Djokovic’s suc­cess mantra: A guru, a favourite tree and hugs

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Melbourne, Aus­tralia - A strict vege­tar­ian diet, spir­i­tual guru and fam­ily hug­ging-ses­sions aren't meth­ods em­ployed by most ath­letes, but they have helped No­vak Djokovic turn him­self into one of the best play­ers ever - and now Aus­tralian Open cham­pion for an eighth time.

The Serb has dis­tin­guished him­self with his will­ing­ness to turn to the un­usual, from hy­per­baric cham­bers to med­i­ta­tion and Span­ish guru Pepe Imaz, a for­mer jour­ney­man player whose 'love and peace' phi­los­o­phy drives his teach­ings.

Life has been a jour­ney for the Ser­bian star, who grew up in war-torn Bel­grade and prac­tised in a dis­used swim­ming pool but is now based in the mil­lion­aire's play­ground of Monte Carlo with more than US$140mn in prize money - a record - to his name.

Djokovic faced ques­tions over his dura­bil­ity ear­lier in his ca­reer af­ter a se­ries of re­tire­ments for rea­sons rang­ing from a toe blis­ter to heat prob­lems at the 2009 Aus­tralian Open, when he was de­fend­ing cham­pion. But he is now more steel than snowflake. With 17 Grand Slam ti­tles un­der his belt, Djokovic is show­ing no signs of slow­ing down.

Friends with a tree

While Roger Fed­erer and Rafael Nadal come across as straight­for­ward char­ac­ters, Djokovic is the most com­pli­cated mem­ber of ten­nis's Big Three. His daily rou­tine, as re­lated to The New York Times last year, in­volves get­ting up be­fore dawn with his fam­ily, watch­ing the sun rise and then do­ing hug­ging and singing ses­sions, and yoga.

The fa­ther-of-two has dab­bled in var­i­ous di­ets in­clud­ing gluten- and dairy-free, and is now a proud 'plant-based ath­lete' - the sub­ject of a Net­flix doc­u­men­tary, The Game Chang­ers, for which he is ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. "Hope­fully I can in­spire other ath­letes that it is pos­si­ble to be plant-based and to re­cover well, to have strength, to have mus­cles," said Djokovic, who has been vege­tar­ian for four-and-a-half years. Rather than cel­e­brat­ing his Aus­tralian Open wins by par­ty­ing, Djokovic, who won in Melbourne on Sun­day, climbs a fig tree in the city's Botan­i­cal Gar­dens.

"I have a friend there, a Brazil­ian fig tree, that I like to climb and I like to con­nect with so that's prob­a­bly my favourite thing to do," he said, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Djokovic broke through for his first Grand Slam ti­tle at the 2008 Aus­tralian Open, but it would be another three years be­fore he took con­trol of the sport, em­bark­ing on a 43-match win­ning streak at the start of 2011.

Be­tween 2011 and 2016, Djokovic won 11 of the 24 avail­able Grand Slam ti­tles and reached another seven fi­nals.

The wheels came off rather sud­denly for Djokovic in late 2016, when he went into a slump and then, suf­fer­ing from an el­bow in­jury, ended his 2017 cam­paign af­ter Wim­ble­don.

In the same pe­riod Djokovic be­came a close fol­lower of Imaz and ap­peared on stage with the spir­i­tu­al­ist in a two-hour video fea­tur­ing med­i­ta­tion and long dis­courses about the hu­man soul.

This, ac­cord­ing to some ob­servers, fits a pat­tern where Djokovic has rest­lessly turned this way and that in search of per­fec­tion - a goal he al­luded to on the way to his lat­est Melbourne tri­umph.

"When I was younger I would get frus­trated and im­pa­tient with small things in life, but that's how you learn," he said.

"You can't be a per­fect ten­nis player and hu­man be­ing from a young age. That's why we love this beau­ti­ful thing called life."


A woman gives No­vak Djokovic a hug as he takes part in a photo shoot at the Royal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in Melbourne, Aus­tralia, on Mon­day

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