Ex-Serbian player: Could have been another Novak Djokovic if not for heroin addiction

Nikola Gnjatovic was once Serbia's biggest tennis talent.

by Dzevad Mesic
Ex-Serbian player: Could have been another Novak Djokovic if not for heroin addiction
© Jutarnji Program Happy TV - YouTube

Former Serbian tennis player Nikola Gnjatovic says he was tipped by "everyone" to achieve huge tennis success before heroin addiction ended his career and ruined his life. Gnjatovic, now 44, was a very promising junior and, according to Serbia media, Novak Djokovic's father Srdjan once said that he "had never seen a more talented player." According to Gnjatovic himself, as a junior, he defeated the likes of Marat Safin and Fernando Gonzalez, and also once beat Roger Federer during a practice session.

Before Djokovic came on the scene, Gnjatovic was Serbia's biggest talent and many had very high hopes for him. "I also played for the Serbian Davis Cup team against Turkey and Morocco. Tipsarevic, Vemic and Tosic were also in the national team with me at the time.

Before that, in the junior competition, I beat Marat Safin and Fernando Gonzalez, and I beat Roger Federer in one practice session. There was no one who didn't predict the very top of the world for me at that time," Gnjatovic said, via Sportal.

Gnjatovic on how heroin addiction ruined his career: 'My hell started...'

At 21, Gnjatovic took heroin for the first time. Soon after, his life and career went downhill. In the next 17 years, Gnjatovic battled heroin addiction and was hospitalized a dozen times.

"I took heroin for the first time at the age of 21. Then my hell starts. I get into debt, into severe drug addiction crises, I start stealing in order to get drugs. I'm trying to keep playing tennis, but it's not working out for me.

At that time, my family was also falling apart, my life was in complete chaos. I was in the hospital more than ten times. For 17 years I went through the horrors that drugs bring with them. Former players and colleagues tell the parents of the children I train that I am a former drug addict and that they should not give their children to me to teach them tennis.

And I have never, even when I was in the most difficult crises, dealt drugs, nor would I give drugs to any child, I would rather cut off my hand!" Gnjatovic said. Now, Gnjatovic is clean and living a normal life. But the question remains what would have been if he had never gotten into drugs.

Novak Djokovic