Janko Tipsarevic, the world number 8 and a columnist for The Tennis Space, discusses his friendships on tour, his work ethic and how it drives him on and how he sometimes gets mistaken for a famous Italian footballer.
The locker room can be a fun place to be – lots of the players hang out together and they also practice together, of course. Obviously I am friendly with the Serbian players, but many others too. It is serious when we are playing tournaments but we also try to have fun during them.
In Monte Carlo they have a players’ party where we can relax and show that we are not just tennis players. Last year, a few of the Serbian players, including Viktor Troicki, helped me put together a show for the other players. It was a lot of fun.
Some people might think it strange to be so close friends when you are rivals but – and I have this thinking from my father – I believe that the ATP World Tour is big enough for all of us. There is enough fame, financial satisfaction and international recognition, for everyone. There is really no space for negative and bad emotions, such as jealousy or wishing that the other guy loses. There is no space for that because this sport is a beautiful thing and this tour is big enough for all of us who are willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to succeed.
There is no reason for me to be jealous of what someone like Novak is achieving. In fact, if there is any jealousy, it’s what I call positive jealousy. I am thinking, if he can do it, I can do it. You always have these countries like the United States, France or Spain, who have so many players and are constantly pushing each other, just because they are there together. When you see one of your team-mates playing well, you don’t want to be benched. You want to fight for your spot on the Davis Cup team and perform better worldwide.
In Serbia, tennis is very popular and tennis players are especially recognised. It’s not crazy so that I cannot walk around the streets but tennis players are especially recognised there. Football is always going to be the No 1 sport but in my opinion, tennis is the No 2 sport.
I do have a funny story. It was about 6am in Malpensa airport in Milan and the guy on passport control was half awake, half sleeping. He took my passport picture. Then, I had really, really short hair and a beard and he looked at it, then he looked at me and said “Gattuso”. And I said no, no you can see the passport, I am not Gennaro Gattuso (the AC Milan midfielder). I don’t like (AC) Milan and I don’t like the way Gattuso plays but obviously I look like him.
My Italian team is Inter Milan – apart from Barcelona, they are my international No 1 – mainly because of (Sinisa) Mijhailovic and (Dejan) Stankovic. Stankovic is still playing but Mijhailovic used to play in that team as well. For five years they were winning everything but this year they are performing really poorly, mainly because (Jose) Mourinho left and because mentally they are tired. After winning for five years, it’s not easy.