Novak Djokovic believes he has learned a lot from NBA star Kobe Bryant and Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo and hopes to use the experience to help eclipse rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The world No 2 is locked in a fierce fight with Federer and Nadal to go down as the greatest tennis player of all time.
Winning the Australian Open title over the next week will go a long way to increasing the legacy he will leave.
Two players who have risen to the top of their respective sports are Bryant and Ronaldo.
And Djokovic has built close bonds with the duo to understand how to reach the summit.
“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic said. “I’ve had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years.
“When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back.
“I’m very grateful to him for being there for me, for being very supportive. I love Kobe, who doesn’t?
“He’s an amazing guy and one of the best basketball players and athletes of all-time.”
Bryant has been happy to help the Serbian bounce back from various set-backs in his quest for greatness.
“He was going through a process of, ‘Physically, I’m not where I used to be. How did you adjust and change your game?'” Bryant recalled.
“We talked about it for a while and having the acceptance of an athlete to say, ‘I’m not what I used to be’.
“Novak’s my guy. We have a relationship. We’ve had a relationship for a long time.”
Djokovic trained with Ronaldo in the off-season where he developed various skill sets.
“He was basically teaching me how to jump,” Djokovic said. “He is considered as one of the greatest football, soccer players of all-time, obviously.
“What I love about that guy is his work ethic and his constant need to improve. He’s such a professional. He’s got at home all these recovery devices and things.
“He’s always trying to find a way how to be best in the world and make a huge mark not just in his sport, but all sports. He’s a beast, he’s an unbelievable athlete. We trained together that day, and it was a great experience.”
“To be surrounded with the people like Kobe and Cristiano is obviously a huge pleasure and honour for me. When I’m next to them, I turn into a student. I try to have my ears wide open and listen to what they have to say and ask questions.
“I’m not afraid to ask questions and they are not as well. I think that’s a great way of exchanging some experiences and things that maybe you could use in your sport, in your life, in your career. It’s just amazing to share those life stories with them.”
Published at Sun, 26 Jan 2020 01:05:00 +0000