World number one Novak Djokovic on his upbringing, Grand Slams and hopes for 2015

BELGRADE, SERBIA (MARCH 1, 2015) (REUTERS) – An uphill Spartan lifestyle which has moulded Novak Djokovic into the world’s top tennis player was preceded by a passion for skiing which remains one of the greatest joys in his life, the 27-year old Serb told Reuters Television in an interview on Sunday (March 1).

“So I do come from a family that nurtures a skiing culture. I grew up on a mountain. Before I hit my first tennis ball I was already on the slopes with the skis, so skiing today still stays my biggest passion, probably of all sports. Even though I love tennis with all my heart, it’s number one sport, but I still feel that is no better feeling than when you are on the skis and go down the slope, down the mountain, it’s such a powerful feeling,” Djokovic said during the interview in Belgrade.

“I love it but you know there was a time in my life when I was around ten, eleven, when I had to decide between the two sports because I was strongly considering skiing but my father, never pushed me really to do anything what he wanted me to do, but you know he allowed me to have the freedom to choose and I choose tennis and the end came up to be a good decision,” he said with a smile.

Cutting a relaxed figure on Sunday following early afternoon practice less than 24 hours after he lost the Dubai Open final to Roger Federer, the winner of eight Grand Slam titles says that getting married, and becoming a father lessens rather than adds to the pressure on him. He says he has been playing some of his best tennis recently.

“I am very grateful for the opportunities to play finals of the big events, like the one yesterday against (Roger) Federer in Dubai. When the season starts basically you are on the roll constantly and you are obliged to basically be committed to you know every day, every day routines that you’re considered the tennis court itself, and everything else that happens off the court that influences your tennis. So of course you need to have the right balance with your private life as well, now that I have a family I obviously try, in the days when I don’t play, when I rest which are rare days but I have a few of them, and try to spend them with the family or friends , you know, dear people, which recharges my batteries, and allows me to be a kind of fresh and motivated for what’s coming up.”

Having won his fifth Australian Open title in January while he also has two Wimbledon trophies and one U.S. Open in his impressive cabinet, Djokovic highlighted the importance of beating Croatia in next weekend’s Davis Cup first-round tie as well as keeping his season on the ATP tour rolling.

Serbia will host the Croatians in the central city of Kraljevo whose sports hall is a far cry from the imposing Belgrade Arena but Djokovic welcomed the rare opportunity to play outside the capital.

“This is the great opportunity. We are hosting a very strong team, Croatia. There is always something special when we play Croatia, you know it is a good rivalry and hopefully people out there will show respect for the opponent, will show you know a sportsmanship and hopefully we can have a good tie and maybe win in the end,” he said.

One of the players the Serbian team are expected to face is young Croatian player Borna Coric, who knocked Andy Murray out of the Dubai championships recently but was no match for Federer, Djokovic said that he was a dangerous player.

“I am sure that he (Coric) is going to carry that confidence, playing for Croatia, he is definitely dangerous player, to play against. (Marin) Cilic is in the team, we don’t know what is his situation, last time when I spoke to him, he wasn’t feeling that great, with his elbow that has been bothering him for the last couple of months. Even without him, without (Ivo) Karlovic I still feel like they’re definitely not a team to be underestimated even though we are playing at home and maybe in Davis Cup the home court advantage plays an important role, and that the support will try to use but definitely it’s going to be a close tie.”

Djokovic already has the Australian Open title under his belt this year, while Rafael Nadal works to get his fitness sorted after injuries. But Djokovic’s sights are set on the French Open at Roland Garros in May, the only Grand Slam event he has yet to win.

“Season is still young, but I already have one Grand Slam under my belt, and that’s something that obviously helps me to feel more confident for the rest of the season. Roland Garros of course is one of my top priorities each year but still a long way. I need to play well in Davis Cup, Indian Wells, Miami, a lot of strong 1000 Masters events on the tour and see if I can build my form leading into that Grand Slam that I never won, of course, it’s my life goal and wish to complete the Slam but I am sure that I am not the only one who wants to win it.”

Part of Djokovic’s plan to iron out the inconsistencies of his season is recruiting former great Boris Becker to his camp, to work on his game and on his game plan.

“Boris (Becker) is somebody that has achieved a lot in his career, a legend of this sport, multi- Grand Slam winner, number one of the world. He understands the kind of pressures and challenges I am opposing on the court, and off the court as well,” said Djokovic.

“We do talk a lot, and there is nothing major in my game that we are trying to change, we are adjusting as the surface changes, or you know depending of the tactics, of course I am trying to be little bit more aggressive and come to the net, not completely change my game plan, which is, my game is based on a base line, so that how it’s going to stay, but there are some specifics that we always work on but in the major way his contributed to my mental strength, to the ability to sustain the focus and commitment to this sport in a long term.”