Read & Watch: Jelena's 'Crucial' Role In Novak's Revival
Novak Djokovic wouldn't have returned to the peak of the ATP Rankings last season without his all-time great backhand, but more importantly, without the support of his wife, Jelena.
Djokovic, who received the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award earlier this week, spoke with CNN on how big of a role Jelena has played in his comeback, which included his historic rise from No. 22 to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings and becoming the first player to achieve the Career Golden Masters by winning all nine ATP Masters 1000 events.
“Her support was crucial in the times when I was facing adversity and had obstacles that seemed at times too challenging. Without her support, it would be very difficult for me to play competitive tennis at such a high level,” he said.
Djokovic missed the final five months of the 2017 season and underwent elbow surgery shortly after losing in the fourth round of the 2018 Australian Open. “Twelve months ago, I was on the surgery table. I did question everything about my career, how I wanted to go about my life in the future,” Djokovic said.
The decision to do surgery, Jelena said, went against her husband's “core values” and he contemplated quitting the sport. “It was really huge. It was like he buried one part of him with that decision. He said, 'I'm done. I'm not playing tennis anymore. I lost this. I'm not having fun anymore. This is it,'” she said.
Fortunately for tennis fans, the Serbian has more than just kept playing tennis. His title at the Australian Open last month marked his 15th Grand Slam, one more than his boyhood hero, American Pete Sampras.
“I think the transformational journey really started three years ago at [Roland Garros] 2016, when I held all four Slams at the same time. [It's] the ultimate achievement in tennis, but I didn't feel fulfilled, I just felt like something was missing," Djokovic said.