Here’s the full video segment of Novak Djokovic’s appearance on CBS’s “60 Minutes” which aired earlier today. In the 15-minute feature the World No. 1 discusses his upbringing, his relationship with mentor Jelena Gencic, the importance of his Wimbledon title, his role as a hero in Serbia and why he no longer does imitations.
Bob Simon did the reporting and as usual with 60 Minutes it’s a top quality piece.
Djokovic is in action tomorrow at Miami against countryman and good friend Viktor Troicki.
If you cannot see the video, here’s a text excerpt:
The tennis court served as a haven for Novak because the country he had been born into, Yugoslavia, was coming apart, quickly and violently.
Bob Simon: Did you realize that when you started climbing the tennis ladder that your country was falling down?
Novak Djokovic: Yes, yes, that was the period that nobody likes to remember.
Yugoslavia split into separate countries. The world blamed Serbia for the bloodshed. The country’s leaders were accused of war crimes. In 1999, as the conflict spread to the province of Kosovo, the Americans and other NATO countries bombed Serbia for 78 days and nights. The Djokovic family took shelter in Belgrade.
Novak Djokovic: We were very scared. Everybody was very afraid because the whole city was under attack.
They sought refuge here, in his grandfather’s apartment. Novak took us there.
Novak, his grandfather, parents, two younger brothers, aunts and uncles — all lived in this two-bedroom flat during the blitz. The building had a basement. When the air raid sirens sounded, they retreated there, which was as close as they could get to safety.
Novak Djokovic: This is where practically we stayed right, right here, right inside.
Bob Simon: How many of you?
Novak Djokovic: Phew…everybody who could fit here, they came. You know, and there was no really limitation.
Novak says the family spent every night in the basement for the first two weeks of the bombing.
Bob Simon: But you continued playing tennis?
Novak Djokovic: I continued playing tennis every day.
Bob Simon: And did you lose your focus at all?
Novak Djokovic: At the first couple of weeks I did. I did, yes, I have to say. Because we were waking up every single night more or less at 2:00, 3:00 a.m. for two and a half months, every single–
Bob Simon: Because of the bombing?
Novak Djokovic: Every single night, yes. But the best thing about it, you know, I always try to remember those days in, in a positive, in a very bright way. Let’s say I, we didn’t need to go to school and we played more tennis. So, for us, that was something that we remembered the most.
Bob Simon: So in a way…
Novak Djokovic: Yes…
Bob Simon: …the war helped you become a champion.
UPDATE: Novak’s reaction to the feature:
“Well, I loved the piece on CBS last night on 60 Minutes. We were looking forward to it. We were excited to watch it, even though I don’t like watching myself. My girlfriend, my team was really excited.
It was really nice, because in a way I feel a need to represent my country and to allow people to see in public my story and how, not just me, but all the athletes, the tennis players, how we grew up, especially the generation that had to go through wars and difficult times where, you know, you didn’t have much conditions, support, didn’t have a professional facilities that could accommodate you and allow you to develop yourself into a professional tennis player.
Most of us were spending quite a few years out of our country for those practices and trainings. But we were always coming back and reflecting on that mentality. I believe that that’s actually something that made us, you know, stronger and gave us the opportunity to be where we are.
Because not many countries in the world have been through what we did, what we have been through. We know how it feels to, you know, lose the close ones, lose your own people in the war, touch the bottomness as a country in every aspect of the life, and then, you know, stand up and be stronger, you know, be reborn out of it.
You know, it’s just the situation that nobody likes to remember, but it’s part of our lives. We are just proud to, you know, reflect on that wherever we go and say, Okay, you know, that’s something that we been through.”
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