Sexy superstar Novak Djokovic profiled in GQ!
Tennis was not expecting this, a year ago. Tennis did not see the need. Tennis already had written the script, and it was a perfectly satisfactory one, if you liked tennis. There, in the near court, was Roger Federer, the most wonderful and successful player anyone had ever seen, slowly beginning his natural decline as he entered his 30s. Across the net was Rafael Nadal, possibly—debatably!—superior even to Federer. Certainly younger, in his mid-20s; sleek and powerful like a Grecian statue, or a tawny replica of a Grecian statue made of expensive Iberian ham.
They would play each other, Roger and Rafa, age trying to fend off youth with grace and guts. Their rivalry would be beautiful and moving; fans would choose sides, pull for Federer to bravely turn back the clock, tell themselves they were seeing the greatest tennis in history.
Novak Djokovic? Somebody had to lose to Federer or Nadal in the semis. So bring on the rawboned Serb: a nifty returner, a locker-room cutup, a guy one ineffable degree shy of championship material. He’d won the 2008 Australian Open, OK, and he’d beaten Federer in a wild match at the U.S. Open in 2010, but he seemed to have bobbed up to his natural level. Nadal was 16-7 against him, and 5-0 in tournament finals; Federer was 13-6. To wrap up their 2010 season, both of them beat him at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. He was 23 and ranked No. 3, and after helping pull off a Serbian victory in the Davis Cup final, he was able to close out the year on a two-match winning streak.
Then the calendar turned over, and so did the sport. Djokovic beat Nadal on grass, on clay, and on hard court, in California, Miami, Madrid, Rome, London, and New York. He beat Federer in Australia, Dubai, California—three consecutive tournaments—lost an epic match to him at the French Open, then beat him again in Flushing. Roger and Rafa seemed as excellent as ever. But Djokovic had crossed over into the world of the ’85 Bears, Pedro Martinez, Usain Bolt. It didn’t matter how good anyone else was.
“I’ve matured as a player,” he says. “I’ve matured as a person. I know what to do. I know how to handle my life, my career.”