detail-1 Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Monte Carlo, Monaco

In any other era, Novak Djokovic would be hailed as standing tall above his sport. Whether it’s good luck or bad luck, Djokovic has found himself playing in the same era with several other all-time greats and has therefore had to share the limelight with them. Yet his dominance of men’s tennis since the start of 2011 means that the competition he has faced is likely to make future generations see Djokovic as the greatest ever tennis player.



Year City
2023 New York
2023 Paris
2023 Melbourne
2022 London
2021 London
2021 Paris
2021 Melbourne
2020 Melbourne
2019 Melbourne
2019 London
2018 London
2018 New York
2016 Melbourne
2016 Paris
2015 Melbourne
2015 London
2015 New York
2014 London
2013 Melbourne
2012 Melbourne
2011 Melbourne
2011 London
2011 New York


Novak Djokovic - more than just a tennis player

In the most competitive period in the 150-year history of the modern-day form of tennis, Djokovic has dominated the biggest tournaments. Of the 42 Grand Slam events played between the 2011 Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2021, he won 19 of them. And he has topped the world rankings for much longer than anyone else in history.

Novak Djokovic forehand at French OpenNovak Djokovic forehand at French Open

To many, the pinnacle came in June 2016, when he not only completed his career Grand Slam by winning the French Open, but became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at the same time. Although his form dipped after that triumph due to a mixture of injuries and off-court issues, he bounced back impressively to win eight more majors in 2018-21, return to the top of the rankings, and fall just one match short of emulating Laver's calendar year Grand Slam when he lost in the US Open final of 2021 having won in Melbourne, Paris and London.

The numbers continue to get better. His victory at the 2023 US Open gave him a 24th major title, equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record set in an era of much less intense competition. It made Djokovic the first man to win three majors in a calendar year four times.

Djokovic is a complex but positive character. The product of modest surroundings, he was a child with immense curiosity, a work ethic to match, and a belief in his own ability that included going onto a Serbian children’s TV programme at the age of seven to say with a totally straight face – and a cap facing backwards – that he was going to win Wimbledon. 

Novak Djokovic`s first coach

The person who most shaped him was Jelena Gencic. A tennis coach from a highly educated family who had never had children of her own, she was conducting a tennis clinic in the mountain resort of Kopaonik where the Djokovic family had a pizza restaurant when a six-year-old boy put his face to the fence and watched for an entire morning. When she approached him in the lunch break, it was clear he was interested, so she invited him to join. That afternoon, Djokovic’s tennis career began. 

Novak Djokovic backhand at French OpenNovak Djokovic backhand at French Open

Gencic, who died during Roland Garros in 2013 (the news was kept from Djokovic until after he had played his third round match), claimed she saw his talent from day one. She told his parents they had ‘a golden child’; they were happy to believe her and let her coach their son. She remained his formal coach until he was 12 and needed a more international coaching framework. 

But Gencic did more than just coach Djokovic. She says she recognised that he was destined for greatness, and felt part of her job was to prepare him for that. She encouraged him to listen to classical music, to read poetry, to take an interest in scientific discoveries and philosophical arguments.

He refers to her even today as his ‘tennis mother’, but she was more than that – she helped shape the mind that is open to many unique and interesting ideas. 

Novak Djokovic at French OpenNovak Djokovic at French Open

There has always been a strong philanthropic side to him. He has a foundation that not only gives money to a number of charitable causes, but also sets up programmes to help with education and skills training to create opportunities for disadvantaged youngsters in Serbia.

Although seen as something of an on-court warrior and flag carrier for Serbia – whose modern-day sovereignty is still less than 30 years old – Djokovic has a benevolent temper and a willingness to see the good in people. He is a practising Christian who believes in being a good citizen, and above all a good father to his two children. 

There is a common myth on the tennis tour that Djokovic only switched to playing with HEAD rackets in early 2009, but he had played with HEAD in his junior days. He was then offered a lucrative contract by another racket maker, but at the end of the 2008 season he wanted a racket with which he could conquer the world, and returned to HEAD. All his 23 majors between 2011 and the end of 2023 were won with a HEAD racquet in his hand - making Djokovic and the SPEED racquet series endoresd by him one of the most successful partnerships of all time.

Novak Djokovic is more than just a tennis player – he is a statesman, both within tennis and representing Serbia on the international stage (the first biography of him was entitled ‘The Sporting Statesman’). He became president of the ATP Player Council in 2016, and in 2019 after three members resigned, he recruited Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was the first time the world’s top three players had been on the Council, and Djokovic was both the president and the top-ranked player. 

Now in his mid-30s, Djokovic is pacing himself more. He looks to peak at the Grand Slams, and as Federer and Nadal have faded away, he has created an intergenerational rivalry with Carlos Alcaraz, a man 16 years younger, that caught tennis’s imagination in mid-2023. He remains the man to beat, and may be for some time. One day his playing career will come to an end, but there's no doubting his employability either inside or outside tennis. In fact it's easy to see some sort of diplomatic role for this highly intelligent, worldly interested, and sympathetic man.


Chris Bowers is the author of ‘Novak Djokovic: the biography’ (John Blake Publishing, 2017)