Novak Djokovic recently spoke to the media ahead of his participation at the 2021 Serbia Open. During the interaction, the Serb was asked to give his thoughts on Dominic Thiem's withdrawal from the tournament due to a knee injury coupled with motivational issues.
Djokovic claimed that Thiem's absence was a big loss for the tournament, especially since the Austrian was excited to play in Belgrade after having had a good experience at last year's Adria Tour. The Serb also believes that the tennis world is poorer with Thiem on the sidelines, given that the 27-year-old is a newly-minted Slam champion.
"It's definitely a big loss for our tournament to not have Dominic here, sorry to hear that he's been dealing with a knee injury," Djokovic said. "The tennis world needs him because he's a Grand Slam champion and one of the top players of the world, a big star. He's also a nice guy, he has played in Adria Tour last year and he won the tournament in front of Belgrade people. He was excited to come back so it's unfortunate he's not here."
Novak Djokovic went on to extend his sympathy towards Dominic Thiem in light of the mental problems that he has been dealing with. Djokovic talked in detail about how the 'bubble life' during the COVID-19 pandemic has made things very difficult for a majority of the players on tour.
"On the mental side of it, obviously I've heard that he is struggling with how he is feeling, he's a bit exhausted with the restrictions in the bubble life on the tour," Novak Djokovic said of Dominic Thiem. "Well, I understand what he's been going through because we all go through that."
"I think most of the players on the tour are experiencing some of the mental issues and motivational issues," Djokovic added. "Playing in front of empty stands, traveling and not being able to go out of their hotel room. Just being restricted to the tennis courts and the hotel."
"I do understand, I do feel for him" - Novak Djokovic on Dominic Thiem's mental struggles
Novak Djokovic pointed out that enduring all the COVID restrictions week-in and week-out over the last six months, and that too in front of empty crowds, had left him and the rest of the field feeling a bit desolate.
"If you do it for a week, it's fine, we can take that," Djokovic said. "But if you keep doing that week in, week out then it's a very challenging thing mentally and emotionally for anybody."
The Serb went on to claim that just like Dominic Thiem, he himself has felt the mental effects of playing through a global crisis - particularly during the fall last year.
"I do understand, I do feel for him (Dominic Thiem), and for everyone," Novak Djokovic said. "I have felt that myself at the end of the last season, playing in indoor events in front of empty crowds. It's just not something that we are used to."
Novak Djokovic advised Dominic Thiem and the rest of the players to make the best of the situation to the extent that they could. He then expressed hope that the crisis would be over soon, which in turn would help the players rediscover the joy of playing on the tour.
"It's a new experience," Djokovic said. "We have to accept it, we have to embrace it, and try to make the most out of it for us, and for our tennis. And then, hope and pray that crowds will be back very soon and we will be able to move freely. That would go a long way to help a lot of players."