Djokovic says childhood in poverty gave him hunger for success

Novak Djokovic says queuing for bread in difficult times in Serbia gave him the inner steel needed to fight back to win an eighth Australian Open crown.

Djokovic, 32, won his 17th Grand Slam title by beating Thiem 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4, moving him closing to Swiss Roger Federer’s record of 20 and Spaniard Rafael Nadal’s tally of 19.

Djokovic struggled physically and mentally before he recovered to beat Austria’s Dominic Thiem in five sets.

“I came from literally nothing and difficult life circumstances together with my family and with my people,” he said after his record-extending title.

“That’s why I managed to find that extra gear.”

When Djokovic, who was born in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, celebrated his 12th birthday in May 1999 a decade-long crisis was tearing the Balkans apart.

More than 20 years later, there is still tension over how Nato bombed Serbia for 11 weeks in an effort to push Serbian forces out of Kosovo, accusing them of atrocities against ethnic Albanians.

“My upbringing was in Serbia during a difficult time, an embargo in our country where we had to wait in line for bread, milk, water, some basic things in life,” he said.

“These kind of things make you stronger and hungrier for success in whatever you choose to do.

“That probably has been my foundation.

“Going back to that, reminding myself where I came from always inspires me, motivates me to push even harder.”

With a huge Serb population living in Melbourne, hundreds watched Djokovic’s win on a big screen outside Rod Laver Arena and many celebrated by dancing in Garden Square.

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