How Novak Djokovic's Career Was Shaped By The 1999 Nato Bombings Of Belgrade

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How Novak Djokovic's Career Was Shaped By The 1999 Nato Bombings Of Belgrade

Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has spoken out about his life growing up in Serbia and how the NATO bombings he experienced in 1999 shaped his life and career.


Novak was aged just 12 when NATO began dropping bombs upon Serbia. Multiple targets were hit over several months in Belgrade, Serbia's capital, where Djokovic grew up.


The war was the result of the Serbian military allegedly committing crimes against humanity in the province of Kosovo over which they had control. Tens of thousands of Kosovar Albanians were forced to flee their homes and thousands were raped and murdered as the area demanded independence from Serbia.


In response to the ongoing crisis, a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia began, which eventually culminated in the UN entering Kosovo and the overthrow of the Serbian regime in Belgrade.


Djokovic has spoken about how he and his grandfather lived alone and endured as the bombs rained down. His parents lived outside Belgrade in order to make enough money for the family to survive.


Novak says:


"The basement is practically where we stayed. Everyone who could fit here they came, there was no limitation. We were waking up every single night at 2am or 3am for two and a half months because of the bombings. In a way these experiences made me a champion, it made us tougher, made us more hungry for success."


It was soon after the bombings that a friend of his father took Novak to try out tennis for the first time. Bogdan Obradovic, who would later coach Novak full-time and then go on to become a member of parliament, said:


"Novak's father and I had some mutual friends and they told him I was a good coach and could maybe help him. We did one practice and I was completely shocked. He was completely prepared. He was warming up, he had a bottle of water, a banana, a towel, everything. I had never seen that from a kid so young."


Over the years, Novak would rise to the top of the game but never leave the memory of the bombings behind him. He is now Serbia's most celebrated sports star and murals dedicated to him adorn his old neighbourhood.


Sasa Ozmo, a journalist for Sport Klub, speaking to the BBC said:


"But not only is he an ambassador outwards to the world, but he is also an ambassador within. For example, there is a huge rivalry with Croatia - obviously there was the war and things stay fresh - but Novak is always very public about his support for the Croatian national football team. That doesn't sit well with a lot of people here, but he is trying to change perspective. He's really good at that responsibility. He is a huge role model. We've had some really huge athletes who have inspired generations but they haven't inspired people in the same way Novak has done."


At the time of writing, Novak remains in the running to retain his Wimbledon title.


[h/t: BBC]


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Thinking Humanity: How Novak Djokovic's Career Was Shaped By The 1999 Nato Bombings Of Belgrade
How Novak Djokovic's Career Was Shaped By The 1999 Nato Bombings Of Belgrade
Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has spoken out about his life growing up in Serbia and how the NATO bombings he experienced in 1999 shaped his life an
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