Where Djokovic disappeared for 3 months without tennis
Djokovic returns to the court: The mainland season starts with Monte Carlo. Then home to Belgrade, Rome, Madrid and Roland Garros. He has played only three official matches since his deportation to the Australian Open. But what did ATP No. 1 do the rest of the time?
Visiting a monastery
January 17, 2022 is accepted as the starting-point of Djokovic’s wanderings – that was when the “battered” Serb finally reached his home in a private jet. He met the locals, wistful, with his head hanging down and sadness in his eyes – the Serbian media managed to snap a couple of photos from that flight. With his beloved TBS – the Australian Open – he fought for the right to take the 21st Major for two weeks.
Three months later he is already training on the clay courts of Monte Carlo to get into the season in full swing – the Thousandth Man starts there on April 10. The whole time the Serb has been out of tennis, he has been searching for healing in his faith, family and business.
He began to come to his senses with a visit to the monastery of Vasiliy Ostrogsky in Montenegro in February. Pictures online show him holding an icon in the company of a clergyman and greeting parishioners with children with a smile. “Ostrog” is an active rock Orthodox monastery and is located right in the mountains. It is no secret that Djokovic had been dedicating a lot of time to his faith even before this revelation: in April 2011, the Serbian patriarch awarded Djokovic the highest church award – the Order of St. Sava – for his charity work and donations to support churches in Kosovo and Metohija.
In 2020, his mother Diana even said that God helped him beat Roger Federer of Switzerland in the Wimbledon-2019 final: “Novak believes in God, he considers himself chosen. He wears a cross from the Greek monastery of Hilandar. It brings him peace and happiness. And Novak also prays morning and evening.”
Helped develop a cure for COVID-19
At the same time, he bought an 80% stake in the Danish biotechnology company QuantBioRes to develop a cure for covid. Eleven researchers from Denmark, Australia and Slovenia were hired to study the peptide, which should prevent the coronavirus from infecting human cells. Clinical trials, according to the firm’s director, Ivan Lončarevič, will begin in Great Britain this summer.
Despite his stance on vaccination, the Serbian has regularly donated millions to the fight against the disease over the past two years. Novak and his wife Jelena gave €1 million to Serbia and another $5.6 million to the local health care system, received respect from Rafa and basketball player Pau Gasol by financially supporting their charity campaign #nuestramejorvictoria (#ourBestVictoria) to raise money for pandemic victims in Spain, he also donated to Italian authorities.
Almost got vaccinated
On Feb. 1, German Daniel Meeks, who wrote a biography of the tennis player “A Whole Life at War,” threw an insider tip during an interview with an Austrian channel: Novak Djokovic will soon allegedly be vaccinated. “Perhaps the final from Melbourne and Rafael Nadal’s 21st Grand Slam title contributed to that decision,” Meeks said.
The rumor was never confirmed, because just a month later, in an interview with the French L’Equipe, Novak personally said that he had not yet considered taking the shot. “Will anything change? I don’t know. In our world everything is changing too fast, this question depends a lot on the decision of the government. I don’t think it’s necessary to protect my body this way. That’s my position at the moment,” Nole said.
Nominated for best athlete of the world
Laureus World Sports International nominated Novak for a record fifth Best World Athlete award. He will compete in 2022 against American soccer player Tom Brady, his fellow countryman, swimmer Keyleb Dressel, Polish scorer Robert Lewandowski, Dutch racer Max Verstappen and Kenyan track and field athlete Eliud Kipchoge. Novak is definitely the most sought-after guest of the award – receiving the award in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2019.
Met with the president of Serbia
The best tennis player in the world, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic shook hands on Feb. 3.
The morning reception was held in the building of the General Secretariat of the President. For the first time Novak sincerely told Vucic and dozens of cameras about Melbourne hell: “I will never forget the support of the Serbian people. They had already discussed the incident several times with the head of the government back when Novak was detained in the refugee hotel. Back then, the president tried to help the tennis player fight for his rights and spared no criticism of the Australian government and politicians. “You represent our country on the biggest stage. Thank you for a great fight in Australia,” the president said.
Trained in Belgrade
He found an outlet for his worldly worries at his tennis center, where he often hosted tennis friends: training with Canadian Vasek Pospisil, Croatian doubles athletes Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, and giving personal time to the center’s rising stars as well: tipping balls to 11-year-old talents. Already in March, Nole received a return gesture from Janko Tipsarevic – the ex-tennis player invited his friend to a game or two at his personal tennis center.
Gave first frank interview to BBC
Nole gave his first interview since the epic deportation from Australia in which he emphasized his firm stance. A few excerpts to cement it:
- Novak is willing to sacrifice Slams and cups for his principles, can afford to pay that price;
- he’s not against vaccinations, but he stands up for the freedom to decide exactly what to do with his body;
- is open to the possibility of vaccinations in the future because he is looking for ways to end the pandemic as soon as possible;
- had a coronavirus in December. Many have theorized and insulted him, but covid is not a comfort and joy. Millions of people around the world are suffering because of it. Novak takes the disease seriously;
- has never and in no way tried to falsify a test or cheat on it.
Played his first ATP game in 2022.
Novak and his family – wife Elena and daughter Tara – settled in Dubai for a couple of weeks. In addition to the tournament itself they participated in an exhibition fund event. There the Serb made several important announcements:
- Wants to return to Australia in the future and play at Rod Laver Arena again;
- admitted that he had acted selfishly by coming to an interview with L’Equipe sick;
- was pleasantly surprised by Nick Kirios: he thanked him and all the others who stood up for Novak, such as Alize Corne;
- plans for the Olympics in Paris 2024. He rewound the 1/2 final match with Zverev in Tokyo many times, trying to understand what went wrong.
The Serb’s statements were much more vivid than his performances at the UAE tournament itself. After beating the Italian Lorenzo Musetti (6-3, 6-3) and the Russian Karen Khachanov (6-3, 7-6), he stumbled over Jiri Vesely in the tournament’s quarter-finals – the Czech sensation fell back in two games.
Parted ways with coach
As of March 1, Djokovic is no longer working with Marian Vajda – their tandem took 20 TBS in 15 years. They agreed on a mutual breakup after the final of the ATP Finals in Turin, so the decision has nothing to do with the 2022 situation. Vajda, who will soon turn 57, wanted to spend more time with his family. The Serb has not yet announced a new mentor, but Serena Williams coach Patrick Muratoglu is first in line.
The Frenchman is considered one of the main specialists on the ground: he led the younger Williams to two TBS on French courts. It seems that if the transfer happens, Nole will have all the chances to defend the Paris majors.