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Starstruck: How Novak Djokovic is the GOAT of emotion management — Vikram Sathaye

The 'most emotional' of the Big Three, it's a wonder how Novak Djokovic can mentally persevere and turn every tough situation around - Sathaye reflects.

Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic (Source: Getty Images)


Vikram Sathaye

Published: 11 Jan 2022 10:35 AM GMT

"When I hear the crowd chant for the opponent, I have trained my mind to think they are chanting for me."

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, Novak Djokovic had once said.

At the 2021 US Open, deep into the finals against eventual champion Daniil Medvedev, Novak Djokovic was bare points away from losing the match when he sat down, buried his face in the towel, and really crumbled down, choking on his tears - it was a helpless sight.

Novak Djokovic at the 2021 US Open (Source: AP)

The otherwise jeering and booing crowd that Djokovic has always been party to were cheering him on that day with cries of 'Novak, Novak, Novak!' and in that moment, with the dream of a Calendar Slam slipping out, Djokovic - The Human, stepped out on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, overwhelmed by his emotions, as the crowd, in a rare instance, roared in his support.

I've always admired how the Serb can transform on-court, in pressure moments, and miraculously make the chants for his opponents sound like ones that are for him. This to me is the greatest example of using a positive affirmation to the deepest level.

Djokovic has taught us how emotion management can lead you to mastery. 9 out of 10 sportspersons I have met have been highly emotional people.

Passion is an emotion after all. Emotion, I think, is the key driver of sporting achievement provided you know how to manage it.

Amongst the Big Three of modern Tennis - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic — I feel Djokovic is the most emotional one.

The ultimate quest of any athlete and individual is that, at any given point, the positive emotion should be more than the negative.

I feel Novak probably struggled with his negative emotions in his early days possibly because of trials and tribulations he went through during the tough times in war-torn Serbia.

This also started affecting his game when he reached the elite level.

If you read his interviews or observe his behavior, you can sense the guy has done major self-introspection and come out with a somewhat spiritual solution to overcome the negative emotion which has made him into a champion.

Along with positive affirmation, the most important thing is to be in the moment and feel the energy in your system.

Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon (Source: Getty)

Novak once said in a talk, "Looking into the sky for me is like drawing energy from the heavens, touching the grass is like connecting with the court and after winning I pass on the energy to the crowd which I have drawn from heaven".

What this certainly does is that it centers him along with deep breathing to get to the moment.

Only when you are in the moment, you can give your best. Fascinating, right?

How many of us even think about working on our emotions to achieve excellence? If anything Djokovic has tips to give us on, it is definitely this - while his argument to be the GOAT of tennis may be disputed, there is no shred of hesitation or doubt to declare him the unanimous GOAT of emotional mastery, once and for all.

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