Although all-time tennis great Novak Djokovic says that his rivalry with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer made him the player he is today, initially the Serbian was “pissed off” to be part of the golden era.
“They made me stronger, both mentally, physically, my game was improved because of all these matches that we played against each other, mostly because of the matches that I lost to them, some big matches,” the 22-time grand slam champion told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an exclusive interview Tuesday.
In his first interview since withdrawing from the Miami Open over visa issues, Djokovic said he has “no regrets” after ceding the world No. 1 ranking to Carlos Alcaraz and having to also miss Indian Wells in the United States this month.
Djokovic is not allowed to travel to the US because of his decision not to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
On Monday, Djokovic ceded the top men’s singles ranking – which the 35-year-old has held more weeks than any other player – to the 19-year-old Spaniard after he was forced to miss Indian Wells. Djokovic is also missing the Miami Open this week.
“No, I have no regrets,” Djokovic said in an interview with Anderson. “I’ve learned through life that regrets only hold you back and basically make you live in the past. And I don’t want to do that. I also don’t want to live too much in the future. I want to be as much as in the present moment, but of course think about future, create a better future.
“So I congratulate Alcaraz. He absolutely deserves to come back to No. 1.
“It’s a pity that I wasn’t able to play in Indian Wells [and] Miami. I love those tournaments. I had plenty of success there. But at the same time, it is the conscious decision I made and I knew that there is always a possibility that I won’t go. And it is the current state or current situation that I hope will change for later this year for the US Open. That is the most important tournament for me on the American soil.”
Djokovic reiterated that at this stage in his career, the grand slams are what matter the most to him, and he will wait and see if he can go to New York.
“I really want to be playing there, want to be there,” Djokovic said. “I actually had in 2021 when I lost in the finals against (Daniil) Medvedev, probably one of the best moments I ever had with the New York crowd. And I’ve been fortunate to win that tournament three times, play many finals. And even though I lost that match, I received a lot of love and appreciation from people and I want to go back and I want to reconnect with the crowd there. So that’s something I’m looking forward to and hopefully it will happen.”
For now, Djokovic’s focus has shifted to the upcoming clay court season in Europe. Of his 22 grand slam singles titles – tying him with Rafael Nadal for the most in men’s tennis – Djokovic has won the French Open, the next major on the tennis calendar, twice.
Djokovic was a keynote speaker at the Dubai Future District Fund’s First Annual General Meeting, where he talked about his business interests and foundation. He is part of a generation of athletes taking their career earnings and endorsements and turning them into business empires.
“I think some experiences are transferrable, not all of them, but I think character is, and I guess when you are successful in your core business… you want to continue in striving to be successful in other areas and it’s a kind of logical or a natural transition to a next phase of your life,” he explained to CNN.
His portfolio of vested interests is varied and includes biotech, education, sustainability and clean energy, he said.
“I’ve been trying to be sensitive and conscious about the fact that I have to start preparing my future as early as possible and surrounding myself with smart people who have the experience of being in that journey, in that area, in that sector that I’m interested in for quite some time because I’m new.”
While Djokovic joint-leads the rankings of men’s grand slam singles titles, he trails both Serena Williams and Margaret Court on the all-time list. That’s something he will look to change this year and was full of admiration for Williams’ achievement.
“She keeps, keeps inspiring myself, all the tennis players around the world. And she’s been really an icon of our sport for so many years,” he said.