Novak Djokovic: King of the court but not of people's hearts?
LONDON, UK – From growing up with NATO bombs raining down on Serbia to securing his place amongst the Grand Slam greats, Novak Djokovic is a man who never fails to both divide and unite.
The 32-year-old clinched his fifth Wimbledon title on Sunday and 16th at the majors with victory over Roger Federer.
Five years younger than the Swiss legend, Djokovic is now just 4 Slams behind Federer on the all-time list.
Few would bet against him reaching the target before his career ends.
Despite his achievements, however, Djokovic appears doomed never to be held in the same saintly esteem as Federer or Rafael Nadal – the "people's champions."
There are those that see something a little more calculating in the Djokovic makeup, an intense, brooding presence prone to affectation and fads and a little too "new age" for most tastes.
Nick Kyrgios said the Serbian' s post-victory "cup of love" gesture was "cringeworthy."
In his semifinal win over Roberto Bautista Agut, Djokovic fumed at the Centre Court crowd who willed his opponent to come out on top of a 45-shot rally.
Djokovic cupped his ear and lifted his finger to his lips to "shush" his tormentors.
However, few can doubt his resolve.
Just over a year ago, his career was in the doldrums. (READ: Djokovic reflects on 'unreal' Wimbledon 2019 final victory)
'He has everything'
Unable to shake off the lingering effects of elbow surgery, he had suffered a shock early exit at Roland Garros.
With his ranking outside the top 20 for the first time in 12 years, Djokovic even threatened to skip Wimbledon.
He changed his mind and with his career suddenly rejuvenated, he swept to a fourth title at the All England Club.
That was swiftly followed by more triumphs at the US and Australian Opens.
Only an inspired Dominic Thiem at the French Open prevented him becoming just the second man in history to hold all 4 Slams at the same time on two occasions.
"Novak has everything to make records in this sport," said Juan Martin del Potro after being defeated in the US Open final last September.
Time is on his side.
He is a year younger than Nadal, who has two more Slams, and has the best part of 5 years on Federer.
Djokovic captured the first of his 16 majors at the Australian Open in 2008, but it was 3 years before he added his second.
He dropped gluten from his diet, his lithe physique allowing him to chase down lost causes, transforming him into the rubber man of tennis.
After leading Serbia to a maiden Davis Cup in 2010, he raced through the first half of 2011, building up a 48-1 winning run.
Only a semifinal defeat at the French Open prevented him from becoming just the third man to capture a calendar Grand Slam.
Despite that, he still finished 2011 with a 70-6 win-loss record, a haul of 10 tournament victories and year-end No. 1 for the first time.
Back-to-back Australian Opens followed in 2012 and 2013, although the French Open remained frustratingly out of reach with three heart-breaking losses until his 2016 breakthrough.
In Paris that year, he became the first player to break through the $100 million barrier in prize money.
The year before, he won 11 titles and compiled a win-loss record of 82-6.
Djokovic has also not been afraid to innovate, bringing in Boris Becker as part of his coaching team for the start of the 2014 season.
This year, even 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic was in his box for the first week.
Off court, Djokovic married long-time girlfriend and high school sweetheart Jelena Ristic in July 2014.
They have two children, a son Stefan and daughter Tara.
When he won Wimbledon last year, Stefan was able to see his father lift the trophy.
"It feels amazing because for the first time in my life I have someone screaming 'daddy, daddy,'" said Djokovic.
"I was visualizing, imagining this moment of him coming to the stands, cherishing this moment with my wife and me and everyone."
"It's a moment that I will carry inside of my heart forever." – Rappler.com