Novak Djokovic has started the season in style. The Serbian phenomenon won the ATP 250 in Adelaide and, above all, the Australian Open, dropping a single set at Melbourne Park. Winning his 10th Oceania title, Djokovic tied his rival Rafael Nadal for the top of the all-time Grand Slams rankings.
The 35-year-old from Belgrade also regained his position in the world rankings, ending the reign of Carlos Alcaraz (which began after the 2022 US Open and lasted 20 weeks). Given Nadal’s physical condition, many believe that he can once again aspire to the ‘Grand Slam of the calendar’ Goran Ivanisevic’s player was already close to this titanic feat in 2021, staying one victory from the finish line.
Despite winning the AO without too many difficulties, Novak ended up in the eye of the hurricane due to the injury to his left leg and for the images of his father Srdjan with some Putin supporters. In a lengthy interview with ‘CNN’, Mike Nakajima – who worked for Nike for a long time – explained how Djokovic’s tendency to get involved in controversy has a negative impact on his “marketability”.
“Novak Djokovic has a very good chance of becoming the most successful tennis player of any era, but there is always a new darkness hanging over him,” Nakajima said. “The ball to the linesman, the anti-Covid vaccine issue and many other controversies.
Why do these things always happen to Nole? It is clear that big companies prefer athletes who have a completely clear image”, he added. Mike also spoke about Roger Federer: “Federer was a Nike athlete for almost his entire career, just like Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tiger Woods.
To this day I still regret that it happened like this, but it happened and you have to live with it. It wasn’t my decision. Perhaps I would have acted in the same way if I had been in his situation. How can you turn down a $300 million contract? The truth is, it never should have come to that.”
Pepe Imaz opens up on Djokovic
Novak Djokovic’s mental coach Pepe Imaz said that after facing humiliation, the last 12 months have been his career’s toughest, both personally and emotionally.
“Imagine as a human being. First of all, he couldn’t play as much as he would have liked,” Imaz said. “On the other hand, on a human level, what he had to live through, being judged, for some rightly, for others wrongly. But what he received was a very big trial.
He is a human being. It was Novak’s toughest year, without a doubt, both on a personal and emotional level.”