Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 February 2020

Novak Djokovic motivated by legacy and 'inspiring lives of others' over trophies

Serbian world No 2 discussed what drives him during his participation at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi

Novak Djokovic said a shift in his motivation to “something bigger than my own achievements” has given him renewed focus in recent years.

After completing the career Grand Slam at the 2016 French Open, Djokovic experienced an alarming slump – by his own sky-high standards – which lasted until the 2018 summer. Between that Roland Garros triumph and his fourth Wimbledon title 13 months later, Djokovic won just three other titles, and in May 2018 he was ranked outside the top-20 for the first time in nearly 12 years.

Fitness issues certainly contributed. An elbow injury forced Djokovic to call time on his 2017 season after Wimbledon in July, and following a false start to 2018, he underwent surgery. Returning in March after two months on the sidelines, Djokovic struggled for results until the grass court swing in June when his victory at Wimbledon proved a catalyst. Over the next season-and-a-half, he won a further eight titles – including three grand slams – and returned to world No 1.

Yet, the injury was not the only factor, with Djokovic revealing in an open letter after winning Wimbledon last year that struggles with motivation and “mental hurdles” also played their part.

While the Serb did not elaborate further at the time, he did offer some insight into his current motivations as he stepped up preparations for the 2020 season by competing at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

“You need to constantly give yourself fuel from the source, whatever the source is. I think it’s all about finding that purpose for playing,” he said after his semi-final defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday.

“For me, especially in the last couple of years, it’s really not only about winning tennis matches or trophies. There has to be something greater than my own achievements, something related to legacy that would be inspiring to the lives of others, particularly kids.

“Through my foundation and some other projects, I see a motivation and purpose behind me playing tennis, because I see tennis as a platform to do others things.

Novak Djokovic finished third at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Saturday. AFP
Novak Djokovic finished third at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Saturday. AFP

“At the end of the day, the main source of everything is me liking or not liking to play. The love for the game is still there, I still love to compete. What makes me happy is holding a racket and playing. I think that is the key. Everything after that is necessary in terms of goals and achievements for what I have in mind for my season and career, but you have to fuel yourself with something bigger than that.”

Chasing history, Djokovic said, plays into his wider motivation to continue as a professional tennis player. The 32-year-old Serb already holds dozens of records, while he is only four grand slam titles behind Roger Federer’s total of 20.

“[Breaking records] is a goal,” he said. “That is something that motivates me to compete. In order to compete as a professional tennis player, and to compete at the highest level, you need goals: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.

“I am aware of the privilege. I have to fight for history and to be able to possibly achieve some even greater things and that’s something that drives me, of course.”

Updated: December 22, 2019 05:01 PM

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