World No. 1 Novak Djokovic experienced the emotions of victory and defeat as he restarted his season at the Dubai Open with an unusual dual role on Monday.
Djokovic’s 6-4, 6-2 win against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, a talented and improving young German, was a resourceful performance given his five-week absence from competition since his exhausting Australian Open triumph, but it was preceded by a Djokovic defeat.
That was his 20-year-old younger brother Marco, whom he was mentoring and whose fate he seemed to experience almost as strongly as his own.
Novak Djokovic, the triple Grand Slam champion, experimented with some extra net attacks and different tactical ploys, yet retained the capacity for a tighter focus after Stebe got him break point down at 1-2 in the second set.
However, Marco Djokovic, the wild-card entry, was playing only his third match on the ATP Tour and was unable to do himself much justice during a 6-3, 6-2 loss to Andrey Golubev.
That may be a part consequence of spending much of last year sidelined with a wrist surgery, but Marco Djokovic also offered insights into the pressures of having such a famous sibling.
“There are a lot of positive and negative things about being his brother, you know,” Marco Djokovic said. “Financially, you know, I have all I need, and can get the coaches and the right practice environment, but everybody expects you to be like your brother, which is really tough to achieve. Sometimes I have an advantage because maybe opponents get scared, but others think: ‘He’s Novak’s brother, so I must beat him’ and that can be tough.”
Novak Djokovic sympathized.
“He has to face the pressure of having the Djokovic surname,” he said. “He’s trying to fight with his mind more than with his game. When he is able to focus on that and not on his doubts, he can become a world-class player.”
Novak Djokovic was also in no doubt that playing was easier than coaching.
“It was difficult for me to sit courtside,” he said. “I have not done it too much. At least when I’m playing, I know what’s going on, but I was happy my brother got a wild card. He is not at his level yet, but he’s getting there.”
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