Billie Jean King believes Novak Djokovic is World No. 1 because "he pays the price", says the Serb is "always looking for the edge"

Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2021
Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2021

Billie Jean King recently took part in a Q&A session with members of the junior Billie Jean King Cup, where she advised youngsters to follow in the footsteps of Novak Djokovic to achieve success.

A young player in the audience asked King what advice she would give to her 16-year-old self. In response, the 12-time Grand Slam singles champion took up the example of Novak Djokovic. She pointed out that the Serb is at the top of the sport because he puts his life and soul into tennis.

“If you listen to Novak Djokovic this year in his interviews, then you know why he’s No. 1 in the world—because he pays the price," King said.

The American highlighted how Djokovic ensures he has the edge over his rivals by treating his body like a temple. As such, King asserted that as a 16-year-old, one must look to emulate the Serb and put in the hard yards.

"He’s the most fit, he’s always looking for the edge, he trains right, he stretches all the time," she added. "So at 16 just believe in yourself, but pay the price.”

A look at Novak Djokovic's career when he was 16

A 17-year-old Novak Djokovic playing in the 2004 Thailand Open
A 17-year-old Novak Djokovic playing in the 2004 Thailand Open

Novak Djokovic turned pro in 2003. The Serb found himself in the 767th spot in the ATP rankings in July that year and finished the season in 679th position.

He did not take part in any ATP events that year but played in six ITF tournaments, most of which were in Serbia. Djokovic played a total of 16 ITF matches, out of which he won 11. He also ended up winning the Serbia F3 title that year.

The Serb graduated to the Challenger and ATP tours next year but only made his debut in the latter after his 17th birthday.

Djokovic won the F1 ITF event in Hungary days before his 17th birthday, and then went on to lift his maiden Challenger trophy in the same country a day after he turned 17.

The Serb went on to make his ATP debut a month later in Umag, but his joy was short-lived as he crashed to an opening-round defeat at the hands of Filippo Volandri.

By virtue of his results on the ITF and Challenger circuit, Djokovic climbed to the 338th position a couple of days after he turned 17.

Edited by Arvind Sriram
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