Recalling the beginnings of a legend is an endearing exercise of nostalgia, satisfaction apparently, but also a way of trying to understand what pasta are the best in history and how you can detect those intangibles that characterize the great champions, beyond the quality of his shots and his physical and mental disposition. Novak Djokovic made his debut on the ATP circuit in the tournament Umag 2004, just 17 years old and everything to prove. His rival was Filippo Volandri, who at that time was already 65 in the world and gave clear signs of his innate facility to play on clay.

“I started very well, winning easy, I went 5-1 and I felt that although he played very well, that boy lacked physical strength to be able to hurt me. He was seen fighting a lot against himself because he had serious breathing problems,” he said. on the ATP website, the Italian recalling the problems that martyred the Serb in the beginning and which he solved by operating on vegetations. “Suddenly, his level began to rise, it was an impressive reaction that led the partial to the tiebreak. There are things that can be learned, but that kind of attitude towards adversity is or is not, and there are very few capable of demonstrating it to that age, “declared Pippo.

The match ended with a result of 7-6 (5) 6-1, but a feeling had penetrated deep into Volandri. “At the level of flexibility, he was at a higher level than any player and was able to hit the ball very hard. Despite not being physically worked, he gave speed to his shots without losing effect. It is difficult for me to explain what it feels like when playing with someone special. I don’t know, maybe it’s attitude, mental power … I thought I was playing too far back on the court, and a short time later, I saw how he corrected his position on the court and played above the baseline. That is what has made the difference in his career, it is impressive how he maintains his position on the track, “he said.

The following year the Balkan was already playing ATP tournaments with more recurrence and being in the game even in Masters 1000 events. “It is strange to remember that game. You can never tell if a boy at that age will be number 1 or not, but he definitely had something special. He has one of the best setbacks in the history of tennis and at peak moments shows that he is a great champion, “he recalls Filippo Volandri, who can never forget that first invitation before a Novak Djokovic that already pointed ways.