Novak Dojokovic

– the strategist on the tennis court Learning and Leadership

One of the top rank tennis players in the world as t today is Novak Djokovic. The reason is that he is a fierce fighter in the game, but he is a bundle of joy off-court be it dancing with the female tennis stars or imitating his friend Maria Sharapova. The crowd adores the amazing personality. 

2021 – memorable 

The 2021 calendar was memorable winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon, French Open and being runner up at the US Open. The latter was an interesting episode in his life as if he won this tournament he would be the all-time great beating the legends Pete Sampras and Roger Federer for the most amount of wins. The pressure got to the star and he cried on the court at the sidelines which was memorable given that it explains how pressure gets into the performance. This happens even in corporate life is a lesson for us in business.

The interviewed.

In an interview, once he said “I was born in a small country that has gone through difficult times in last few decades. It was during these periods of hardships that sports became an integral part of life. Everything changed for me when I saw Pete Sampras triumphed at Wimbledon. He became my idol and I dreamt to be just like him to be no. 1 tennis player in the world. It took me 13 years to achieve my goal. It was a long journey”. I guess this gives us an indication of what it takes to make it in today’s world.  It also tells us that we must set our dreams on ‘ someone who has run the journey before. I guess it’s a lesson for us in business too. 

There is many studies done on the lessons that sports teach business. The two lessons we picked up from Djokovic- dealing with pressure and having an idol is one case in point. 

Novak at the UN

Last week I had the opportunity of listening to Novak Djokovic talk at the UN. He emphasized the importance of sports for peace and development, I was taken away by the power of these simple lines spoken by this great champion on his life’s journey. For people who don’t know about his past, here are a few refreshers. During the NATO bombing of Serbia, Djokovic and other young Serbian players used to practice in a drained swimming pool. He used to wake up at 3 a.m. in the night feeling uncertain about what the next day would bring and lived in constant fear of lives and many more other incidents. It was this uncertainty that drives people to greatness. It’s an appetite like this given the reason to perform was his summary.  

Overcome hardships 

So the million-dollar question that comes up is then how did Novak Djokovic make it to the top of the throne in spite of such hardships and challenges. Was it luck, destiny or there was more to it? The way I see it, the recipe for success in the case of Djokovic has been simple and can be easily broken into 4 steps:

  1. Goal Setting: If we read the above statement, it is clear that at the age of 4 itself, Djokovic had a clear goal and dream of following his role model ( Pete Sampras) and becoming Wimbledon Champion and no.1 in the world.
  • Visualization: A little is known about the power of this technique which is also currently being used by many players in sports. When Djokovic was introduced to his first tennis coach in life,  Jelena Gencic , little did he know that he will be taught probably the most powerful technique in the world.  Djokovic would spent hours listening to Bach, Mozart and Beethoven and visualize  in his mind the images of winning Wimbledon and becoming the best player in the world.
  • Hard Work and Self-belief: At the age of 12, Djokovic had a tough decision to make. Either stay in Serbia with his family  or go to Germany to play tennis. Staying in Serbia meant to forego his tennis career as it was impossible to train in  such harsh conditions of poverty and uncertainty . So he chose the latter one , thus separated from his family to go to Germany and started living on his own . He chose the life of hard work instead of easy one to make sure that he achieved his goals.
  • Never give up: I believe the most important line from his life is that  it took him 13 years to achieve his goal. During this he faced hurdles and barriers deemed impossible by many. Still he never gave up on his dreams and continued to suffer, improve, adapt in order to make his dreams come true. This I think separates a champion from the rest of the field because a champion falls down seven times but gets up eight times to continue on his dreams.

Tough choices 

As they say, you are who you are because of the choices that you make. Djokovic became who he is today because of the steps that he took since he was 4 years old. It took him 20 years to win his first Wimbledon title. Things were not easy but he still persisted. Today he is the world number one but he lost the US Open and the Olympic Gold that he was dreaming of just like many millions of athletes of the world.

How many of us actually take the time down to write down our goals in life? Even if we have goals, most of us haven’t even visualized ourselves achieving those goals. With constant hardships and obstacles, 90 percent time, we lose hope and start giving reasons for why we failed. This is where champs differ from the average.

Lesson to us 

Today Novak Djokovic is not only Wolrd No.1 in the world but also was the first player to break the dominance of Federal. He not only went on to achieve his goal of winning the Wimbledon title in 2011 but also continues to inspire many fans around the world with his charm and work ethic. If I have to summarize his learnings in one sentence, I will just say: “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work” 

( Dr Rohantha Athukorala is the Chairman Marketing – of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka and he is the Country Head for an AI company for brand mapping – Clootrack Labs for Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan. He  can be contacted on