Tennis Prose



Novak Djokovic: The Hero Beyond Tennis

By Jayita A Belcourt

With 16 Grand Slam Titles and 77 ATP Singles Titles to his name, Novak Djokovic has a lot to be proud of inside the realms of tennis. Known for his steely resolve, fiery personality and never say die attitude on the court, the world number 2 has carved himself as tough competitor dedicated to winning and banking results. Yet underneath his tough exterior, is a man less known to the public eye.

Passionate about helping others and the globe, the Serbian is committed to making the world a better place. His charity, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, aims to help disadvantaged children with access to quality education. His foundation claims “we are giving them [children] a chance to flourish. To know the joy of success.” But his efforts go beyond that. Following the recent devastating bushfires in Australia, Djokovic has been an integral part of the Tennis Community’s response – taking part in the ‘Rally for Relief’ exhibition night alongside the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to help raise over $5M for bushfire victims, gifting $25K to match Maria Sharapova’s donation, and helping to instigate the ATP’s generous donation of $750K to assist wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.

Sure, you might say, anyone who is anyone in the tennis world has setup a foundation or has been doing things like that. Just look at Aussie’s ‘bad boy’ Nick Kyrios. But what you might not know is that Djokovic is also inspired to radically shift the mindsets of people – to improve their health and help the planet.

In 2018, Djokovic co-produced a movie called “The Game Changers” in conjunction with Hollywood heavy weights that included Arnold Schwarzenegger, award winning film director James Cameron and Formula 1 Champion Lewis Hamilton. The movie explores the benefits of a plant-based diet and challenges the notion that meat is the predominant diet that mother nature intended. When probed of his involvement and intention behind the movie, Djokovic said “I think it was important to have one movie with global success that would talk about the plant-based diet which I am representing, in a way, and I am fond of.”

No stranger to adversity, Djokovic was quick to highlight that a shift in diet has not necessarily been simple, but believes it is essential given the mounting strains on our precious natural world.

“I’m very pleased to be planted-based and play on this level now for four-and-a-half years. There has been a lot of criticism also. You know, people around me didn’t really think that I could do that. There is a lot of question marks,” the 33-year old revealed after his Round 3 dominating performance at the Australian Open this week. 

“I have been through different phases of kind of adapting to that new lifestyle, because it is a lifestyle more than a diet. Because you have ethical reasons, as well, being conscious of what is happening in the animal world and, you know, the slaughtering of animals and farming and everything. There is obviously a huge impact on climate change that maybe people don’t talk about as much.”

Djokovic was quick to bring the discussion back to how the plant-based diet has aided his game and hopes that his success, both on and off the court, serves to catapult a new revolution in sports.

“It’s more of a performance reason for me. It’s a lifestyle. It’s approach. It’s something that I’m really proud of, and hopefully that community grows even more. Hopefully I can inspire other athletes that it is possible to be plant-based and to recover well, to have strength, to have muscles. I’m not a weightlifter, of course, but I do have an optimal balance between the strength and power and speed. And, you know, nothing seems to be missing, at least from my experience. So I will keep on enjoying that,” said Djokovic.

Yes, the positive emotions continue to flourish for the Serb. Energized by Serbia’s recent win at the inaugural ATP Cup and “inspired” by the recent addition of new coach and tennis legend Goran Ivanisevic to his camp, it is evident the 7-time Australian Open Champion is in ominous form and bright spirits as he blitzes his way through the tournament dropping only one set to date.

So, can he continue his dream run and secure an 8th Australian title to supercharge the year? Up next, he will face world number 32 Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

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  • Andrew Miller · January 29, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    I’m negative on that prospect. US women much better near term odds. If Keys were to hire Tursunov that would do it.

  • Andrew Miller · January 29, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    Thiem or Zverev may win the Aussie. Not revolutionary given the age of the big three plus, but certainly revolutionary given those guys dominance of slams.

    It says something when your Pennetta is Thiem or Zverev. They aren’t the Pennettas of the tour. They are more like the Jankovics.

  • Jeff · January 29, 2020 at 9:39 pm

    Catherine and Scoop, totally agree that Navratilova and McEnroe embarrassed themselves. Glad the Australian Open made them apologize and put them in their place. The real shame of their childish behavior is that Australia is undergoing the aftermath of a major tragedy and that is what the focus should be. That’s why nobody cares about what Margaret Court said or didn’t say. Far more important things going on there and totally tone deaf by Martina and Mac. You don’t see current players pulling shenanigans like that.

  • catherine · January 30, 2020 at 12:54 am

    So right Jeff. And my big point is that Margaret expressed none of her controversial beliefs as a player and that’s what’s being celebrated. Enough.

    And it looks like Martina & Co will depart Aust as the country is about to go up in flames again. Where’s the perspective ? Such self-righteousness too.

    (and I’m not a supporter of MC’s views at all – just think they’re irrelevant)

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