Novak Djokovic, who beat Roger Federer to claim the U.S. Open title on Sunday, says parenthood has made him a better player. (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
For Novak Djokovic, Sunday night’s U.S. Open win — his 10th major title — was extra special. “I’m enjoying this year even more than any of those before because I’m a husband and a father and it makes everything sweeter,” he said after the match.
Djokovic and his wife welcomed their son, Stefan, in October. Since then, the tennis champ has credited fatherhood with improving his game. “Life has changed and has changed for the better,” he told ESPN.com. “Knowing that you’re giving your love and your time to your baby, your child, that gives you a freshness in the mind. Being a father actually gives me more energy than it takes away.”
Last month, after winning the Wimbledon title, the 28-year-old athlete lightheartedly suggested more players take up fatherhood as a winning strategy. “Ever since I got married and became a father, I haven’t lost many matches, I won many tournaments. I suggest that to every player: Get married, have kids, let’s enjoy this,” Djokovic said. “Whether I’m winning or losing, [my wife is] always there. Family’s always there. When I go back home, I’m not a tennis player anymore, I’m a father and a husband. That’s a kind of balance that I think allows me to play this well.”
U.S. Open champion Novak Djokovic with his son, Stefan, in April. (Photo: Twitter/Novak Djokovic)
In both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, Djokovic beat Roger Federer, who Djokovic has said gave him advice on balancing tennis and fatherhood. “Of course he can identify with what I’m going through — I’m still far off from him, he has four kids, and it’s pretty amazing to still play at such a high level with four kids,” Djokovic said of Federer last year. “We talked in Paris about certain things that involve traveling and so forth. He advised me, and I will take it into account, and hopefully I can organize my life as well as he did.”
Perhaps Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam title winner and father of two sets of twins, was able to provide some insight into how kids positively affect the game. He has, after all, shared similar sentiments. “It’s helped my game more than anything because I think I’m playing some of the best tennis of my life right now,” Federer said in 2012, when his daughters Myla and Charlene were 3 years old. After sons Leo and Lenny were born in 2014, the athlete explained: “It’s an unbelievable time, so much more interesting than just winning a tournament or anything. That is so, like, secondary.” In fact, he called fatherhood “the best time of my life.”
Novak Djokovic (right) says he got parenting advice from fellow tennis champ Roger Federer. (Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Surely children are a source of happiness for parents, but can they really make the nonparenting moments, like winning a championship, better? “Parents’ achievements may become less about them and more about their children. Knowing you’re paving the way for the next generation can definitely bring on new meaning to success,” Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, tells Yahoo Parenting. “For some parents, a proud moment is no longer about self-pride. Instead, it’s about making sure their children will someday be proud of all their parent has accomplished in life.”
Also, even if an achievement has nothing to do with family, it might make the mom or dad in question feel like they are being a better parent. “Achievement can help parents feel as though they’re being a good role model for their kids. When they accomplish something new, they may feel hopeful their child will also want to strive to be successful,” Morin says. So Djokovic might feel as though the title doesn’t just validate his tennis success, but his success as a father, too.
It seems his greatest proof of success as a dad comes in his almost-1-year-old bundle of joy. As he explained in a tweeted photo of his son earlier this year: “This little buddy is my most precious trophy!”