17-time Major winner Novak Djokovic is a revered figure in the Balkan region of Europe; he is looked at with awe and respect by fans and sportspersons in Serbia and its neighboring countries. Djokovic's record-breaking achievements in tennis are all the more remarkable because he comes from a country which has had little to no success at the top level of the sport in the past.
Perhaps it is due to this very reason that the entire Balkans sports community feels represented by the Serb in all discourses. And recently, former coach Nikola Pilic spoke with SportKlub about how Djokovic went about shaping that narrative right from his early days.
Pilic has been a vocal supporter of Novak Djokovic and his bid to become the most distinguished player in the history of the game. He had also previously remarked how the media treats Djokovic unfairly.
After earning laurels like a top 6 ranking and a runner-up finish at the 1976 French Open, Nikola Pilic in his post-retirement career opened a tennis academy in Munich - where he met a young Novak Djokovic.
When he came, Novak Djokovic knew neither service nor volley: Nikola Pilic
Pilic talked at length about how clueless Novak Djokovic was when he first arrived at the academy as an 11-year-old. According to the Croat, it was mainly Djokovic's focus and determination that helped him acquire the skills he is so widely celebrated for today.
"When he came, Novak Djokovic knew neither service nor volley, but he had an immense desire to learn. I didn’t think he would be number one or number three, but I was sure he would become a true professional," Pilic said.
Novak Djokovic would leave the academy a few years later to go back to his family in Belgrade. However, this was not the last time Pilic would be seeing his ward, as he worked with the Serb in 2010 again.
"He said his goal was to be best in the world, everyone laughed at him" - Nikola Pilic on Novak Djokovic
Nikola Pilic has helped in the development of several professional champions at his academy, with the World No. 1 happening to be the most prolific of them. Pilic recalled the halcyon days when he coached a raw Novak Djokovic as he said:
"Once when he was younger, he said that his goal was to be the best in the world. Everyone laughed at him, but I didn't. I can't say if I believed in that, but I let him dream because he had a reason for that."
Since then, Novak Djokovic has won 17 Grand Slams and spent 284 weeks as the top-ranked player in the world. Needless to say, nobody is laughing at his ambitions anymore.Published 27 Aug 2020, 23:54 IST