(CNN) — Novak Djokovic was only 11 years old and sleeping in his bed at Belgrade when a burst , followed by the noise of shattering glass and air raid sirens woke up him.
It is March 24, 1999, along with the air strikes the Serbian capital mark the beginning of what is a 78-day effort from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to attempt to bring to an end atrocities committed by Yugoslavia’s then-president Slobodan Milosevic’s troops against ethnic Albanians from the province of Kosovo.
Djokovic hunted for Djordje, eight-year-old Marko and his brothers, within their own pitch dark flat while Srdjan, his dad, aided his mommy, Dijana, who lost consciousness after hitting her head against the doorway after the explosion.
“At 11, I was the big brother,” the top-ranked Serb composed in”Serve to triumph,” his 2013 autobiography. “I had been holding myself responsible for their safety since NATO forces started bombing my hometown of Belgrade.”
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Two years on, the Djokovic that is today 32-year-old is your favorite to win at the US Open, which starts August 26 at New York. Such was his dominance within the past calendar year, he’s clinched four of the five slams. He holds 16 personalities, two shy of Rafael Nadal of Spain, also four behind men’s Grand Slam record holder Roger Federer of Switzerland.
His journey from war-torn Belgrade on the top of the men’s match was nothing short of impressive.
In the introduction of his autobiography, Djokovic clarified how the odds were stacked against him.
“A boy like me, rising up in Serbia, getting a tennis winner? It was not possible in the best of conditions. Plus it became ever more unlikely as soon as the bombs began dropping,” he also wrote.
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In the very first chapter of the autobiography, titled”Backhands and Bomb Shelters,” Djokovic vividly recalls the night that changed his life forever.
After Dijana recovered awareness, the Djokovic family tried to create their way into the apartment building of an aunt’s household, which had a bomb shelter and entered the unlit streets of Belgrade.
Djokovic suddenly found himself fell flat on his face while the streets rushed down, holding his younger brothers.
“And it occurred,” Djokovic wrote. “Rising up from across the roof of our building came the steel grey triangle of an F-117 bomber.”
“What happened would not leave me,” he said. “Even now, loud sounds fill me with fear.”
The bomber dropped on his mind, which broke a hospital creating a few streets away.
“I recall the sandy, dusty, metallic shell from the atmosphere, and how the entire city seemed to shine like a ripe tangerine,” Djokovic said in his book.
The streets covered in light, until they reached the concrete shield Djokovic seen brothers and his parents at the far distance, and chased after them.
There were approximately 20 families.
“There were children crying. I didn’t stop shivering for the rest of the night,” Djokovic stated in his publication.
In a 2015 meeting with CNN television, Djokovic recalled the bombing effort, during which he and his family will spend every night in the shield from 8 p.m., and only had power for a few hours each day.
“Those times are surely something which I do not wish for anyone to encounter,” he explained. “Two-and-a-half months, each and every night and day, bombs arriving to the city. We saw planes flying over our heads, and literally rockets and bombs landing half a mile away.”
Until that dark spring night in 1999, Djokovic had loved what he called into his autobiography, a”magic youth.”
His father Srdjan had been a pro skier and Djokovic first started playing tennis at age four. No one in his household had played with the sport.
Djokovic, who’d spent big parts of his youth in the small Serbian mountain resort of Kopaonik, where his parents ran a pizza parlor, told CNN television in 2014:”It was sort of like a fate. Something which just happened out of the blue. That the tennis court was seen by me and that I watched tennis on TV once I was four. My father bought me a small tennis racket and that’s when I believe we all fell in love with the game.”
In the age of six, he was spotted in Kopaonik by the late Serbian coach Jelena Gencic, who’d worked together with Serbian-born former world No. 1 and nine-time key winner Monica Seles of the united states. Shortly afterwards, Gencic told his parents Djokovic was”the greatest talent I have seen as Monica Seles.”
The group would work together for five decades, during which Gencic taught her many life lessons. Djokovic was so grief-stricken when he learned during the 2013 French Open, he canceled his post-match press conference.
It put life at a different perspective although the bombing raids might easily have finished his tennis career, Djokovic told CNN television.
“It gave me much more admiration for all the values that I have in my life,” he said. “From tennis to whatever. I know what it feels like being anything less or more, then being at the top of the planet. So this comparison gives me the ideal perspective in life”
Although Djokovic stated in his autobiography the constant bombing campaign, the biggest military operation in NATO background, left him feeling”helpless, and” it didn’t stop him playing tennis.
In fact, Djokovic stepped up his training sessions throughout the effort. He practised across Belgrade chosen by Gencic at sites for as much as five hours every day, based on where the most recent bombs had fallen.
Something changed Djokovic stated in his publication as the strikes lasted from being paralyzed by panic initially.
“We decided to stop being fearful,” he said. “After so much death, so much devastation, we just stopped hiding. When you realize you’re truly helpless, a certain sense of liberty carries over.”
After Milosevic agreed to troop withdrawals from Kosovo on June 10, 1999, the air strikes ended.
In September of this calendar year, the now 12-year-old Djokovic abandoned Serbia for Munich, Germanyto train at the tennis academy of former Yugoslav pro Niki Pilic. He would turn pro four decades later.
Back in 1994the then seven-year-old Djokovic appeared on TV, confidently telling his congregation:”The aim for me is to turn into the world No. 1.”
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Seventeen decades after, he became the first Serbian participant to rise into the No. 1 position over the men’s ATP Tour after he won his first Wimbledon title.