against ,rigor Dimitrov, a twenty-two-year-old )ulgarian comer known as )aby (ed. he stands were filled with suburban women. During the changeover between games, the crowd had kept up a slow clap. $s the noise mounted, Djokovic stood up. -ike a magician revealing a marvel, he peeled off his top%poof, abs0%and whirled it above his head, gyrating his hips. hen he pointed at Dimitrov. +"ere too sexy for our shirts0. the next days Daily Mail headline read. +Djokovic and Dimitrov send crowd into raptures by comparing torsos in "imbledon warm-up.. Djokovic seemed pleased that his impromptu striptease had caused a sensation. + hey put in a photoF. he asked, at the cafG, stroking #ierre, who whimpered on his lap. +6 heard many comments during that match yesterday. 6t was a lot of entertainment and fun%and, also, getting the crowd involved in the tennis match like never before0. Djokovics reputation as a ham%his other nickname is the Djoker%obscures a difficult heritage. He was born in 1ay of 5HIJ in )elgrade, which was then part of /ugoslavia. His parents, *rdjan and Dijana, owned a pi!!a parlor and snack bar in the mountain resort town of Kopaonik. 'ovak ?'ole to his family@, the eldest of three sons%1arko, who is twenty-two, and Djordje, who is eighteen, also play professional tennis%enjoyed what he described as a +beautiful. childhood. +/ou know, 6 grew up in restaurants,. he said, recalling afternoons spent washing dishes and dolloping 'utella on crLpes. + he job 6ve done most often was with my father, cleaning the snow in front of our restaurant with the shovel.. 9nce, it snowed so much that they chiselled a picnic table out of ice. Djokovics opening line as a trainee waiter> +,ood afternoon, welcome to our restaurant. "hat would you like to drinkF 6 might seem young, but 6 will be able to remember your orders.. 6t was a fluke that Djokovic started playing tennis. His father had been a competitive skierM the family was athletic, but racket sports were not a part of its repertoire%nor, particularly, of that of *erbia,

which, as a nation, favored team sports. (or some reason, the government decided to build a tennis complex in Kopaonik, an improbable development that Djokovic interprets as a sign of providence. Djokovic loitered around the courts until ;elena ,encic, a pro who had once coached 1onica *eles, finally invited him to join her clinic. He showed up the next morning, and by the end of the week ,encic was proclaiming that +the golden child. possessed +the biggest talent 6 have seen since 1onica.. ?,encic became a lifelong mentor to Djokovic, encouraging him to read poetry and to listen to classical musicM she died a week before the 'adal match, at the age of seventy-six.@ "hen Djokovic was six, he told his parents that it was his mission to become the 'o. 5 tennis player in the world. "hen he was eleven, '$ 9 began bombing )elgrade. Each night at eight oclock, as the air-raid siren sounded, the family would run to an aunts apartment building, which had a bomb shelter. (or seventy-eight nights, they crouched in darkness, praying amid the screams of (-55Js. Djokovic kept up his tennis throughout the bombardment, playing on cracked courts bereft of nets. He writes, in +*erve to "in,. published this month by )allantine, +"ed go to the site of the most recent attacks, figuring that if they bombed one place yesterday, they probably wouldnt bomb it today.. 6n the aftermath of the war, as sanctions crippled *erbias economy, the family struggled to support Djokovics ambition. *rdjan recently told the *erbian newspaper Kurir, +"e lived seventeen years in rented accommodations, landlords evicted us. 6 could not sleep at night and 6 was walking down the street. *ometimes the police arrested me. . . . $fter 6 explained, wed sit in the station, laughing and drinking brandy until the morning.. he family debated whether to flee to ,ermany, or )ritain. +)ut in the end we decided we needed to be with our people,. Djokovic told me. ,encic told *rdjan and Dijana, +6f you want him to keep progressing, he has to leave the country.. *rdjan sold the familys gold and borrowed money from a loan shark. 'ovak went to a tennis academy in 1unich. ennis, perhaps alone among sports, does not necessarily thrill to a hard-luck tale. 6t is an oddity of Djokovics career that his story is not primarily told as an inspirational one. $long with =enus and *erena "illiams, he is the player that a certain sort of enthusiast%+tennis ninnies,. as the writer *tephen &odrick has called them%cannot abide. he objection to him involves his extreme self-belief, supposedly unbecoming in a tennis player of his accomplishments, when it is the very thing that has enabled them. $t the cafG, Djokovic mentioned that he had just watched a documentary on the "illiams sisters. +6 can identify with that,. he said. + hey came from poor neighborhoods, without really any kind of conditions to become what they have become, but their father and close family believed in them, and now they rule the world.. "imbledon is the rare hallowed site that exceeds its reputation for grandeur. Hydrangeas line the walkways. he hush is only more touching for being a parody of itself. Demonstrating the English flair for imposing class systems where informality might otherwise flourish, badges dangle from the lapels of men in panama hats, identifying them as debenture holders, or non-voting investors in the $ll England -awn ennis 2lub, which was founded in 5I7I as a cro:uet association. ?1ajor "alter 2lopton "ingfield, who brought tennis to the club, originally tried to call the game *phairistikG, alluding to a ,reek word for +ball..@ he place where the line judges eat is called the 9fficials )uttery. Djokovic, who rents a house down the road from the club each year, has called "imbledon his favorite tournament. he year he won, he crouched, plucked a tuft of grass from the court, and stuffed it into his mouth. +6 felt like an animal. 6 wanted to see how it tastes,. he later explained. ?6t tasted +like sweat..@ 2hris Evert, 2liff Drysdale, and )rad ,ilbert, among other analysts, were picking Djokovic to win the title. He had been spotted at a local )uddhist temple, meditating under a tree. $n air of calm expectancy surrounded him. here had been a bumper crop of strawberries. he day before "imbledon began, Djokovic was practicing on the clubs back courts. +*peak to me in ,erman a little bit, man0. he yelled as he fired serves at ommy Haas, the worlds

thirteenth-ranked player and his hitting partner for the day. Djokovics team%an omnipresent cli:ue consisting of 1ariNn =ajda ?his coach, *lovakian@, Dusan =emic ?the assistant coach, *erbian@, ,ebhard ,ritsch ?his trainer, $ustrian@, 1iljan $manovic ?his physiotherapist and confidant, *erbian@, and Edoardo $rtaldi ?manager, 6talian@%hovered on the edges of the court like bouncers, hands clasped behind their backs. ?;elena &istic is also an indispensable part of his entourage.@ he men had more hair on their faces than on their heads. he only chink in the tableau of steely professionalism occurred when, once the session was over, Djokovic toted away his shoes in a crumpled shopping bag. 6 asked $rtaldi whether Djokovic had recovered from #aris. + he (rench is over,. he said. +9ne of his capabilities is to forget.. Djokovics first opponent was (lorian 1ayer, an ungainly ,erman whose service motion looked as though he were scraping a bow across a cello. Djokovic played commandingly but dispassionately. "hen a high short ball floated his way, he tapped it over the net, as though his challenger didnt :uite merit the exertion ?or the small amount of risk@ that a slam would have entailed. He was a 1cKinsey man, hitting his percentages. His approach was scientific. He brought to mind a diagram on the side of a workout machine, isolating the necessary muscles re:uired for each stroke, and no more, as he dismantled 1ayer in fifty-seven minutes. 6n the second round, Djokovic faced )obby &eynolds, a journeyman $merican making his 2entre 2ourt dGbut at the age of thirty. &eynolds told me later, +6 would have had to have played an unbelievable match, and he would have had to have played 2-level, for me to have even had a chance.. &eynolds could hardly analy!e the match, because, as he pointed out, Djokovics game has no obvious flaws. he way to beat (ederer is well known, if difficult to execute> hit high to his backhand. ?$ll the better if you play left-handed, like 'adal.@ 'adals serve, particularly his second serve, can be unintimidating. he same is true of the *cot $ndy 1urray, the third-ranked player. )ut Djokovics game is encrypted in versatility. He has few tendencies. He can hit powerfully on both the forehand and the backhand sides, cross-court and down the line, with varying spin and pace. 6n isolation, you might take (ederers serve, 'adals forehand, or 1urrays backhand over any one of Djokovics strokes, but, while Djokovics opponents are only infinitesimally better in the areas in which they exceed him, they are poorer at the things they do worse. 'ick )ollettieri, the tennis coach, has called Djokovic +perhaps the best put-together player that 6ve seen in over sixty years.. &eynolds told me, +6f theres one thing 6 can say that 6 had any success with, it was serving straight into his body. )ut you have to be so precise %if you miss by, like, a foot, then its one hundred per cent in his strike !one.. Djokovics nominally defensive play%his ability to transform into winners shots you think he can barely get his racket on%is the most distinctive element of his style. +"hen hes on defense, he can actually win the point with one shotM thats an evolution of the game,. $ndre $gassi has said. His :uicksilver conversions of vulnerable moments have the added benefit of tormenting his opponents. im 1ayotte, a leading $merican player in the eighties, who is now a coach at the 1ayotte-Hurst ennis $cademy, in <ueens, told me, +6 think his defense is just astonishing. o be able to take points that feel like theyre yours, stay in the match, and turn them around%that would just drive me loco.. $ classic Djokovic point> 3455, the semifinals of the 8.*. 9pen, (ederer serving for the match at ABD, C4B5A in the fifth set. Djokovic had fought his way back from a two-set deficit. he crowd was egging on the rivalry while remaining, as ever, solidly behind (ederer, the lordly seigneur of tennis for nearly ten years. + here is near-hysteria here,. a commentator intoned in the broadcast booth. Djokovic, with ice in his eyes, pushed his tongue into his bottom lip and gave a macho jerk of his chin. (ederer served wide into the deuce court. Djokovic swung and hit an impossibly angled cross-court

forehand across the net%a bla!ing vector that just seared the line. he sheer insolence of the shot seemed to rankle (ederer into collapse. +$re you kidding meF. (ederer complained, after losing the match. +6 mean, please. -ook, some players grow up and play like that. 6 remember losing junior matches, just being down AB3 in the third and they all just start slapping shots. 6t all goes in for some reason, because thats kind of the way they grew up playing when they were down.. Djokovic entered the op 544 in 344A, at the age of eighteen, but, prior to his spectacular 3455 season, he was considered%even by himself%something of a choke artist, an erratic malingerer whose fitness and focus wavered at crucial moments. 6n +*erve to "in,. he catalogues his implosions> in 344A, at his first appearance in the (rench 9pen ?after winning the first set against the eighth-ranked ,uillermo 2oria, he wilted and resigned@M three months later, at the 8.*. 9pen ?+6 lay on my back like a beached whale,. winning the match after calling an unsporting four time-outs@M in the final of the 2roatia 9pen, in 3447 ?+*omething was pinching my nose closed, bear-hugging my chest, pouring concrete into my legs.@. 6n the book, Djokovic calls his affliction the 2urse, suggesting an unpredictable scourge, but it struck most often when his game was failing. 6n 344J, Djokovic became the third-ranked player in the world. 6n 344I, he won the $ustralian 9pen, his first ,rand *lam. )ut no matter what he tried, and he tried a lot%lifting weightsM biking for hoursM changing coachesM undergoing nasal surgery, to improve his breathingM moving his training camp to $bu Dhabi, in the hope of acclimating to the heat%he could not break through to the highest level. He was 'o. D in 344I, 344H, and much of 3454. he 2rassus of tennis, an eternal ankle-biter, he got little respect. + here were two men in the world who were the best%(ederer and 'adal%and, to them, 6 was nothing but an occasional annoyance, one who might :uit at any moment when the going got tough,. Djokovic writes. Djokovics dodgy conditioning suggested a sort of moral flabbiness, a lack of mettle, that made him unpopular with some of his peers. he usually courtly (ederer said, when asked about Djokovics injuries in 344J, +6 think hes a joke.. 6n 344I, Djokovic was set to meet the $merican $ndy &oddick in the :uarterfinals of the 8.*. 9pen. $t a press conference before the match, a journalist brought up the subject of Djokovics health> ;98&'$-6* > "hen asked about his injuries today, you know, mentioning the right ankle, supposedly the left ankle% &9DD62K> /eah, 6 know, both of emF $nd a backF ;98&'$-6* > $nd a back. &9DD62K> $nd a hipF ;98&'$-6* > $nd a hip. &9DD62K OsneeringP> $nd a cramp. ;98&'$-6* > 9.K., yeah, yeah. Do you get the sense right now that he is% &9DD62K> )ird flu. ;98&'$-6* > /eah, a lot of thingsF &9DD62K> $nthrax. *$&*. 2ommon coughing cold. ;98&'$-6* > Do you think hes bluffingF hat seems to be what youre saying. &9DD62K> 'ah, if its there its there. heres just a lot. Hes either :uick to call the trainer or hes the most courageous guy of all time. 6ts up for you guys to decide. Djokovic ended up defeating &oddick, a crowd favorite at (lushing 1eadows, in a raucous evening match. $fterward, he gave a courtside interview. 6n response to a boilerplate :uestion, he said, +"ell, obviously, you know, $ndy was saying that 6 have sixteen injuries, so obviously 6 dont, rightF. he stands erupted in jeers. Djokovic looked uncomfortably defiant, as though he had provoked a monster whose strength he had not :uite known and now, a little scared, or sad, he felt forced to maintain his bravado in order to see out the fight. he interviewer noted that a 'ew /ork crowd can turn :uickly.

Djokovic shrugged. +"ell, theyre already against me, because they think 6m faking everything, so its all right.. 6ts excruciating to watch the video, which captures the discrepancy between Djokovics desire to be fLted as a winner%he had, after all, won%and the crowds perception of him as a punk. During his period of attempting to exorcise the 2urse, Djokovic brought in odd 1artin, the former 'o. C player, as a second coach. +6 think one of the attractions was that they were looking for someone who was calm,. 1artin told me. +)ecause, at that time, his surroundings were not calm.. 6f Djokovic was a family business, the corporate culture had become overwrought. *rdjan and Dijana were nervous about whether their many years of sacrifice were going to come to fruition. His longtime collaborators were +incredibly emotional,. 1artin recalled. + his is everybodys child, and they all had a lot vested in the success of this individual.. *till, 1artin said, +the team was, is, and always will be excellent. 6 thought 'ovaks way of doing business probably needed to change more than anyone elses.. 1artin recalled his attempts to prepare Djokovic for the 3454 $ustralian 9pen with a mixture of exasperation and affection> +'ovak was very anxious about being in the heat in $ustralia, and because he felt like he didnt breathe well, and the heat got to him, he would not practice. -iterally, he would just go and basically stand on the court for an hour until he felt like 6 could possibly be appeased. $nd 6 said, Q-isten, if were not going to practice you have to do something other than be inside in the airconditioning. "hy dont we go play nine holes of golfF 6t was just excruciating heat. )ut 6 had told him, Q/ou need exposure to the heat in order to prepare for competing in the heat. . 1artin and Djokovic went to the golf course. Every time Djokovic hit a shot, he would yell +Ex-po-sure!. at the top of his lungs. *everal weeks later, Djokovic had reached the :uarterfinals. He was playing ;o-"ilfried songa, a (rench player who was then ranked tenth. songa had won the first setM Djokovic took the second in a tiebreaker, and won the third, 7B5. hen, in the fourth set, with songa up 5B4, Djokovic began to hyperventilate. He ran to the locker room, sank to the floor, and vomited into the toilet. He lost the match after double-faulting at 5BD, 4BC4 in the fifth set, a moment that he calls +the lowest point of my career.. 6n the third round of "imbledon, Djokovic faced ;GrGmy 2hardy, a (rench player who has been ranked as high as twenty-fifth. Djokovic lost six points on serve in the entire match. 'ext up was ommy Haas, his hitting partner from the weekend. Djokovic won the first three games in ten minutes. $nother demolition. omNR )erdych, a giant from the 2!ech &epublic, fared only slightly better, despite having beaten Djokovic in straight sets at "imbledon in 3454. #ummelling Djokovic with forehands to the baseline% one gargantuan rally lasted thirty shots%)erdych managed to stretch the first set to sixty-three minutes, surrendering in a tiebreaker. )erdych coupled his power with a balletic aspect, leaping into shots like a satyr. Djokovic was a break-dancer, contorting himself into splits that stretched parallel to the court.

Djokovic possesses the best return of serve in tennis. His reflexes in this match were freakish, as though he were a missile shield. he final point of the second set was illustrative. im -ewis wrote, in the Guardian, + he 2!ech crashed down a one-hundred-and-twenty-five-mph hammer blow and stood back to admire his handiwork. he ball practically decapitated Djokovic but he somehow returned it. 6t landed mid-court, but a shocked )erdych, his feet an illegible s:uiggle, could only blast a forehand into the net.. he exchange was a real-life enactment of a commercial Djokovic once made, for Head, in which he succeeds in firing back a shot so putatively decisive that his opponent has already turned around and started walking away from the net. )erdych served as fast as a hundred and thirty miles an hour but managed only six acesM Djokovic, serving ten miles an hour slower, tallied sixteen. #art of the poignancy of sports is the mismatch they create between physical maturity and emotional development. $n athletes career is unlikely to flower in perfect concert with his self-knowledge. 6magine if politicians, or businessmen, reached the height of their professional powers just a few years after adolescence. 6nternet moguls do, but, unlike athletes, their tenures are open-ended. &afael 'adal writes, in his 3455 autobiography, +6 am very, very keenly aware of how short the life of a professional athlete is, and 6 cannot bear the thought of s:uandering an opportunity that might never come again. 6 know 6 wont be happy when my career is over, and 6 want to make the best of it while it lasts.. Djokovic and his family were slow to internali!e the codes of tennis, a sport that derives its prestige from its sense of itself as a gentlemans game. $mong the offenses regularly cited by Djokovics detractors is the fact that his parents, cheering him on at a match, wore -shirts imprinted with a picture of his face. 1odesty is a fetish in tennis. +6 would like to see him show a bit more humility, like 'adal and (ederer,. &oy Emerson, the $ustralian former champion, said, of Djokovic, in 3455. + here is too much of this chest thumping and roaring when he wins.. 6t was true that Djokovics parents could be mildly obnoxious. ?+ he king is dead, long live the king,. Dijana said, in 344I, after Djokovic beat (ederer, predicting that her son would soon be 'o. 5.@ His entourage did not exude dignity. ? o celebrate his 3455 victory at the 1adrid 9pen, they draped the *erbian flag over a -exus. "hile Djokovic cheered, 1ariNn =ajda, his forty-six-year-old coach, climbed on top of the car and began humping the hood.@ He could be annoying, with his bluster and his cheesy pranks. ?He once pretended to show a reporter his vibration dampener and then hit him in the crotch, gasping, + hats a basic joke of tennis0 *orry,. as he doubled over in hysterics.@ His sensibility recalled the soccer stadium rather than the country club. He seemed the type of person who, at a magic show, would die to be picked for audience participation. +He was like the guy whos a bit uncomfortable at the cocktail party and had to do something different to try to be at ease,. homas &oss, a longtime agent, told me. 6f (ederer was the foxtrot, Djokovic was the Harlem *hake. 9ne could also detect a tinge of cultural superiority in the disapproval that wafted toward Djokovic from the guardians of the game%a suggestion that he was perhaps not a real European, an old-regime, advertiser-pleasing, tradition-respecting champion in the mode of the feisty *paniard or the elegant *wiss. $ccording to &oss, Djokovics sponsorship portfolio%he signed with 8ni:lo in 3453, after the sports-apparel company *ergio acchini reportedly fell behind on bonus payments%is not all one would expect of a player who has been 'o. 5 for several years. -ast year, Djokovic switched agents, moving from 2.$.$. to 6.1.,. $ccording to Forbes, he makes fourteen million dollars a year in endorsements, compared with (ederers sixty-five and 'adals twenty-one. +6 think hes gotten a raw deal,. 1artina 'avratilova, who defected from 2!echoslovakia to the 8nited *tates in 5HJA, told me. +*ome of that stuff gets lost in translation. 6t just comes off a little bit more cocky than you mean it.. Djokovic told me, of his missteps, +6 was somebody that was coming up and showing no fear on the court and trying to be very confident in my statements.. He continued, +*ome people saw it as ignorance and arrogance, but 6 didnt ever feel that way. 6 felt only confident in knowing what 6 want to achieve and what 6 want to do..

Djokovic has also faced the challenge of coming of age in the era of (ederer and 'adal, who have nurtured the greatest, most sentimental rivalry in the history of tennis, and, possibly, of sports. he paradox of Djokovics career is that the better he does the less he is liked, at least among those who cling to the binary model perpetuated by (ederer and 'adal. )y a fault of timing, he is the forever crasher, the automatic odd man out. +"hy did people not like Kobe or -e)ron as much as they liked 1ichael ;ordanF. odd 1artin said. +)ecause, in some way, they dont like the comparisons that are made between themF 6 think its going to be a long, long time before we find two dominant figures in our sport that have the respect of everybody as much as &oger and &afa.. 6n the "imbledon semifinals, Djokovic faced ;uan 1artSn del #otro, a big-hearted, six-foot-six $rgentinean with a puppyish air that belied his grit. he match, the longest semifinal in "imbledon history, was a marvel of huge strokes of extreme precision at exorbitant speeds. Del #otros flat, steaming forehands were so effective that Djokovic, every few points, was forced to seek asylum at the net. (or his part, Djokovic turned grass into clay, treading like a panther across a surface that $ndre $gassi, in his memoir, likens to +ice slathered with =aseline.. he rallies were primal. "atching them made your guts hurt. he match was somehow both brutal and congenial. "ith Djokovic serving at 5AB5A, 3BD in the fourth set, del #otro hit a down-the-line forehand that seemed to just nick the baseline. "hen the line judge ruled it out, del #otro crossed the court to solicit Djokovics advice on whether he should challenge the call. ?Djokovic thought that he should, but del #otro declined.@ $fter the chat, he tugged on the !ipper of Djokovics shirt, making everybody laugh. 6n the fourth set, in a tiebreaker, del #otro saved two match points. Djokovic outlasted him, eventually winning JBA, CB7, JB7 ?3@, 7BJ ?7@, 7BD. he backand-forth was so depleting, so tense, that, at one point, del #otro, having failed to run down a ball, stepped up onto the wall in front of the stands, pantomiming surrender. +6 had to hit five or six big forehands, and its not enough to win the point,. he told me later. +6 said, Q9.K., its too much, its too good0 . "hen 6 asked Djokovic about his striptease at the )oodles 2hallenge, he said, +6t felt great on the court, because 6 got to expand my vision and focus, not just on the dimensions of the tennis court but outward, to the stands.. He pointed out that we think of tennis as a two-person contest, but that, at any given time, there are actually a do!en people on the court. Del #otro said, of the "imbledon showdown, +6 think it was the best match of my career. *omething special happens with 'ovak%only with him. 1y feelings are much easier, more comfortable and fun.. 6f (ederer and 'adal are the stars of a buddy film, Djokovic is the leading man in an ensemble cast, raising his competitors games, and his spectators spirits, as he presides over a sort of tennis-in-the-round. Djokovics life changed when Dr. 6gor 2etojevic, a physician and acupuncturist, picked up his television remote. 6t was ;anuary of 3454, and 2etojevic, surfing channels in his living room in 2yprus, flipped to the $ustralian 9pen. 2etojevic was not a tennis fan, but his wife was, and he was happy enough to spend a few minutes cheering on a fellow-*erb. Except that the fellow-*erb was melting down, in the midst of his dire match against songa. he commentators, who could see that Djokovic was having trouble breathing, speculated that asthma was the cause. +6ts not asthma,. 2etojevic said, turning to his wife. +6 think 6 can help him.. *ix months later, 2etojevic met Djokovic in *plit%he asked some friends who knew *rdjan to arrange the introduction%and announced that he was fairly certain that Djokovics mysterious breakdowns were the result of an imbalance in his digestive system. 2etojevic had been able to make the diagnosis at a distance of thousands of miles, he told me, on the basis of his study of 2hinese traditional medicine. He recalled, in an e-mail, +1ost asthma symptoms appear in the early morning, and 'oles match was in the afternoon. 6f he really had an asthmatic condition, he would not have been able to

play two excellent sets in the :uarterfinal match of the $ustralian 9pen before the breathing difficulties appeared.. 2etojevic suggested that Djokovic undergo a series of tests. (or instance, he asked Djokovic to put his left hand on his stomach, extending his right hand straight out and pushing up while he pressed on it from above. + his is what your body should feel like,. 2etojevic said. hen he gave Djokovic a slice of bread and told him to hold it against his belly, while again straightening his right arm. 6n +*erve to "in,. Djokovic writes, +"ith the bread against my stomach, my arm struggled to resist 2etojevics downward pressure. 6 was noticeably weaker.. 2etojevic concluded, + his is a sign that your body is rejecting the wheat in the bread.. 2etojevic suggested that Djokovic eliminate gluten from his diet. $fter commissioning some blood work, he recommended that Djokovic also eliminate dairy products and cut down on tomatoes. ?6n solidarity, 1iljan $manovic, Djokovics trainer, underwent an assessment and had to forsake egg whites and pineapple.@ he program was hard to fathom%his parents owned a pi!!a parlor0%but Djokovic was desperate enough to try it, and, once he did, he experienced it as a complete rebirth. $s he recalls in +*erve to "in. ?subtitle> + he 5C-Day ,luten-(ree #lan for #hysical and 1ental Excellence.@, +6 was lighter, :uicker, clearer in mind and spirit. . . . 6 could tell the moment 6 woke up each morning that 6 was different than 6 had been, maybe since childhood. 6 sprang out of bed, ready to tear into the day ahead.. 9ne day, as an experiment, he ate a bagel. He writes, +6 felt like 6d spent the night drinking whiskey0. 'ow that he had the 2ure for the 2urse, Djokovic rededicated himself to tennis. "hether the new diet was a panacea or a placebo%or whether the reboot was due to something else entirely%it launched Djokovic into an elevated phase of his career. )y ;uly, he had lost eleven pounds. (inally, he prevailed at "imbledon. +Here, on the biggest stage in tennis, 6 could sense the whole world reali!ing that, at last, 6 had truly arrived,. he writes, of his 3455 victory over 'adal. 6n ;anuary of 3453, after Djokovic beat 'adal again, to capture his third $ustralian 9pen, he allowed himself a single s:uare of chocolate, his first in a year and a half. he life style of an Glite athlete rivals that of an inmate for abstemiousness and monotony. ? ennis players seem to spend half their lives in the shower.@ 6f many of his competitors reside in a county jail of their own making, Djokovic inhabits a supermax prison. $ typical day> J>D4 "ake-up. epid glass of water. *tretching. $ bowl of muesli with a handful of mixed nuts, some sunflower seeds, sliced fruit, and a small scoop of coconut oil. 2hew very slowly. I>D4 1eet with coach and physiotherapist. Hit with training partner. Drink two bottles of energy drink, adding a hydration drink with electrolytes if its humid. 54>44 *tretching. 2heck color of urine. 55>44 *ports massage. 53>44 -unch. ,luten-free pasta with vegetables. 5>D4 "ork out. Drink organic protein shake made from water mixed with pea protein. 3>D4 *tretching. D>44 Hitting practice. C>D4 *tretching. A>44 )usiness meetings. J>D4 Dinner. 'o $lcohol. 'o Dessert. #rotein. =egetables, but not beets, potatoes, parsnips, s:uash or pumpkin, which are too high in carbs. His associates guard the details of his training program as though they were nuclear codes, but ,ebhard ,ritsch, his trainer, did allow that Djokovic prefers to exercise outdoors. +"e are not so keen about gyms,. he told me. +"e do a lot of stuff in nature, and 6 think we are different from other players in this

regard. heres a mental advantage, but also a coTrdinative advantage, because the challenges are much more complex in the real world as opposed to the controlled environment of the gym.. 6n 3455, the Wall Street Journal reported that Djokovic had been trying to improve his performance by sitting in a 2=$2 pod, an +egg-shaped, bobsled-si!ed. hypobaric chamber that, according to the company that manufactures it, can increase muscle tone, and perhaps even stimulate stem-cell production. ? he machine, which costs sixty-five thousand dollars, belongs to ,ordon 8ehling 666, a 'ew ;ersey tennis coach and friend of Djokovics.@ "hile the pod wasnt illegal in tennis, it wasnt exactly kosherM as the Journal noted, the "orld $nti-Doping $gency has ruled that such apparatuses violate +the spirit of sport.. Djokovics lab-rat-like regimen, combined with his clinical style, prompts critics to label him a +manufactured player,. as *imon )arnes wrote in the ?8.K.@ Times. his is an aesthetic objection, rather than an accusation of malfeasance, but it helps to explain why Djokovic, despite his primacy, still strains for the adulation that seems to be the birthright of his peers. +9ver the course of the last few years, 6ve developed the ability to cope with stress and emotions and to understand myself and the way 6 work,. Djokovic said on the phone in $ugust. ,ebhard ,ritsch told me that, prior to his magical season in 3455, Djokovic had undergone +a very advanced process in maturing.. ,ritsch said, +$n example of this is very simple%since the middle of 3454, there was not one time where he said, Q$h, again, do we have to do this and thatF he opposite%he would say, Q*hould we do moreF . 6 asked Djokovic if he had registered the criticisms of his attitude. He said, +6 never wanted to step away from who 6 am and what 6 do and what 6 want. 6 wanted to fully commit to this life, and, on the other hand, 6 needed to understand how 6 needed to go about things on and off the court in order to be the worlds best, and thats where the adjustment comes.. ?*o, yes.@ Djokovic can be the idiot, but he is also the savant, a self-aware self-improver fascinated by the workings of the human psyche. He seeks enlightenment with the same broadmindedness that he applied to getting in shape. 1ost nights, he writes in a journal. He does not see a regular psychologist, but he incorporates elements of philosophy, positive thinking, inspirational speaking, animism, and meditation into his routine. +1y girlfriend and 6 have been creating some mood boards0. he told me. $t one point, 6 asked him about the "inston 2hurchill :uote ?+"e make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.@ that serves as the epigraph of +*erve to "in,. and he :uoted #lato on altruism before launching into a homily> 6ts important to be humble, and important to be very open-minded toward all the people in the world. 6t doesnt matter who it is, really, or how much amount of success that person has made, because you dont measure the person through the success the person has made, but through his behavior. here is one actually great :uote from #avle, our 9rthodox priest%we are not 2atholic, so we dont have a papa. Hes our spiritual leader, in a way. He passed away in 344H, and hes actually one of the greatest people that, really, *erbia ever had. )ecause he was a very modest man%his sister was very ill, so he would go every day with the public transport to visit her. He never used carsM he always talked to the people. *o, one great :uote%he says to one kid that was saying to him that he has the best grades and so much success in the school. *o #atriarch #avle said, + hats all great, 6 congratulate you, but its not the grades that make you a man, but your behavior.. *o thats what 6 try to implement in my life. He seemed so keen to soak up knowledge, and then to demonstrate it, that he reminded me of a much more polite Kanye "est, his eagerness for a shortcut to gravitas occasionally leading him to stumble over his ambition. He is not without a susceptibility to mumbo-jumbo, but his intentions are generous. +6 believe that food can deliver positive or negative energy,. he writes in +*erve to "in.. +)efore 6 tell you why, remember what 6 said> QHave an open mind. . he revelation is that he once saw an

experiment in which +a researcher. filled two glasses of water, swearing at one of them and whispering kind thoughts to the other. $fter a few days, Djokovic writes, the latter was +tinted slightly green,. while the other +was still bright and crystal clear.. Djokovic is a devout member of the *erbian 9rthodox 2hurch. $t -e #ain <uotidien, 6 asked him about a bracelet he was wearing%a black cord with a charm in the shape of a cross. He said that he had got it, along with a large wooden cross that never leaves his neck, at Hilandar, a monastery on ,reeces 1t. $thos, which was founded in the twelfth century by *t. *ava, the first *erbian 9rthodox archbishop. ?6n 3455, the church awarded Djokovic the 9rder of *t. *ava, its highest distinction, praising his +active love towards 1other 2hurch. and his +fervent and persistent helping of the *erbian people..@ 6n 344H, Djokovic travelled to Hilandar with his father, his uncle, and his brothers. He called it +the most holy place 6 ever visited in my life.. He recalled, + he only thing we did is pray all day, walk around, do some maintenance, and eat twice a day, at 7 $.1. and 7 #.1. 6t makes you go back to your roots and back to yourself.. he church, in its commendation, acknowledged Djokovics value as an envoy> + his young *erb, the most outstanding athlete and ambassador of *erbia in the world.. Djokovic is the most famous person in *erbiaM he is also the worlds most famous *erbian. his means that, in addition to being a very good tennis player, he is expected to massage the expectations and pieties of his varying constituencies while carting around a load of heavy historical baggage. ;on "ertheim, of Sports Illustrated, wrote a blog post that read, +$sk yourself> "hats the worst thing you could say about Djokovic in 3455F He once used a controversial egg contraptionF He faded in the fallF His parents stopped showing up wearing those supercool -shirtsF. 9ne reader, an $lbanian, replied with a blog post of her own, calling Djokovic +a dangerous *erbian nationalist.. *he argued, +Djokovic is intentionally emphasi!ing only *erbian suffering while refusing to acknowledge *erbian crimes.. Djokovic is undoubtedly patriotic. 6 asked him whether he thought he had helped transform *erbias image, and whether *erbias image needed transforming. +/es,. he said. +6 dont even try to judge these people, but 6 believe they are just misinformed. 6ts all a product of the bad press that *erbia has been getting in the last twenty years.. He continued, +6m not here sitting with you saying *erbia is the best country in the world%6m saying *erbia does not deserve this kind of treatment from the world press. 1e, as somebody who grew up in *erbia, who knows the history of our country, 6 know how much injustice has been done to our people.. He spoke of media brainwashing and of the publics refusal to listen to +the longer side of the story, which is true.. 6n a speech recorded in 344I on *erbian television, he declared, +"e are united and we are ready to defend what belongs to us. Kosovo is *erbia.. #erhaps unfairly, 6 asked him later whether he agreed with the *erbian #resident omislav 'ikolics decision to apologi!e, in $pril, for the massacre of eight thousand 1uslims that *erbian troops committed at *rebrenica in 5HHA. +-ets not talk about that, please,. Djokovic said. +6 really dont want to get into this subject, because anything and everything 6 say can be understood in a very wrong way, and the only thing that 6 can say is that war is the worst thing that one person can experience.. =ictoria )eckham, "ayne &ooney, and David 2ameron joined 5C,HHJ others in the stands at 2entre 2ourt on ;uly Jth to see $ndy 1urray and Djokovic compete for the "imbledon championship. 1urray, from Dunblane, *cotland, was vying to become the first )ritish man to win "imbledon since (red #erry, in 5HD7. ?)efore 1urray came along, the state of )ritish tennis was so dire that, each year at "imbledon, no matter who was playing, someone would invariably yell +2mon, im0. in honor of im Henman, who made it to the semifinals in 3445.@ he )ritish publics desire for a 1urray victory had reached *erbian levels. +$ndy, 1ake 9ur Day,. the front page of the bser!er read, while the Independent on Sunday pleaded, +'ows the Day, 'ows the Hour.. he Sun on Sunday distributed $ndy 1urray masks.

he match itself was something of an anticlimax. Djokovic, spent from his encounter with del #otro, never generated much momentum. he outcome seemed a foregone conclusion after 1urray, with his roadrunner serve, delivered an ace at 7BA, C4B4 to win the second set. -ess than an hour later, on match point 'o. C, Djokovic hit a backhand into the net, giving 1urray the championship at 7BC, JBA, 7BC. ?6n contravention of stadium rules, $lex *almond, the secessionist (irst 1inister of *cotland, unfurled a *cottish flag.@ Djokovic had seemed less than Uen during the match, but he delivered a gracious tribute to 1urray, who has emerged as the less gutsy 'adal to his less regal (ederer, playing to the heart-warmed fans. +He absolutely deserved this win,. he said, of 1urray. +He played incredible tennis. $nd congratulations to his team, and to all of you guys in the home country. 6t was an absolute honor and pleasure to be part of it.. +6s there a classier player in tennis than 'ovak DjokovicF. ;im in (ulham wrote to ))2 *port. + hree hours of dealing with an annoying crowd, and he is only complimentary to his opponent. rue champion.. Djokovic is on the verge of capturing the respect that has eluded him for much of his career. He seems to become more statesmanlike with every match%a grass-stained 1ark Uuckerberg, outgrowing the gawkiness that characteri!ed his early years. Even &oy Emerson offered a glowing assessment of his comportment. +He has definitely changed,. Emerson told me, in $ugust. +6 watched him play 1urray at "imbledon, and he seems to have grown up, and actually conducted himself terrifically in the final. He seems to be moving in the right direction.. he night after his loss at "imbledon, Djokovic put on a tuxedo and took a car to the &oundhouse, in 'orth -ondon, where he was hosting a gala in order to raise money for the 'ovak Djokovic (oundation. he foundation, which is run by ;elena &istic%she has a masters degree in management from )occoni 8niversity, in 1ilan%focusses on early-childhood education. Djokovic writes, in a letter that is posted on the foundations "eb site, +6t is very important for me to start building my philanthropic legacy now, while 6m young and have a lot of peoples attention.. he program featured a cocktail hour%the op *pin ?gin with lime juice@, the C4B-ove ?strawberry li:ueur and #rosecco@%followed by dinner, a performance by a mentalist, and a live auction, which would, by the end of the evening, raise nearly two million dollars. $t eight oclock, Djokovic stood with his parents, greeting such guests as 'aomi 2ampbell, ,oldie Hawn, ,erard )utler, and $ndy 1urrays mother, ;udy. ?$ diplomatic touch.@ he grocery magnate &on )urkle, who was listed as an event chair, advises Djokovic in an unofficial capacity. he foundations +global fundraising chairman. is a *erbian movie producer named 1ilutin ,atsby, who had brought in *arah (erguson, the Duchess of /ork, as a +global ambassador.. ?(ergie said, of Djokovic, +6 think he has a very pure heart..@ $s dinner began, intense music sounded, and images from *erbian history%the inventor 'ikola eslaM a bombed-out )elgrade%filled a large screen. Djokovic took the stage after the montage and said, +6 come from *erbia, where many kids do not dare to dream, but 6 always thought 6 might dream big, and 6 also have very big dreams for my foundation, and for my country as well.. &istic, who was sitting at the head table, resplendent in a striped 9scar de la &enta ballgown, held up her i#hone. +*hes just filming everything,. Djokovic said, and turned to her. +*o maybe you can put down the camera, because 6m talking about you,. he said. +6 need to look into your eyes. hank you, my love%you truly bring emotional stability and big love that, hopefully, we can share forever.. Djokovic, unlike 'adal, foresees a happy future after tennis. +6 see myself forming a family first of all,. he said, during our phone call. He was in the midst of speaking about how his family was, at last, ready to buy a house when a voice cut into the line. +"e have a car waiting,. his personal assistant said, and the line soon went dead.

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