Djokovic upset by stricken homeland

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Serbia's Novak Djokovic donated his Rome Masters winnings to the relief effort for the Balkan floods Serbia's Novak Djokovic donated his Rome Masters winnings to the relief effort for the Balkan floods

Novak Djokovic is chasing the title he wants to win more than any other but his thoughts will be very much on his stricken homeland while he competes at the French Open.

Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia are dealing with the aftermath of devastating floods that have affected more than one million people.

As one of the highest-profile figures from the Balkans, Djokovic has made it his mission to draw attention to the plight of his compatriots.

He gave all of his nearly £450,000 winnings from last weekend's Rome Masters victory to the relief effort and he knows the hard work is just starting.

Djokovic said: "It's devastating times. The floods are epic proportions. They have forced many people to flee homes. Many people lost everything that they have, that they possessed, and even the loss of their close ones.

"So it is one of the biggest tragedies that the countries of Serbia and Bosnia and Croatia had in their history.

"The positive thing is that these nations who had conflicts very recently, 20 years ago, have at least for a certain time now forgotten about that and they show their solidarity and support to each other.

"Obviously the floods, as they are backing up now, the process of recovery is just starting. It's going to go for a long time. We are talking about many years depending on the help that we get from abroad.

"That was, in a way, my mission and the mission of the people who have certain status and certain opportunity internationally to spread the awareness.

"It wasn't easy because I was playing a tournament in Rome, so part of me was focused on the tournament. Part of me was with my thoughts and with my people back home.

"If it's because of me or somebody else, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that people are starting to talk about it. We need help, and we need as much as we can get."

By the time he arrived in Paris last year, winning the French Open to complete his set of grand slam titles had become an obsession for Djokovic.

A finalist in 2012, he was arguably closer to the elusive Coupe des Mousquetaires 12 months ago when he led Rafael Nadal 4-2 in the fifth set of their semi-final.

But he could not hold onto his lead and Nadal fought back to win it 9-7 before beating David Ferrer to win an eighth title in nine years.

This year Djokovic appears to have an even stronger chance, particularly having beaten Nadal in the final in Rome to close within striking distance of the world number one spot.

Several bookmakers have Djokovic as the favourite ahead of Nadal, although the Serbian was quick to describe his rival as "obviously still the number one favourite".

Djokovic made a conscious decision not to focus so much on Roland Garros this year and he believes he can take confidence from last year's defeat despite it being one of the most painful of his career.

He said: "Even though it was a tough loss on me and I was putting a lot of emotional effort into winning this event last year, I still take the positives from that tournament.

"Knowing that I have got closer and closer each year to the title gives me enough reason to be confident for the start of this year.

"Winning against Nadal on clay is something that doesn't happen every day. So (Rome) definitely helps my confidence, my self?belief. And I'm healthy and obviously very motivated and inspired to play my best tennis here."

Roger Federer is the biggest name in action on the first day of play on Sunday, with the fourth seed taking on Slovakia's Lukas Lacko.

Home hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Federer in the quarter-finals last year, faces fellow Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin while there is an intriguing clash between eighth seed Milos Raonic and Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree