One for all: Inside Djokovic’s mini-camp in Belgrade

As the calendar for the 2021 tennis season is shaping up, Novak Djokovic is making huge efforts to help players from Serbia and abroad have the best possible conditions to prepare for the upcoming challenges at the “Novak Tennis Center”.

Novak Djokovic - Erste Bank Open 2020

Indoor courts, meals, physiotherapists and fitness coaches are some of the benefits offered at the camp that Novak Djokovic has organised at his club located at Dorcol (part of Belgrade, capital of Serbia), on the bank of Danube river.

“One of the greatest projects in my life is the Academy. At the moment we have a mini academy, a tennis club actually, and through that club I am testing certain things which are supposed to be incorporated within a big system of the academy in the future. There are a lot of factors that affect the growth of a professional athlete,” Djokovic told Sport Klub in August.

“In my opinion, balance is the key: I have always been in favor of multidisciplinary, holistic approach in which you take into consideration the character and the whole life of a person. Then, based on that, an athlete needs to find his own formula for success. That is the kind of approach I would like to have at the Academy, it inspires me and motivates me. I hope that I will be able to offer that program in the near future so that I can share my experience with young athletes in order for them to get closer to the mentality I have. Except for the tennis part, our offer needs to be as complete as possible and it needs to include off-court decisions as well; they are never simple and the help of someone who knows sports well is often needed.”

During the uncertain times of the pandemic, Djokovic has once again seized the opportunity to help his colleagues and friends.

“It is nice to see Novak here with us, he is always giving us advice. We are extremely grateful for everything that he is doing for us,” says Filip Krajinovic, world No 31 and one of the players gathered at the camp.

Djokovic personally contacted a lot of the players in the group and offered them help. Some of them would have trouble finding indoor facilities during the cold months of winter and most of them would not be able to afford many of the things provided for them at the “Novak Tennis Center.”

In addition to the well-known names such as Krajinovic, Laslo Djere, Damir Dzumhur, Viktor Troicki, Olga Danilovic and Ivana Jorovic, others the group include up-and-coming Serbian junior Hamad Medjedovic (17 years old), Marko Miladinovic (20 years old, world no 499), Boris Butulija (21 years old, world no 1326), brothers Ivan and Matej Sabanov, the doubles specialists, as well as 15 year-old Lola Radivojevic and 17-year-old Andrea Mrvic.

Also, Vasek Pospisil and Malek Jaziri are staying in Belgrade and at the camp, so young players have a lot of knowledge and experience to soak up.

A peek inside the facilities

Along with the indoor hard courts, which are a rare commodity in Serbia, players have been provided with a fitness gym stacked with state-of-the-art equipment, as well as a hyperbaric chamber, salt room therapy and other means of recovery.

Players are presented with a physio and fitness coaches, all free of charge, just like everything within the camp. There is also a stringer at the club, beds, flat-screen TVs and a room for relaxation which features table tennis and table soccer, cards and various other games.

For those not based in Belgrade, Djokovic has provided accommodation in a nearby four-star hotel.

 

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A future in coaching for Novak?

“I am not one of those players that is fed up with tennis and cannot wait to never see the court again (once my playing career is over). It is quite the opposite actually; I love tennis and I would love to test my abilities as a mentor and as a coach,” Djokovic said in October.

Djokovic is not planning to stop chasing Grand Slam titles or his assault on the ATP’s record books any time soon, but he is obviously revelling in the role of a mentor and a coach. He has been present for numerous practices and shared his experience and advice, both on and off the court with the group (tennis and technical aspects, but emphasising the importance of walking in nature as well, for instance).

Novak Djokovic, Masters de Londres 2020

“Before my first practice with Novak I was very excited, but I have quickly realised that he is a normal, humble person. He came up to me, said hi, and hugged me. The practice was great, we worked all kinds of drills, played points: afterwards he told me to believe in my shots: that stuck with me, I need to believe in myself,” Medjedovic told Sport Klub in October.

Since then, Medjedovic has had many more opportunities to practise not just with Djokovic, but with Krajinovic, Dzumhur and other top players. And not just him, of course, but the rest of the young guard as well.

Nutritional focus 

Before the start of the camp every player had their blood drawn and had other tests performed on them such as body fat percentage in order to determine workload and nutrition. There is a top chef embedded in the club, who executes a menu designed for athletes. Each of the players choose their meals a few days in advance. As players describe it: “Healthy with low-calories, but more than enough energy to practise.”

Players had the opportunity to listen to a lecture concerning nutrition, fitness and healthy lifestyle. Also, there is smoothie bar on-site, which is 100 per cent organic, run by a bartender in charge of making smoothies for the players; Djokovic particularly enjoys and recommends chokeberry as it is very good for the immune system.

“Novak is doing everything just to help others, it is extraordinary. We are of course very appreciative, I am not sure how many people would have done the same,” several players echoed the same sentiment speaking to Tennis Majors.

Speaking to journalists in October, Djokovic had said that he is doing his best to be available to all of the young players in Serbia. From words to action, indeed.

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