When Novak Djokovic finished last season inside the Top 20 of the ATP rankings, his father Srdjan did what most parents would -- he complimented his son. Or he tried. Novak would have none of it. "It doesn't matter if I'm number seven or 27 or 87," he said. "When I become number one, then you can congratulate me."
The story makes Djokovic sound like a pretty hard-headed character. That's somewhat accurate. His parents and coach say the poised 20-year-old with the upright posture and the jet-black brush cut is so driven that they have their hands full simply keeping up.
"He gave us the highest goals, and we run behind him to give him what he needs," his mother Dijana said in a rare quiet moment during the French Open, where Djokovic reached his first Grand Slam semifinal.
Djokovic has admitted that he still can't quite picture himself winning a Slam, but that visualization can't be too far away given his inner conviction.
"I showed to myself and to everybody else, that I have enough quality to be in the top three and four of the world," he said in Paris.
While ambition helps define Djokovic, there's more to him. He's modest with a dash of brash, competitive and compassionate, and deeply loyal to the family that has helped him achieve so much so fast.
He looks as if he's in a state of constant but relaxed alert, with a light in his eyes that indicates somebody's home. And home is a very important place for a young man who has spent much of his life on the road. His loved ones say he has always been open and generous with his affection.
"Let me tell you a story I haven't told anyone else," said Srdjan Djokovic, speaking in Serbian, as his wife translated.
As a youngster, Novak spent a lot of time with his paternal grandmother, who suffered from bone cancer. "One day he was sitting in the living room and he asked her, 'Grandma, where is your pain?'" Srjdan Djokovic said. "She showed him a point on her back, and he was making a massage for hours. He was maybe 6 years old.
"She lived for two more years because of him. She couldn't walk 20 meters, but with him, she was walking all over the place, picking flowers.