Novak Djokovic has been the great protagonist of the last decade, managing to get out of the shadow of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal after chasing them in the early years of his career. The Serbian phenomenon has significantly reduced the gap from the eternal rivals reaching 17 Grand Slams, as well as having a concrete chance of exceeding the record of weeks at the top of the ATP ranking.
Mental strength was one of the factors that allowed Nole to grind one opponent after another and recover from difficulties. The Belgrade veteran seemed a step away from the brink in 2018, but he found the motivation to get back on top and reach the top of men's tennis again.
In a recent interview during the Vienna tournament, World number 3 Dominic Thiem admitted that he immediately sensed the gigantic aura of the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
Thiem on Novak Djokovic's aura
“I played against Novak Djokovic for the first time in Shanghai in 2014.
He was on a peak,” Dominic Thiem wrote on his official website. “A few days before he had destroyed Tomas Berdych in the Beijing final. I just hoped he wouldn’t crush me. I had immediately noticed the aura of his superb level of play, however, I managed to wriggle out quite well.
I was able to keep up solidly, though I lost 3-6, 4-6. That was far away from a disaster. In 2018, in the semi-final in Rome, I played against him quite badly, lost 0-6, 1-6. But three weeks later I defeated him in the Paris quarterfinals in three sets.
My first win [against him]! Amazing! My first victory was quite emotional. Two additional highlights: I won the 2019 Roland Garros semi-final. In the same year won the group match at the Masters”. Thiem also explained just what makes the world number one special.
“Novak Djokovic is probably the best player of all time mentally,” Thiem said. “We have had a couple of great fights. He is extremely professional, always focused one hundred percent. Novak took the issue of nutrition in tennis onto a higher level.
Djokovic is mentally stronger than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal”. In a recent interview, Djokovic had a waring for Sinner, though, saying the path to the top is harder than everyone realises when they are starting out.
“Many things have to come together in a career and life of a tennis player in order for him to be able to find his best and maximise his potential and to thrive every single year,” Djokovic explained. “And to endure, because I think you have a much better chance to have a great Grand Slam or a great season. But can you endure for three, four, five, 10 years? Fifteen years?”