(CNN) — Novak Djokovic was just 11 years old and sleeping in his bed in Belgrade when a loud explosionfollowed by the noise of shattering glass and air raid sirens woke him up.
It’s March 24, 1999, along with the air strikes the Serbian capital mark the beginning of what would be a 78-day campaign from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to attempt to bring to an end atrocities perpetrated by Yugoslavia’s then-president Slobodan Milosevic’s troops against ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo.
While his father, Srdjan, aided his mom, Dijana, who lost consciousness after hitting his head against the radiator following the first explosion, Djokovic hunted within their pitch dark flat.
“At 11, I was the big brother,” the top-ranked Serb wrote in”Serve to win,” his 2013 autobiography. “I’d been holding myself responsible for their safety ever since NATO forces began bombing my hometown of Belgrade.”
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Two decades on, the Djokovic that is now 32-year-old is your favorite to win. Such has been his dominance within the year, he has clinched four of the five slams. He holds 16 personalities, only two shy of Rafael Nadal of Spain, along with four supporting men’s Grand Slam record holder Roger Federer of Switzerland.
His trip from war-torn Belgrade on the peak of the men’s match has been nothing short of remarkable.
In the introduction of his autobiography, Djokovic explained how the odds were stacked against him.
“A boy like me, growing up in Serbia, becoming a tennis champion? It was improbable in the best of circumstances. Plus it became more unlikely as soon as the bombs started dropping,” he also wrote.
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From the very first chapter of the autobiography, titled”Backhands and Bomb Shelters,” Djokovic vividly recalls the night that changed his life forever.
The Djokovic family entered the unlit streets of Belgrade and attempted to make their way to the apartment construction of a uncle’s family, that was bomb shelter after Dijana regained consciousness.
Djokovic abruptly found himself dropped flat on his face in the road while the streets ran , carrying his brothers.
“And it happened,” Djokovic wrote. “Growing up from over the roof of the building came the steel grey triangle of an F-117 bomber.”
“What happened next would not leave me,” he explained. “Even today, loud sounds fill me with dread.”
The bomber dropped on his mind, which broke a hospital creating several roads away.
“I recall the temperate, temperate, metallic shell from the air, and the way the entire city seemed to shine like a ripe tangerine,” Djokovic stated in his book.
The roads covered in light, Djokovic seen his parents and brothers and chased after them until they reached the shield.
There were about 20 families.
“There were kids crying. I didn’t stop shivering for the rest of the nighttime,” Djokovic said in his book.
At a 2015 interview with CNN television, Djokovic recalled the bombing campaign, through which he and his family would spend each night at the shelter from 8 p.m., and only had electricity for a couple hours every day.
“These days are certainly something that I don’t wish for anybody to encounter,” he said. “Two-and-a-half months, each and every night and day, bombs arriving to the city. We saw planes flying over our heads, also literally rockets and bombs landing half a mile off.”
Until that dark spring night in 1999, Djokovic had enjoyed what he predicted in his autobiography, a”magic youth.”
His dad Srdjan was a former professional skier and also Djokovic first began playing tennis. No one in his household had played with the game before.
Djokovic, who’d spent big sections of his youth in the tiny darkened mountain resort of Kopaonik, where his parents ran a pizza parlor, told CNN television in 2014:”It was sort of like a destiny. Something happened out of the blue. That the tennis court was seen by me and tennis was seen by me on TV when I was four. My dad bought me a small tennis racket and that’s when I believe all of us fell in love with the sport.”
At the age of six, he was spotted in Kopaonik from the late Serbian coach Jelena Gencic, who had worked with Serbian-born former world No. 1 and nine-time key winner Monica Seles of the united states. Soon after, Gencic advised his parents Djokovic has been”the greatest talent I’ve seen since Monica Seles.”
The pair would work together for five years, during which Gencic educated her many life lessons that are student. Djokovic was when he heard of her death through the 2013 French Open, he sacrificed his press conference.
Even though the bombing raids might easily have ended his tennis career, life is put by it in an entirely different perspective, Djokovic told CNN television in 2015.
“It gave me more admiration for all the values that I’ve in my entire life,” he explained. “From tennis to whatever. I know exactly what it feels like being anything more or less, then being in this sport on the planet at the top of the world. So this contrast gives me the ideal outlook in life”
Although Djokovic stated in his autobiography the constant bombing campaign, the biggest military operation in NATO background, left him feeling”helpless,” it didn’t stop him enjoying tennis.
Throughout the 11-week campaign, Djokovic stepped up his coaching sessions in fact. He cried in the hope at websites based on where the most recent bombs had fallen, for as much as five hours a day.
Something shifted Djokovic stated in his publication, since the strikes lasted from being paralyzed by anxiety initially.
“We chose to stop being afraid,” he explained. “After so much death, so much devastation, we simply stopped hiding. As soon as you realize you’re really powerless, a particular sense of freedom carries over.”
After Milosevic agreed to troop withdrawals from Kosovo, on June 10, 1999, the air strikes finished.
The now 12-year-old Djokovic left Serbia for Munich, Germanyto train in the tennis academy of former Yugoslav expert Niki Pilic. Pro would turn .
In 1994the then seven-year-old Djokovic appeared on TV, shortly telling his congregation:”The goal for me would be to turn into the world No. 1.”
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Seventeen years after, he became the first scripted player to climb to the No. 1 ranking on the men’s ATP Tour after he won his first Wimbledon title.