From 'literally nothing' to 17 grand slams

Novak Djokovic has revealed how waiting in line for bread and water as child growing up in war-torn Serbia instilled his insatiable desire to succeed at tennis.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC of Serbia plays a backhand during the Australian Open at Melbourne Park Melbourne, Australia.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC of Serbia plays a backhand during the Australian Open at Melbourne Park Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic credits growing up in war-torn Serbia with "literally nothing" for instilling the insatiable hunger and fierce will to fight even when all hope is almost lost.

Djokovic conceded he was "on the brink of losing" his gruelling four-hour Australian Open final to Dominic Thiem on Sunday night before conjuring one of the greatest comebacks of his career.

Struggling physically with a mystifying illness and warring with the chair umpire, the 32-year-old recovered from two sets to one down in a major championship final for the first time.

"I couldn't believe what was happening," he said.

"I didn't have any injuries and it was very strange to me because I've done things pretty much the same as I always do.

"My energy completely collapsed. Every time I would toss the ball, I would feel dizzy."

After seeking treatment from the tournament doctor, Djokovic summoned the strength to pull off one of the bravest wins of his career, then revealed the motivation for his ongoing glories.

"I think we all had different trajectories in our lives," the world No.1 and now 17-times grand slam champion said.

"I mean, we all grew up in different circumstances, different countries, different upbringing.

"My upbringing was in Serbia during several wars during '90s, difficult time, embargo in our country where we had to wait in line for bread, milk, water, some basic things in life.

"These kind of things make you stronger and hungrier for success, I think, in whatever you choose to do.

"That probably has been my foundation, the very fact that I came from literally nothing and difficult life circumstances together with my family and with my people.

"Going back to that, reminding myself where I came from always inspires me, motivates me to push even harder.

"That's probably one of the reasons why I managed to find that extra gear or necessary, I guess, mental strength to overcome challenges when they present themselves."

Djokovic is only three slams behind Roger Federer and two shy of Rafael Nadal on the men's all-time majors leaderboard after capturing his eighth Australian Open crown from as many finals.


AAP