Novak Djokovic says younger players like Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune have woken up a “beast” in him, as he chases more Grand Slam titles. Speaking to 60 Minutes on CBS News, the 24-time major winner described Alcaraz as a “complete player” who has forced him to “reinvent” himself. Djokovic also talked about his experiences through Covid, including his deportation from Australia.
Novak Djokovic has hailed the younger players in tennis as threats that are forcing him to “reinvent” himself, as they have woken up a “beast” inside him.
The 24-time Grand Slam champion opened up on a range of topics during a conversation on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, including the crowd reactions he receives around the world, how he susses out when an opponent is struggling, and his infamous deportation from Australia in 2022, following a row over his Covid vaccination status.
Djokovic won all but one of this season’s major titles, failing only to triumph at Wimbledon – where he was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz in a stunning five-set final. The 36-year-old closed the campaign by winning the ATP Finals for a record-extending seventh time.
But he has been pushed this season by young talent like Alcaraz, and Jannik Sinner – who beat him in the group stage of the ATP Finals, before following that up with another victory while playing for Italy against Serbia in the Davis Cup.
“The young guys who are very hungry and very inspired to play their best tennis against me is an additional motivation,” Djokovic told CBS..
“I think they kind of awaken a beast in me.”
“He’s [Alcaraz] as a complete of a player as I have seen in ages. It’s a great opportunity for me to reinvent myself and really push harder than I ever did.”
Djokovic also spoke about his deportation from Melbourne on the eve of the 2022 Australian Open, when he thought he had the all clear to play despite his Covid vaccination status. He was only able to compete freely on tour in the middle of this season, when the USA altered its entry rules.
The Serbian says he is used to not always having the crowd on his side, but the fallout created another level of tension.
“I had basically, yeah, most of the world against me,” he said.
“I had that kind of experience on the tennis court with, with crowds that were not maybe cheering me on. But I never had this particular experience before in my life.
“I got the exemption. I got permission to come into the country. And so, of course, it escalated to the highest of the highest levels globally.”
Djokovic’s longevity is often put down to not just his ability and fitness, but also his tendency to get the better of his opponent mentally. The 24-time grand slam winner says he is always looking for moments of weakness, which he can capitalize on.
“Even though there is no physical contact in tennis, there’s still a lot of eye contact,” he said.
“When we are changing ends, when we’re sitting on the bench, and then the big screen shows him how he drinks his water. And then I’m looking at him. How is he drinking water? Is he sweating more than usual? Is he breathing…
“And then I look at how he’s communicating with his team. You have all these different elements that are in play that really affect the performance and the game itself.”
Djokovic is due to kick-off the new season at the United Cup, beginning on December 29, before starting the defense of his title at the Australian Open, live on Eurosport and discovery+ between January 15-28.