'Bending reality' secret to Djokovic success

4 months ago
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To his critics, Novak Djokovic has been cavalier and reckless successful the look of a deadly pandemic. But students of the tennis star's crippled enactment that bending world has been a concealed to his success, until now.

The dizzying saga playing retired successful Australia implicit Djokovic's refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 has cemented his representation arsenic the defiant fig successful men's tennis and made the world's No.1 subordinate an unwitting caller leader to the anti-vax movement. He has earned a new, and surely unwanted, nickname: No-vax.

In galore ways, Djokovic has handled the pandemic similar helium would a tennis match, ignoring agelong likelihood and favouring alternate remedies implicit accepted medicine. His unconventional approaches to carnal and intelligence fittingness implicit the years person included consulting spiritual gurus, laying successful hyperbaric chambers, visiting healing "pyramids" and moving with a manager to make reality-distortion skills.

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Djokovic heading to Federal Court proceeding to entreaty visa cancellation

But the existent world is that each subordinate astatine the Australian Open, which starts tomorrow, needs a COVID-19 vaccine oregon a valid aesculapian exemption to participate. The country's migration curate cancelled the unvaccinated Djokovic's visa connected Friday, citing wellness and "good order" considerations.

Djokovic, who has appealed the decision, present finds himself facing apt deportation and astatine the halfway of a polarising issue, with fans connected either broadside of the vaccine debate.

For the top-ranked 34-year-old subordinate from Serbia, the timing could not beryllium worse. This Australian Open was expected to beryllium the signifier of a crowning accomplishment arsenic helium seeks his grounds 21st Grand Slam title, a feat that would catapult him past rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with whom helium is tied astatine 20.

Watch each game, acceptable and lucifer of the Australian Open streaming ad-free, unrecorded and connected request connected Stan Sport

Novak Djokovic leaves the Park Hotel today. (Getty)

Fellow players and erstwhile coaches person urged Djokovic to acquiesce to a COVID-19 vaccine, saying tennis needs him connected the court, not stoking governmental debates.

"All this could person been avoided, similar we've each done, by getting vaccinated," Spanish tennis prima Garbine Muguruza said during a pre-tournament quality league successful Melbourne yesterday. "Everybody knew precise intelligibly the rules. You conscionable person to travel them, and that's it. I don't deliberation it's that difficult."

Boris Becker, a erstwhile top-ranked subordinate who coached Djokovic from 2013-2016, said the aforesaid determination and stubbornness that fuels Djokovic's spot connected tribunal tin besides beryllium his weakness.

Novak Djokovic practices connected Rod Laver Arena. (AP)

"He is simply a thoroughfare fighter. That is his mentality, and it is what made him large and truthful successful. It is hard to alteration that," Becker said successful a caller interrogation with BBC Sport.

Djokovic has often attributed his toughness to increasing up successful war-ravaged Serbia successful the 1990s. In Serbia, Djokovic is revered arsenic a nationalist hero, who overcame the likelihood successful a state economically crippled by warfare with small tennis pedigree and fewer tennis courts to go the world's No.1 player.

As a kid successful Belgrade, Djokovic developed an aboriginal passionateness for tennis. He trained astatine a nine that utilized an bare swimming excavation arsenic a makeshift tennis court. He has spoken of signifier sessions getting chopped abbreviated and moving to weaponry shelters, and huddling with his household for nights connected end, arsenic NATO jets targeted the Serbian superior successful 1999 during the warfare implicit Kosovo.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia changes his shirt. (Getty)

Being exposed to affectional trauma truthful young gave him an aboriginal position connected overcoming adversity, and crystallised his motivation.

"Most radical don't determine what they privation from beingness erstwhile they're six years old, but I had," Djokovic wrote successful his 2013 fare and fittingness book, "Serve to Win." Inspired by watching Pete Sampras triumph Wimbledon connected TV, helium decided it would beryllium him 1 day. "For the adjacent 13 years, I gave each time of my beingness to reaching my goal."

Djokovic won his archetypal large tourney rubric astatine the Australian Open successful 2008, but it was 3 years earlier helium captured another.

Novak Djokovic astatine the 2021 Australian Open. (Getty)

The turning constituent of his vocation came successful 2011, erstwhile Djokovic won 10 titles that included 3 Grand Slams and helium achieved the No.1 ranking successful men's tennis for the archetypal time.

"It wasn't a caller racquet, a caller workout, a caller coach, oregon adjacent a caller service that helped me. It was a caller diet," Djokovic wrote successful his book, which explained however going gluten-free helped extremity his years of battling predominant fatigue during agelong matches, occasionally collapsing connected tribunal and having occupation breathing.

Players typically talk successful awe of Djokovic's talent, his carnal agility that tin nutrient jaw-dropping performances and however helium has mastered his intelligence game. "His champion trait is his mind," American subordinate Sam Querrey said past twelvemonth astir Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. (Getty)

In 2016, Djokovic teamed up with Pepe Imaz, a Spanish manager who had a humble tennis vocation and past opened a Marbella-based tennis academy with the motto, "Amor y Paz" (Love and Peace). It was aft moving with Imaz that Djokovic began his now-trademark motion of turning to each 4 sides of the tennis tribunal erstwhile helium wins and throwing emotion to the fans from his heart.

He besides delved into meditation to assistance calm his caput and learned visualisation techniques that helium says allowed him to consciousness elevated supra stressful situations.

Djokovic described the method to an assemblage astatine the tennis academy successful 2016, seated connected a signifier alongside Imaz. Imagine being stuck successful a postulation jam and feeling frustrated and confused by each the cars, the people, the sounds, helium said.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia shakes hands with Nick Kyrgios of Australia. (LatinContent via Getty Images)

"What if for a second, alternatively of being portion of the traffic, you are extracurricular of the postulation connected the hill, and you are observing the traffic?" Djokovic said.

He has applied those techniques to tennis.

After redeeming 2 lucifer points to bushed Federer successful a five-set thriller successful the 2019 Wimbledon final, Djokovic explained however helium coped during what was "probably the astir mentally demanding match" of his career, playing against arguably the most-loved tennis subordinate of each time.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. (Getty)

"So erstwhile the assemblage is chanting 'Roger,' I perceive Novak," helium said. "I effort to person myself."

Some of Djokovic's convictions person drawn antagonistic headlines. In May 2020, helium claimed during an Instagram unrecorded interrogation with self-styled wellness guru Chervin Jafarieh that radical could usage affirmative reasoning to change the creation of toxic nutrient and polluted water.

Djokovic and his wife, Jelena, stock New Age, esoteric beliefs and unneurotic person visited the Bosnian elevation municipality of Visoko, wherever immoderate judge that 4 hills shaped similar pyramids connection healing powers, a assertion disputed by scientists.

Anti-vax protestation successful Sydney's CBD

The tennis star's visits person spurred tourism to the tract wherever Bosnian amateur archaeologist Semir Osmanagic opened a pyramid parkland that features a web of underground tunnels helium claims emit a peculiar energy.

Osmanagic, who has been photographed giving Djokovic idiosyncratic tours of the park, supports the player's anti-vaccine stance.

"He is an outstanding jock who is precise strict astir what helium eats, drinks and what helium puts successful his body, and helium is lasting up for state of choice," Osmanagic told AP.

Serbians respond to 2nd Djokovic visa cancellation

Unlike the dense disapproval Djokovic has faced internationally, helium has wide enactment successful Serbia, wherever the revoking of his Australian visa is viewed arsenic anti-Serb. Until the play Down Under began, Djokovic had refused to accidental if helium was vaccinated but it was wide that helium was a vaccine sceptic.

"I'm personally against vaccines and I wouldn't privation anyone to unit maine to instrumentality 1 truthful I tin travel," helium said during an April 2020 online chat with different Serbian tennis players.

His vaccination presumption is not Djokovic's archetypal controversy, but the drawn-out saga astatine the Australian Open is raising questions astir his legacy.

Novak Djokovic. (Getty)

Djokovic faced disapproval earlier successful the pandemic for organising a tennis tourney successful the Balkans successful June 2020, a clip erstwhile nonrecreational tennis was unopen down. Photos and videos emerged showing players ignoring societal distancing and partying afterhours without masks. The tourney was abandoned aft respective players, including Djokovic and his woman tested affirmative for the coronavirus.

A fewer months later, helium was kicked retired of the US Open aft hitting a shot successful vexation and it slammed into the pharynx of a enactment judge. It was unintentional, and Djokovic repeatedly apologised, but his enactment spotlighted a fiery temperament that helium works hard to suppress.

"He's already had capable moments and capable question marks to decidedly tarnish his legacy," ESPN tennis commentator Pam Shriver said successful a caller league call. "But surely thing volition ever tarnish his record."

Defending men's champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic practices connected Margaret Court Arena. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Players astatine Melbourne Park considered the aforesaid question yesterday.

"He inactive won 20 Grand Slams. He inactive has the astir weeks arsenic satellite No.1. He inactive has the astir Masters Series (titles)," said Alexander Zverev, the 2020 US Open runner-up who is adjacent to Djokovic. "Don't question his bequest due to the fact that of this."

Defending Australian Open women's champion Naomi Osaka called the vaccine saga an unfortunate situation: "He's specified a large player, and it's benignant of bittersweet that immoderate radical mightiness retrieve him this way."

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