Novak Djokovic calls Dubai his second home and praises its 'champion mentality'

The Serbian tennis player was speaking at the Dubai Future District Fund's annual general meeting

Novak Djokovic speaks to CNN's Becky Anderson during the Dubai Future District Fund annual meeting. Victor Besa / The National
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One of the world's greatest tennis players, Novak Djokovic, has praised what he calls the “champion mentality” of Dubai, a city he considers his second home.

“I love that people here want to be the best in the world,” the Serbian athlete said during a chat at the Dubai Future District Fund's annual general meeting on Thursday.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner, who currently lives in Marbella, Spain, said he wanted the emirate to be a “base for my business and innovation”.

During the one-on-one session with CNN's Becky Anderson, Djokovic discussed the struggles he faced growing up in a conflict-hit Serbia, and how those experiences contributed to his stellar tennis career.

Djokovic with Anderson. The tennis ace is currently ranked world No 2 in the singles category by the ATP. Photo: Dubai Future Foundation

“Obviously coming from a war-torn country in the '90s, it was not easy, and there was a lot of adversity in society and challenges that my family had to face to support and fund the career of a tennis player,” he says.

“I was a young boy who dared to dream big and believe that those dreams would come true.”

Djokovic was born in Belgrade in 1987, and started playing tennis at the age of four. His professional career started in 2003, when he joined his first ATP Tour, a global tournament organised by the Association of Tennis Professionals.

He has since won 93 ATP singles titles, and is currently ranked world No 2 in men's singles by the international organisation.

Djokovic said his upbringing “has had a great influence” on his character. “Waiting in line for several hours from 6am to have a piece of bread that we would all share. It was hard, but at the same time I look back and reflect on that as a very important stage in my life,” he added.

The Serbian player had held the No 1 position in the ATP's rankings for a record 380 weeks. He lost it this month to Spanish athlete Carlos Alcaraz after missing various tournaments in the US.

Djokovic has not been vaccinated against Covid-19, and this has barred him from entering the states. In a separate interview with Anderson, the tennis star said he has “no regrets” about not being vaccinated.

“I’ve learnt through life that regrets only hold you back and basically make you live in the past, and I don’t want to do that.”

Updated: March 24, 2023, 4:08 AM