October 29, 2014
Fascinating thing, fatherhood. It can drain you, it can inspire you; usually it does both. In the early days, as Novak Djokovic is probably starting to discover, it can be tough. Sleep patterns are severely disrupted. And let’s face it, in the middle of the night, a dirty nappy never inspired anyone.
What effect will baby Stefan have on the world number one, now known as “Novak The Nappy” or “Djokovic The Diaper” (depending where you are in the world)?
Will the superstar’s game remain as formidable and consistent as before? It’s going to be intriguing to watch Djokovic in action between now and the end of the tennis year. Will the thrill of fatherhood keep him on top? Or will his life be ruled by his baby son’s bottom? Will end-changes ever have the same meaning for the genial Serb?
Novak insists that nappy-changing is no problem. ‘Yes, I already did it a few times because my wife is recovering and she has a lot of work to do with breastfeeding. I try to do all the other things. I bath my little boy, I change nappies, put him to sleep, it’s the best thing in the world.’
And so it is. But is it the best thing in the world for someone who wants to be the best in the world? When Roger Federer first had twins (Myla Rose and Charlene Riva) back in July 2009, he recovered from that life-changing event in time to win the Australian Open at the start of 2010. But that was the last Grand Slam he won until Wimbledon 2012.
Federer’s amazing consistency in 2014 suggests that he has adapted even better to “daddydom” this time around, since the birth of his latest twins, Leo and Lenny in May. Will he share his fathering secrets with his arch-rival for the world number one spot? Apparently, he already has!
‘I spoke to Roger several times in Shanghai,’ Novak says. Seems like baby Stefan has already brought Djokovic and Federer closer together, something few thought possible. Good on you, son! That tense relationship needed a change!
But Roger’s good advice doesn’t necessarily guarantee Novak the sleep he is going to need to stay at world number one. Energy levels could become an issue in the next few weeks. Still, Stefan can undoubtedly provide a new driving force for Djokovic and his bid to maintain world domination. Novak sees him ‘as a strength, as an inspiration to play even better. It’s amazing. To be honest I still can’t believe I’m a father.’
Those of us who have been there will always remember that incredible feeling. But which of us can really say we were as effective in the workplace during those initial, sleepless, chaotic weeks?
We already see Djokovic as something of a Superman. If he finishes the year as world number one, he will prove that he has turned into Superdad too.
How else could he change all those late-night nappies without changing as a player? Unless, of course, Djokovic is planning to change a few less diapers than he would have us believe, when it comes to the crunch.
One day, Stefan will be old enough to tell us just how hands-on his dad really was during the decisive 2014 tournaments in Paris and London. Problem is, he won’t remember.
Sweet dreams, little man. Now let’s see if daddy or the Fed finishes this extraordinary year in first place.