World No. 1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic recalls that his major part in success was his early life struggles when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Alliance countries bombed Serbia for a period of 78 days in 1999.
Speaking to Graham Bensinger in an interview Djokovic revealed his troubled past.
“1999, when we had the bombings, we lived in an apartment 500 feet from here,” Djokovic said.
“We would come to this building every single night of (the) bombing because our building did not have a shelter. It’s crazy when you think about the amount of people that would come here and hide. It’s definitely the same as it was 20 years ago. The whole building, with [people from] 50 apartments, will be here. People would just hide in corners and try to find a safe space,” he added.
Djokovic said it was a horrifying experience for him and his family and said how strange and scary everything felt to him at the start.
“It all feels so different now. I don’t remember most of this, I was so small, feeling unsafe and disturbed emotionally. Unaware of what the next moment brings to me, my brothers, my family. It was a horrifying experience for everyone. Particularly for children. We did not understand what was happening,” Djokovic said.
“After a month, we just stopped reacting to it. I remember celebrating my 12th birthday party at the tennis club where I grew up and during the happy birthday song, there was a plane flying over,” he added.
World No.1 looked sober during the chat as he recalled his nightmare experience from the bombardings and from the disturbing memories he reaccesses his mind that he believes will never go away.
“It was the first or second night of bombing. We were just about to fall asleep, when a huge explosion happened. My mom stood up very quickly and hit her head, falling unconscious. We were crying because of the bombs, because mom was not responding. Luckily my dad managed to help my mom get back to normal,” he said.
“We collect our stuff and go out. It was so loud, we couldn’t hear each other. My dad was carrying my brothers, my mom was carrying other stuff and that’s when I slipped. When I looked towards the building, I saw the planes flying, dropping things and the ground shaking. That is one of the most traumatic images I saw in my childhood. It stays with me.”
Novak Djokovic agreed that the bombings made him tough, extremely angry in his growing up years that will help him in his career.
“I used that anger in a way that fuels me to be successful in tennis. But that changed. I really don’t have this emotion anymore. I will not forget what happened, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s good for anybody to be stuck in the emotions of hatred, anger, rage,” he explained.
“How is it possible that big countries come together and bomb small countries” he concluded.