Novak Djokovic: Fatherhood Keeps World No.1 Going
By Paul Gittings, for CNN
For some becoming a father is a tale of sleepless nights and juggling the demands of family life with a professional career.
Not so Novak Djokovic, for whom fatherhood has proved the springboard for even greater success on the tennis court and the motivation for more triumphs to come.
Djokovic married his long-time girlfriend Jelena just after winning his second Wimbledon title last July and in October the pair welcomed their son Stefan into the world.
"It was the best day of my life," Djokovic told CNN after he was named Laureus Sportsman of the Year.
Following his son's birth, Djokovic returned to action almost immediately to sweep to success in the Paris Masters before ending the year on a high with victory in the ATP World Tour Finals in London, the fourth time he had lifted the trophy at the prestigious end of season tournament.
The winning run sealed his top spot in the world rankings, having come under pressure from a resurgent Roger Federer.
"The best six months privately and also professionally," was Djokovic's verdict on a momentous period of his life.
"To win Wimbledon and end the year as number one, gave me a great sense of serenity and piece.
"It's also a great motivation, not playing just for myself but for my family," added the Serbian.
How great the motivation is provided by Djokovic's 2015 record. An eighth grand slam title for starters as he beat Andy Murray, himself recently married to Kim Sears, in the final in Australia.
And he has backed it up with Masters 1000 titles at Indian Wells and Miami, the first man to win the prestigious hard court double on three occasions.
Victory in this week's Monte Carlo Masters, will see him become the first player to win the opening three Masters 1000 titles of an ATP Tour season.
Returning to clay, with the ultimate ambition of taking the French Open at Roland Garros for the first time and completing a career grand slam, Djokovic is only too aware of the challenge he faces in deposing Rafael Nadal in Paris later this spring.
The Spaniard has lost just once at Roland Garros, but in relaxed mood and so settled in his personal life, Djokovic is undaunted by the prospect of toppling the Spaniard.
"Nobody is unbeatable, but he definitely is the ultimate challenge, the king of clay and an incredible record," he said.
Djokovic began his Monte Carlo campaign Tuesday with a straight sets win over Albert Ramos-Vanollas and was then celebrating another accolade after being named Laureus Sportsman of the Year for 2015, the second time he had landed the award.
Djokovic fought off the likes of World Footballer of the Year Cristiano Ronado and golfing superstar Rory McIlroy to win the verdict from a media panel and members of the Laureus sports academy.
"I am very honored to receive this award," said Djokovic.
Many more are likely to follow, with the 28-year-old at the peak of his career and targeting a big haul of grand slams, but Djokovic says this takes second fiddle.
"First of all, my main priority is to be the best father and husband I can be."
Big names through
Djokovic was joined in the third round Wednesday by world number two Roger Federer, title holder Stanislas Wawrinka and eight-time Monte Carlo champion Nadal.
The Spaniard has not added to that tally since 2012, losing the 2013 final to Djokovic and beaten in the quarters last year by compatriot David Ferrer.
He also voiced concerns over his form prior to the tournament, but was an easy 6-2 6-1 winner over French wild card Lucas Pouille. "I'm glad to be back here and playing on clay," said Nadal after a routine victory.
It extended his record in Monte Carlo to 51-3, but his real focus is a 10th French Open title on the clay of Roland Garros. His ninth came last year when he beat Djokovic in the final.
Federer dominated Frenchman Jeremy Chardy to win inside an hour, 6-2 6-1, while Wawrinka kick started his clay campaign with a 6-1 6-4 defeat of Argentine Juan Monaco.
He will next play ninth seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who beat Italian Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-4.