For Novak Djokovic, Winning Isn’t Quite Everything
By James Henry
(August 14, 2019) CINCINNATI — Anyone who feels they can’t win for losing perhaps is missing out on a vital life lesson.
Winning, of course, is wonderful. But there also is a lot to gain through those losses.
“I have been talking with my team a lot about what is the definition of success, not just in tennis, but in sport and in life in general,” said Novak Djokovic after his second-round victory at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Djokovic, who claimed his fifth Wimbledon crown last month, defeated American Sam Querrey 7-5, 6-1.
He won his first Cincinnati title in 2018 to become the first to muster a Career Golden Masters, winning all nine ATP Masters 1000 tournaments.
“Sport and tennis, you know, are basically allowing you to grow your character through wins and losses,” said the world’s top-ranked tennis player.
“Of course, a lot of players will tell you, and it’s true, that when you lose a tennis match, you learn much more than when you win it. When you win a tennis match, it kind of fades away quicker than a loss sticks with you for a longer time.
“It actually defines you as a human being and as an athlete how you overcome that loss, how you deal with it, how you face it and how you allow it to kind of get you stronger and grow psychologically and emotionally or you allow it to control you and basically bring you down.”
The emphasis on winning, particularly among young people, can be overwhelming, Djokovic said.
“You know, sport offers those big life lessons in a very short amount of time on the tennis match, for example, in our sport, but I think what I like about college system in the United States is that you always feel you’re part of the team. Whether you win or lose, you are contributing to your team on the court, off the court,” the Serbian said.
“I think that sometimes I get a sense that there is too much pressure on the shoulders of young tennis players, that they have to be Grand Slam champions, that they have to get into top 10, that they have to do this and that, you know.
“The fact is, and the stat is that only 0.5% or 0.6% of players worldwide that actually played tennis that have been, I guess, noted or recorded on some stats succeed into making to top 100 of the world professionally.
“So, what about 99.5% of the rest of the guys? You know, someone will say, well, that’s life. Face it. But I still think we, as a society, and sports have to address this in a little bit softer way and I guess with more compassion for those young athletes that, you know, if you don’t succeed in making it to the top of your sport, then you still can succeed in life. You know, it’s not the end of the world.”