Novak Djokovic has started his 346th week as the world no. 1. Having picked up 3 of the 4 grand slams this year, he has now caught up with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
On Sunday, he defeated newly acquired foe Daniil Medvedev to win his 6th Paris Masters title at Bercy, France. With this win, he overtook Rafael Nadal with most Masters 1000 titles. Earlier, they were tied with 36 each. Prior to that, in the semifinals, he had defeated Hubert Hurkacz of Poland to secure his 7th year-end world no. 1 ranking, another world record.
Djokovic is busy breaking records, and the world has taken notice. Amongst those who have taken notice is former tennis player Justine Henin.
Justine Henin is a Belgian tennis player, who has won 7 grand slam singles titles. She has won 2 Tour Finals, an Olympic Gold Medal, and led her team to a Fed Cup (now Billie Jean King Cup) win. She spent a total of 117 weeks atop the WTA rankings, with 3 year-end world no. 1 finishes in 2003, 2006, and 2007. She was one of the few female players to sport a single-handed backhand.
He is totally unique: Justine Henin on Novak Djokovic
In a conversation with Eurosport, Justine Henin was all praises for the 34-year-old Serb. Djokovic, who doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as his long-time rivals Federer and Nadal, was backed by the Belgian. She reiterated that one might not like him, but his achievements cannot be sidelined. “He is totally unique. I think it’s really about time – even though there are a lot of people who obviously respect his huge career – that people realise what he is achieving. You can like Novak Djokovic, you can dislike him, there are many people who don’t fancy his character, but what he is doing in his career, what the champion is doing, is simply extraordinary” she told Eurosport.
Assessing his grand slam performance over the past year, she added “There are not many who can bounce back like he can. We talk about today, but we can go back to a year ago, after the US Open(2020), we also thought we would find him hurt. And despite everything, even if he loses in the final at Roland Garros, he is still there.
After that, he rebuilt himself, he won the Australian Open, and his ability to bounce back is just phenomenal. And I think that this defeat in the final of the US Open was simply necessary to allow Novak Djokovic to breathe, to recover, to show himself to be a bit human. Because, finally, he has perhaps never been so loved as when he lost so harshly in the final against Daniil Medvedev(US Open 2021)“.
“I’m not surprised” Henin on Djokovic’s ability for breaking records
On the topic of Novak Djokovic scripting new records, Justine Henin said “And me, I’m not at all surprised that he came back here (Paris) because there are more records to go after and because it’s his job. It’s his passion. It’s what he loves because a competitor like that doesn’t exist today on the circuit. I’m not surprised, but I think we have to take the measure of what he is doing because it is really something unique and exceptional.”
Justine Henin: “Novak Djokovic is driven”
Finally, Henin spoke about Djokovic’s drive for the game and elaborated on it “I think we (champions) all love competition. Him, even more so? Does he have even more abilities? ….I think that Novak Djokovic is a man who thinks a lot on himself. And so he has this ability to analyse what is happening, and ability to accept things and at the same time fight against them…
I think he’s a hard worker, too, not just in the sense of saying ‘I’m going to practice, I’m doing what I need to do to be ready, he’s working on himself, on his person…You can feel that he invests in his personal development as well”.
“But above all, Novak Djokovic is driven. We are all driven, I was and others at higher levels than me, by a competitive spirit. We like a challenge, but Novak Djokovic even more: the more difficult it is, the more he is able to show something of himself behind it. And so, I think he’s someone who accepts and loves adversity, probably even more than others.
And that’s his great strength today. He says ‘pressure is a privilege. He uses it, he needs it. He’s able to cope with it and he’s almost even stronger when it’s most present. So that’s what makes him really, really special.”