What makes Novak Djokovic tick?
Few people are better equipped to answer that question than leading tennis journalist Jon Wertheim and the acclaimed CBS news broadcast programme known for its signature stopwatch, 60 MINUTES.
Wertheim, who in January 2020 profiled Rafael Nadal for the American show, spent three days on the ground in Belgrade in early November. Djokovic, who recently claimed ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone honours for a recording-extending eighth time at the age of 36, was first profiled on 60 MINUTES in 2011.
“That was 12 years and 20 majors ago,” Wertheim said. “We had already done the back story, so we approached this piece with the assumption that people already knew him. This time we really wanted to get into his mind. You’re not going to learn about his childhood like you did in the first one. We’re focused on the present and the future.”
Djokovic spent many hours with Wertheim and the crew in Belgrade just three days after winning the Rolex Paris Masters and before leaving for Turin, where he would win a record-setting seventh Nitto ATP Finals crown.
“In the many times I’ve interviewed him I’ve never had long conversations like this,” Wertheim said. “I think it was meaningful to him and it was different, spending a whole day with him. It wasn’t done in a locker room or some hotel room. I got the feeling that he was happy to show off where he is from. He was very hospitable and a gracious host.
“He’s like no other athlete. He doesn’t think like any other athlete I’ve been around; he doesn’t conduct himself like any other athlete. He’s an incredible athlete physically, but with Novak you realise how mental tennis is. He’s been in so many tight matches, so many finals, played in front of booing crowds. You realise how much success builds success and confidence builds confidence.
“There’s a lot of self-belief when you’ve come through all that to win 24 majors and the other guy across the net is still looking for his first.”
Wertheim asked Djokovic if the current version of himself would beat the Novak Djokovic of 2011, a year in which he won three majors, five ATP Masters 1000s and 10 titles in all.
“He said that at 36 he would beat the 24-year-old Novak of 2011. He might be able to run faster, but experience and the confidence of having come through so many situations would enable him to beat the player who was 12 years younger.”
After Djokovic hoisted seven trophies this season, including three majors, two Masters 1000s and the Nitto ATP Finals crown, the 98-time tour-level titlist told Wertheim that retirement was nowhere in his immediate plans.
“He said something to the effect of, ‘When the young guys start kicking my butt it will be time to reassess, but that’s not happening yet.”
The story airs Sunday, December 10 at 7:30 PM, ET/PT after the football game on CBS. It will also stream on Paramount+.