The day Sampras made Djokovic fall in love with tennis

After his victory this Wednesday against Borna Coric at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, Novak Djokovic managed to ensure that he finished 2020 as number 1 in the ATP ranking. It will be the sixth time that the Serbian finishes the year at the top of the ranking after achieving it in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018. In this way 'Nole' equals the historic mark of Pete Sampras, the only tennis player to date capable of finishing 6 years as number one between 1993 and 1998.

In this way Djokovic achieves one of the milestones of his idol and one of the players who made him grow his passion for tennis, as recounted by Djokovic himself in the book 'Pete Sampras: Greatness Revisted', by Steve Flink, of which the ATP has published an excerpt in his web page.

Djokovic acknowledges that the first professional tennis match he ever saw was the 1993 Wimbledon final between Sampras and Jim Courier and has since shown his admiration for the play and style of 'Pistol Pete'. “I was 6 years old and I saw Pete Sampras play that Wimbledon final. The first image I have of professional tennis was Pete's victory in that final against Courier in 1993. I was impressed with his skills and composure and watching him play. On the most sacred court in tennis, I fell in love with it all. When you are young, you believe in everything. You live your dreams and your dreams are your reality. You have that moment of, let's say, a revelation that you know one day you'll find yourself lifting that trophy. “

The world number 1 acknowledges that that match marked a turning point in his beginnings in tennis and how he tried to imitate his strokes on a tennis court. “I really feel like that day when I saw Sampras, he gave me great power. It was as if he had received information about it. It is something that cannot be explained. It is a very deep feeling. But, for me, Pete was the reference. I was making my career in tennis and when I was seven years old, a year after Pete's final against Courier, I started imitating the great players and hitting the best shots of each one of them. But Pete, although our styles are very different, I still see him as my idol. And what impressed me the most about seeing him at that Wimbledon final and also later was the ability to remain calm in the decisive moments., to be mentally stronger when it matters most. That is what distinguishes him as one of the best tennis players in history to have picked up a racket. “

Djokovic also remembers the piques with his father, who also admired Sampras but who encouraged Agassi and Courier to provoke him and how the day was when Djokovic met his idol. “I was a huge fan of Sampras. I remember that when my father and I watched tennis he would always cheer on Agassi or Courier even if he liked Sampras more. He did it for me and my feelings. I was cheering on Agassi and Courier on purpose to provoke and anger me. Those days I was a fan of Pete and I was following his results. When I had the opportunity to pelote with him at Indian Wells in 2010 was amazing. When I saw him coming towards me I felt a flashback of all my childhood and those moments in which I supported and admired him. My idol came up to me, shook my hand and recognized me. “