Djokovic still finding “beauty in unpredictability” after all these years

The 24-time Grand Slam champion spoke of his continued love for the sport he has dominated for over a decade, as the unscripted nature of tennis maintains its appeal

Novak Djokovic, Monte-Carlo, 2024 Novak Djokovic, Monte-Carlo, 2024 Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic
Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters •Quarter-final • completed
See draw

One would imagine that someone doesn’t become the very best in the world at what they do without a deep and genuine love for their craft.

That must apply to an even greater degree to someone who has honed their skills so finely that they are, arguably, the greatest there has even been in their field.

It should be of little surprise then, to discover that Novak Djokovic‘s passion for tennis still remains undiminished, as does his affection for the sport he has dedicated his entire life to.

In his post-match press conference following a quarter-final win over Alex de Minaur at the Monte-Carlo Masters, Djokovic was asked – with reference to the late Kobe Bryant’s love for the sound of the basketball bucket – what he loved most about tennis.

“For me or for us it’s the sound of the shot, you know,” Djokovic replied.

“There is more than one thing to add to what Kobe was saying… But it’s interesting you say that, because I only enjoy that when I am watching the videos of my matches or I’m watching some other matches.

“I don’t enjoy it while I play, because I really don’t hear that, as strange as it sounds, but I’m completely in kind of a zone where I don’t hear the ball sound, the ball strike because of the grunts, because of whatever.”

Aside from the myriad of aesthetic satisfactions tennis provides, the world No 1 admits that he also still feels the tingle of anticipation before every match.

Despite the seemingly endless matches and titles Djokovic continues to collect, the fact that he can be beaten on any given day is enough to keep the fierce fire of competition burning brightly.

“I enjoy the thrill of the butterflies before the match,” he continued.

“Regardless of the fact that I played so many matches in my life, I still feel that nervous sensations but also the excitement of walking out on the court.

“Also, there is some beauty in unpredictability of what’s going to happen next. Nobody knows who’s going to win.

“Of course you might be favourite or not, but, you know, all the things that you have done coming into that moment to walk into the match, the more you have done, the better you have prepared yourself, the more confident you feel coming out on the court.

“For everyone it’s very individual and it’s different, but you still can’t know and guarantee for sure that you will play the way you play on the practice session.

“Actually it happens a lot of times where I play incredible in the practice session and then I walk out on the court and it’s, like, wow, it’s completely different, or the other way around, for that matter.

“So it’s the thrill of the unknown when you walk into the court to see what’s going to happen.”

lack of complacency key to djokovic’s unprecendented era of dominance

Djokovic winning tennis matches may not quite be the near-certainty that it was in the heady golden years of 2011 or 2015, but beating this man remains one of the greatest challenges in tennis.

Indeed, by reaching the semi-finals of Monte-Carlo this week, Djokovic now stands alone as the man with the most Masters 1000 last-four appearances and is the oldest semi-finalist in the tournament’s history.

As the momentous generational talents of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz move ever closer to the standards set by the preceding golden era, the 24-time Grand Slam champion is still holding his own as the leading man on the ATP tour.

This longevity comes from a continued understanding that there is no certainty in sport, and that complacency will more often than not be punished.

As Djokovic puts it, “anything can happen.”

Quite the statement from a player who, over the past ten years and more, has made the outcomes of tennis matches as fail-safe as they are possible to be.

People in this post

Your comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *