Technical eye

Novak Djokovic at IBI23: “It’s ok not to feel ok”

The defending champion opens up on his personal journey into acceptance of struggles as part of a life journey.

We are often tempted to fall into the narrative that wants to see sportspeople, especially sportsmen, as demigods, perfect machines that strive for perfection in a quest for titles and successes. We count their victories, analyse their performances and evaluate their comebacks from injury on the basis of results.

Defending champion here at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia of Rome, Novak Djokovic, opened up on an often less discussed part of the journey of all sportspeople: doubts.

I think it’s important to understand that we all are human beings, and we all go through our own difficulties and challenges and obstacles”, he explained as part of a long answer during the media day interview: “It’s okay not to be okay, as well.  I’ve seen that quote somewhere.  I think it’s a really simple way of kind of expressing really great wisdom of life”.

We all talk today about you got to be so strong, you got to be always at your best.  When you go through difficulties, especially as a man, you are going to be judged and criticized for maybe expressing things that you feel, that you want to share, because you cannot be weak.  It’s a sign of weakness. I actually think it’s the contrary.  It’s a great feeling of liberation when you cry, when you let things go, when you express your emotions”.

Such wisdom applies to a wider a range of people, not only to those involved in sport, because if sports is often a metaphor for life, one can apply the same principles to an everyday struggle or situation.

I feel that most of the people can actually relate to that because I don’t know anybody that is perfect, that is not going through any difficulty in life mentally, emotionally. We all go through that regardless of our profession, the level we are at, the success level, the society roles that we have.  There is a lot of labelling, a lot of different things that are happening”.

So what is the tip he personally feels to share when it comes to finding a way to reset oneself during difficult times?

I think it’s important to go back to the basics really and understand why you started to do what you do, which for me in this case is tennis and professional sport that I always dreamed of playing. As a kid, you start playing sport 99% of the time because you fall in love with it, because you have certain emotion that drives you, that makes you joyful, that makes you enjoy every single moment.  I think this is something to always go back to and remind yourself when you are going through difficult times.  I think it humbles you, as well. Then, of course, the hard work, dedication, devotion, discipline, all of those values and virtues that you need to work on daily to kind of make them in a way a conscious presence every single day.  Without that, there is absolutely no success”.

Djokovic will start his quest to defend the title he won in Rome 12 months ago against Stefanos Tsitsipas tonight. In a match scheduled not before 7pm on Campo Centrale, he will be facing Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry. All other matches from today can be found here.

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