Whereas many top tennis pros may have a history of pushy parents and cushy coaching facilities, the Serbian world number one says the bombing of Belgrade in 1999 helped develop his tennis. The Djokovic family took shelter in the city in 1999, as the conflict spread to the province of Kosovo, and the U.S. and other NATO countries rained bombs on Serbia for 78 days and nights.
Speaking to 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon in an interview that aired Sunday night, Djokovic talked about how the conflict shaped him as a player:
“The best thing about [the bombing], you know, I always try to remember those days in, in a positive, in a very bright way. Let’s say I, we didn’t need to go to school [chuckles] and we played more tennis. So, for us, that was/something that we remembered the most.”
Simon then asked if the war had helped make the Serb the champion he is now:
“Yea, it made us tougher. It made us more hungry. More hungry for success.”
Not that Djokovic doesn’t have horrific memories of the conflict he grew up in. The star also confesses:
“We were very scared. Everybody was very, very afraid because, you know, the whole city was under attack.”
Despite the fact the Djokovic family spent the first fortnight of the bombing in a disused basement, the young Novak still found time to play tennis every day, in defiance of the NATO bombs.
[Via CBS News]