Novak Djokovic recently sat down with tennis journalist Jon Wertheim for a 60 Minutes interview. Djokovic offered candid insight into his preparation and key moments in his career that could surprise fans who think they know everything about the 36-year-old 24-time Grand Slam champion.
Djokovic has reached the point in his career where he can share some of his secrets, especially since the younger generation has not consistently been able to defeat him in big matches.
The most surprising takeaway was his acute attention to everything his opponent does. He watches his opponent’s body language, communication with his coaches, how he drinks his water, and his demeanor on changeovers. Djokovic explained that tennis is mainly a nonverbal sport, but he can gain much information about his opponent from watching these details.
Novak Djokovic’s mental training makes him elite
When Wertheim called this a gift, the Serb corrected him and said that this is learned just like tennis strokes and strategy. Understanding his opponent’s nonverbal cues has helped him considerably over his career.
This mental training became a necessity because Djokovic confessed that early in his career, he was intimidated by Rafael Nadal’s prematch preparations of jumping and running, particularly at Roland Garros in the confined quarters of the locker room.
He also talked about the 2019 Wimbledon final with Roger Federer when he was down two match points and managed a comeback for the ages. It remains one of his greatest victories and one that he admits he probably should not have won, but things went his way at the right time.
Novak is inspired and driven by the younger generation’s pursuit of him. In a career that has spanned over 15 years and has seen several ebbs and flows, Djokovic is at the top of his game at 36, and though he says he does not run as fast, he is mentally better than his younger self and that has helped him overcome any small physical setbacks that age has imposed upon him. Djokovic begins his quest for an 11th Australian Open championship in January 2024; his years-long dominance in this tournament is similar to Rafael Nadal’s dominance at the French Open.
Watch the full 60 Minutes interview between Djokovic and Wertheim.