In a recent interview with CBS‘ 60 Minutes new program, tennis journalist Jon Wertheim interviewed Novak Djokovic and asked the tennis great questions on lots of subjects that Djokovic answered candidly and honestly. Wertheim has also been great at getting information from tennis players, but Novak Djokovic has never been overly shy about sharing his opinions. One nugget viewers were able to glean was about Rafael Nadal upsetting the Serb; A moment that may have changed tennis.
During the French Open when Nadal was already an established star and one of the best players to ever play on the clay of Roland Garros, he had a locker next to Djokovic. Nadal had a pre-match routine that involved him sprinting around the small locker room, jumping up and down, and listening loudly to his music in his earphones. Another player could have taken this approach as a sign of bullying.
While Nadal was obviously successful enough to prove his pre-match routine worked, he also had to know how he disrupted fellow players in the locker room, especially ones with a locker right next to him. At the time, Djokovic was a young player who did not know how to handle what Nadal was doing.
Rafael Nadal made Novak Djokovic mad and the tennis world learned to regret it
As Novak Djokovic put the situation in the interview with Wertheim,
"I’m playing Nadal in Roland Garros, and I have his locker next to my locker, right? So, we are so close. And we’re trying to give each other space. But then the locker room is also not that big. And, the way you jump around like Nadal does before we go out on the court.In the locker room, he’s doing sprints next to you. I can even hear the music he’s listening to, you know, in his headphones. So, you know, it’s p*****g me off."
But it was what Djokovic said next that was most important: “I was getting intimidated by that. But it’s also motivating me to do stuff myself and to show that I’m ready, you know? I’m ready for a battle, for a war.”
Without his foundational moments not just playing Nadal and other greats, such as Roger Federer, but being with them in the locker room and watching and learning from their approaches and applying his experience and new-found knowledge to his own pre-match routine helped make Djokovic into arguably the greatest player ever. He already had the tennis skills to be fantastic, but the mental side is what many times separates good players from the best.
Novak Djokovic‘s mental strength and ability to learn from what is around him is unquestionably elite. One does not get to 24 career Grand Slams (and counting) without learning from other great players, and in the case of Djokovic, getting peeved at another player. Of course, no one else has 24 Grand Slams except for the Serb.