Today, Novak Djokovic will face Kevin Anderson in the Wimbledon men’s finals.
The 12-time champion feared that his career was plummeting over the past year. Now, he’s set out to disprove his theory and to show that he’s overcome the obstacles he’s faced.
Courtside, Novak’s father, Srdjan, will be rooting for his son. Novak’s father has been extremely involved in his son’s career, and is passionate about Novak securing his place in tennis history.
Read on to learn more about Srdjan, Novak’s father.
1. He Has Not Forgiven Roger Federer After an Incident Between Him and Novak
In 2006, Novak faced off against Stanislas Wawrinka at the Davis Cup playoffs.
Novak was sick during the match and called for “a series of medical timeouts” so that his sinus issue could be treated. After Novak won, Federer made harsh comments about these medical timeouts. “I don’t trust his injuries. I’m serious. I think he’s a joke, you know, when it comes down to his injuries.”
In the words of UBITennis.net, the two have “spoken highly of each other” since those comments were made, but Srdjan seems hesitant to let go of his feelings of resentment towards Federer.
Speaking to Newsweek about it, he said, “Federer tried in every possible way to disrespect him because of his breathing problem. Nobody has ever treated Novak like this. I don’t understand why Federer is still playing tennis. I don’t know why he’s still playing—he’s already 34.”
2. He Worked as a Professional Skier and Ski Instructor
Growing up, Srdjan was a professional skier and worked as a ski instructor.
According to News Week, he went on to open a restaurant and sports equipment business in the Serbian mountains, where Novak first came into contact with the sport.
Srdjan and his wife, Dijana, gave birth to Novak, their eldest, in 1987. Srdjan admits that he focused on his oldest son far more than any of his other children. “Only Novak mattered. All of us—even his own family and his coaches—were unimportant. Everything was done to make Novak achieve what he has achieved today. As soon as I saw a small thing not going as planned, I would go somewhere else, for another coach.”
He continues by saying that when Novak was just seven, he began traveling with his son to the US, Italy, and Germany, to train in tennis academies. “We were always together. Everywhere we went, everybody else had a team—physios and coaches.”
3. Novak Has Apologized for His Father’s Statements About Federer & Nadal
Novak has had to smooth things over with the public and press after certain comments made by his father.
In 2006, speaking with the newspaper Kurir, Srđjan said of Federer, “He attacked Novak at the Davis Cup in Geneva (in 2006), he realized that he was his successor and was trying to disparage him in every way. Novak’s success is an amazing thing and something that Federer cannot understand.” He continued on by saying that his son’s relationship with Nadal has “changed for the worst.”
Tennis.com reports Srdjan as saying, “[Nadal] was his best friend while he was winning. When things changed, they were no longer friends… This is not sport.”
Eventually, Novak had to come forward and apologize for his father’s comments. Speaking to press, he said:
“I’m really sorry that his words have caused so much attention, and also that they might have hurt my colleagues in some way, and with whom I have good and fair relationships,” he told reporters. “But as unfortunate as it sounds, I cannot be held responsible for his deeds and for his words because everybody is entitled to their opinion, even my father, and I love him so much, and respect him. He’s helped me so much in my life to arrive where I am but sometimes, you know, people come up with their opinions as they like and me, I have to say that I didn’t have any influence on that. And as I said, I cannot be responsible for it.”
4. Novak Has Said His Father Was “Very Close to Dying” in 2012
Speaking at the ATP World Finals in November 2013, Djokovic discussed his father’s illness, saying, “he was very close to dying” in 2012.
Very little is known about the details of Srdjan’s condition apart from what Novak has said. Novak offered that his father’s condition at the time was “complex” and “involved the sacral bone in his spine.”
Reports prior to that, according to USA Today, reference a blood disorder or acute respiratory illness that plagued his father.
Novak explained that the illness weighed heavily on him, and resulted in his father spending two months in a hospital. “For last six months it was a tough time for him and for the whole family,” he said. “But he managed to push it through with the support of close ones and because he’s also a very mentally very tough person. I think the desire to live and to spend times with the close ones helped him to overcome the illness.”
5. He Believes His Son Will Be the Best Tennis Player in History
In a rare interview in 2016 with News Week, Srdjan opened up about his son, and what life was like growing up. He explained that Novak was just three when he started tennis; he would often play in front of the family’s restaurant in Kopaonik, in Serbia.
“I saw the love in his eyes when he looked at the tennis courts, so I bought him a colorful small racket with a soft foam ball. It immediately became the most beloved toy in his life. He would rather play with it than anything else.”
Srdjan goes on to say, “I believe he will be the best tennis player in history. I have been saying it since he entered tennis. Surely he will be one of the best sportsmen ever. All of it is because he was sent from God. As a family, we tried to make God’s wish come true. He can win another 10 Grand Slams.”