ABU DHABI – Novak Djokovic says the main source of his motivation at this stage of his career is securing a lasting legacy rather than simply trying to win tennis matches and trophies.
For nearly two years, from mid-2016 until mid-2018, the 32-year-old Serb had admittedly struggled with motivation after pulling off the historic feat of winning four straight Grand Slam titles — a first in men’s tennis since 1969.
He’s since recaptured his spark and has added four more Grand Slam victories to his overall tally, which now stands at 16.
While the world No. 2 remains in a tight battle with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the race for the most career Grand Slam titles, Djokovic believes what currently drives him in the sport is something deeper than that.
“You need to constantly give yourself fuel from the source, whatever the source is,” Djokovic said at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, where he secured a third-place finish with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Karen Khachanov on Saturday.
“I think it’s always about finding that purpose, and the reason, the meaning of actually playing. For me, especially in the last couple of years, it’s not only about winning a tennis match or a trophy.
“It had to be something greater than my own achievements. Something that would be related to legacy, something that would really be inspiring the lives of others, particularly kids.”
Federer holds the men’s record for most Grand Slams won with 20 and Nadal is breathing down his neck at 19.
Djokovic is younger than both (Federer 38 and Nadal is 33) and has a shot at closing the gap.
“That’s a goal,” said Djokovic said when asked if he’s fueled by breaking records.
“I’m motivated by breaking my own records and moving my own boundaries and that’s something that motivates me to compete.
“I do love to play tennis so I do like to be on the practice court. But competitive tennis is different. In order to compete to be a professional tennis player and to compete at the highest level, you really need goals, daily goals, monthly goals, yearly goals.
“So I do have them, as everyone else. Of course, I’m aware of the privilege that I have to fight for history and to be able to possibly achieve even greater things and that’s something that drives me of course, alongside other things.”
Djokovic will begin his 2020 season by representing Serbia in the ATP Cup in Australia.
He remains midway through his preseason preparations, and leaves Abu Dhabi with one loss, to Stefanos Tsitsipas, and one win over Khachanov.
“I got what I came here for, two good matches,” he said on Saturday.