TOPSHOT — Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates breaking serve against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson … [+] during their men’s singles second round match on the third day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 30, 2021. — RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
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When world №1 Novak Djokovic lets out a roar during a tennis match, he’s channeling more than just his own passion.
Djokovic says he has shared a special bond with wolves ever since his childhood growing up in Serbia and he sometimes channels that energy on the court.
“I like to think of wolves as my spiritual nature guides,” he told ESPN’s Chris McKendry following his third-round win over American Denis Kudla on Friday at Wimbledon. “I really do because I saw some wolves roaming the forests when I was growing up. And that encounter left me both frightened and more connected with wolves….I carry that with me and that helps me find that energy when I need it. It turns into a roar or an outburst but most of the time it’s useful energy.”
John and Patrick McEnroe quickly made light of Djokovic’s proclamation.
“Maybe that was our problem, we didn’t see enough wolves growing up in Queens,” John said to his younger brother on air.
Djokovic grew up in war-torn Yugoslavia in the 1990s and his family could barely make ends meet.
“Ten Deutsche marks was like 10 dollars, and my father said, ‘This is all we have,’” Djokovic told Christopher Clarey of The New York Times in 2020. “And he said that more than ever we have to stick together and go through this together and figure out the way. That was a very powerful and very impactful moment in my growth, my life, all of our lives.”
Djokovic ultimately left his homeland for Niki Pilic’s tennis academy in Munich when he was 12.
He has been in the shadow of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for much of his career, but with one more major title, Djokovic will tie those two legends with 20 Grand Slam titles. He’s earned about $150 million in prize money, enough to keep his family comfortable for generations.
After winning the French Open last month, Djokovic is the only man in the Open Era to win every major title twice. And he is now half way to a calendar Grand Slam after winning the Australian and French Opens. He is seeking the “Golden Slam” which also includes the Olympics.
After dispatching with Kudla, Djokovic will next face №17 seed Christian Garin of Chili on Monday.
If you hear him roar in that match, it’s because he’s channeling the wolves.