Janko Tipsarevic- I don’t believe in Rocky Balboa stories
This shy guy has Dostoevsky and Schopenhauer quotes on his skin, he stopped reading Nietzsche because it’s too depressive, rarely gives interviews, doesn’t like crowd…
Former best world junior player, the greatest hope of Serbian tennis, is today part of generation of champions, but out of the spotlight, different, original, sometimes contraversial…
I don’t believe in Rocky Balboa stories…like, I didn’t have money when I was young, I fought on my own, if I can do it, you can do it…Those are Hollywood stories. The best fun for me can still be chilling with friends outside local betting place, drinking beer…
I’d rather sit in my room, staring at the wall, thinking, analyzing,… than going to coctails and parties.
I’ve been a total idiot lately,a computer game Warcraft freak. I play it all the time, my eyes are bleeding, my pupils ‘falling out’, but I still play it. I don’t see anything, I wear glasses, but I still play it!
-You grew up in a very troublesome neighbourhood in New Belgrade…
Yes, in one of the worst parts of Belgrade, with lot of drug(dealers) near Student City. I don’t want to talk only bad about my neighbourhood, I love that part of the city. My brother and my parents still live in the same appartment and they have no intention to move, although now I have enough money to buy them a new one, or a house. But they love that area. My growing up was very specific. On one hand unlike my friends,I fell in love with tennis, and took it pretty seriously from the very beginning. On the other hand, I had mom who was urging me to have all 5s (the best grade here is 5), and birching me every time I got 4. So, I didn’t have much spare time…smoking pot and other vices. I was always a good kid.
I didn’t go through classis adolescence that marks childhood, high school problems…My girlfriend often says: ‘wow, that period,change from primary to high school was great! ‘
I didn’t feel all that. After the 8th grade, I attended school ‘part-time’, I had tennis practice twice a day, plus conditioning. I used to practice more than 5 hours a day, it was hard, monotonous, boring…especially in the country whose leader was Milosevic. My father had to do 4 jobs at the same time. But to tell you the truth, I don’t believe in Rocky Balboa stories. That’s for Hollywood. I believe that in sport, and in life, it depends on the individual, on what aim and goal one has, and how much is he/she ready to sacrifice for that. I rarely give interviews in last 2 years, and when I read that they wrote sth like that about my beginnings (no money, father was starving to buy me raquet…) I really go mad!!
-When you have time, where do you go out with friends?
My friends are from Zemun, they live near Hotel Yugoslavia. We usually just sit in front of a local betting place , drink beer, and chill… But lately,tennis is going better and I don’t have much time. I’m in a serious relationship, and I try to spent as much time as I can with my girlfriend. I’m not into going out, partying that much any more…Just being with friends, sitting in a café. We used to go to some friend’s apt, get drunk, and don’t go out cause we were just not in the mood for it. I have no more time for that.
-You came to the foreground much before Novak, Jelena, Ana, the only one fighting for the popularity of tennis. How do you react on the great expansion of tennis in the last 2 years?
There is one big truth. From all of our young players, and that’s not sth we should be proud of, I was the only one who became successful in Serbia and stayed in Serbia. When I was young my father was urging me make decisions on my own. When I was 13-14, I had a chance to train in Barcelona, in Miami…but I missed my block, my friends, the nightlife. Even if I moved to Barcelona, it doesn’t necessarily mean I would become a ‘Djokovic’. Maybe it would have been contraproductive…Anyway, the truth is, that I’m very happy that Novak Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic became a part of my life, even they’re the head and shoulder above me, better, stronger. I feel positive jealousy towards them…many people in Serbia don’t understand that, they think I’m jealous (for real). If I was no.35-40 in the world, and if there was no Novak Djokovic, maybe I would feel like a king, not having a need to make the most out of myself. Now being no.33…I’m not even close to being a superstar like the three of them.
-You’re totally atypical, much more introvert than Novak Djokovic…Who is actually Janko Tipsarevic?
Maybe this will sound stupid, but Janko Tipsarevic doesn’t like fuss, the big crowd of people around himself. I love my friends, company I’ve chosen, I’m not really sociable, I avoid the masses. I feel I’m ‘suffocating’ when I see many people around me. I’d rather sit in my room, starring at the wall, let my brain thinking, analyse my thoughts…than go out, party… I do it often. Maybe I sound like a retard…but people really ‘strangle’ me…maybe I have it cause when I was young I tried to please everyone…I was popular kid,looked like a jerk with coloured hair and earrings, and then Serbs started talking this and that, and I was really like, c’mon people, I’m a great sportsman,only a fool in his head,I like to dye my hair, that’s all, not to draw anyone’s attention…blah,blah… but there was no point…I started thinking, I don’t care what other people think…
-You often wear jewelry, earrings and necklace…what do you like most?
My girlfriend bought me Breil necklace. I like a watch, not very expensive. At the urging of my girlfriend, I took off all earings, and people around me tell me I’m prettier without them. I’ve been thinking for few years now, to pierce my tongue, but I guess I’m not that brave. I had ten earrings once. Like a ‘Christmas tree’. Now I only love tattoos.
Q: You have four tattoos: first letters of your family members’ names, a cancer, a tribal, Dostoevsky "Beauty will save the world", and Schopenhauer’s quote on your back. Why those tattoos, why Dostoevsky? How much do you read anyway?
On my back I have a tattoo which means "genius", written in Japanese. Trust me when I say I have no idea why in Japanese... Every time when I go to have a tattoo, my friend who is tattooing me asks "Do you honestly think a Japanese would do a tattoo in Serbian language?" Every time I meet Japanese during tournaments I ask them to check whether I got "truck", "cow", or something like that written on my arm. During last couple of years I don't read so much, because it happened I was under the influence of Nietzsche’s books, who I like the most among writers, and getting into depressions on tournaments. I started asking to myself, a professional, like why do I need 2000 dollars if I win this match? Is it going to make me happy? Why do I need 20 pts on ATP list when we are all going to die someday? And some other questions like that, some dumb things... Thoughts no professional player should have. So I did cut a bit on reading such depressive books.Lately I'm a total nut and in love with Warcraft game. I'm playing it all the time; my pupils are coming out, my eyes are bleeding, but I'm still playing! I don't see a thing; I wear glasses, but still playing."Beauty will save the world" is also in Japanese. I felt it awkward to write in Russian, somehow it just didn't feel right. The quote is a sentence which for me means the world around us and the way people are treating it. Taking the book as an example, where the main character for the idea the beauty will save the world treats it in a special way and dies in the end, reminds me of the way in which beauty will save the world, that is, my tattoo is an irony on the sentence and on the book. It also reminds me the beauty won't save the world the way the main character believed.
Q: Is it possible to preserve the beauty in these times when the money and business rule the sport? Do you have your own tennis philosophy?
It is enough to see the Djokovic-Nadal match (played before this interview, interviewer's remark), how those two guys, as money making machines are able to pull it out... I don't watch tennis, except when Djokovic is playing. I watched Federer-Nadal the other day and it really felt good - it was a masterful match. I never ever watch the TV, because it's an evil thing. I only watch a movie sometimes, or an important sports event, like Champion's League match. Being an individual, I'm complicated, and I do have a stupid head trip or two, but I don't like the influence TV has on people and surroundings, 99% of things is set up and fake. That's why sport to me is somehow pure, though today even sport is the purest. Tennis is becoming, same as other sports like football, basketball, and some other, purely physical thing. There is no more playing on a hunch, there is no such feeling anymore... Even Nadal is for three years No.2 in the world largely thanks to his physical abilities. As for me, it doesn't interfere with tennis. I'm young in a way, so I didn't have chance to see Borg, Willander or Lendl, but I was told it was ping-pong all day long, nobody having the nerve to really push it, nobody had the guts to come to the net. They slowed down the surfaces and now a prettier tennis is played. There are no more servers like Sampras, Ivanisevic and others, and there is no more situation where somebody pays 100 pounds on Wimbledon only to watch two hours of Ivanisevic's serving - and that's it. Anyway, there is still beauty in tennis. My tennis philosophy goes like this - fight for each ball so you're not upset after the match. I like to analyze very long and I observed that after every match a player loses, first emotion is disappointment. After which there are two ways. First is being upset when you see tomorrow the guy who beat you is warming up for the next match, and you know that in some moments you didn't perform 100% and behaved as a spoiled brat. The second one is that the disappointment is fading away and turns to nothingness because you know you couldn't have done more and you didn't turn out to be a schmuck, that is, you didn't hold yourself, so you are happy and satisfied when you come to the practice, because next Monday there will be another jerk on the other side of the net.
What do you usually do on your journeys and tour?
Days on the tour are mainly the same.The most important thing to me is that I am not surrounded by huge number of people because I simply don’t like it and I also like to spend time mainly on my own.I do consider that huge masses of people around you drain your energy,especially on the tournaments,that they take a big part of you which is something that I cannot control.One time I was crazy about reading,listening and making House music.I am also a big fan of the game “Warcraft” for the last 7-8 months.Many players already know it and they are already bugging me on the tour because of that.I was even thinking about putting my favourite character of that game on my snickers on which I have an inscription “Jankela”,but it would be too much.My neighboring friends who I play football with know me by that name.And it is only them.Nobody else calls me like that.There is one interesting anecdote about that:Three other players got the shoes on which “Jankela” was written and they are Argentinians who,like myself,also wear Fila equipment.They filed the error and I was asked about meaning of that word “Jankela”.Of course,I wound up people for some time that it was some fashion line designed by Fila like Nike had Jordan’s collection.
What do you listen to before the matches?
I don’t listen to anything before the matches.Most of all,I like to talk with my coach about things my opponent can or cannot do,but only for about 5 minutes.After that,the most pleasant thing for me is to be alone,get concentrated and don’t hear anything.Before the match,I take a dump,close myself in the toilet and spend 15 minutes totally alone.”Warcraft” has taken important part of my life,and music is still important to me,but not as much as it was before.I was completely mad about it earlier,because I was making music,listened to it,downloaded it from the internet,House and Trance music,bought the discs and was totally crazy about all of that.
You frequently change your appearance.What do you find in those changes?
Well,I’ve become calm about that lately,but I would honestly like it is not only just because of dragging the attention.On the psychological point of view,it just happens that children,who are not in the middle of attention or they just have some problems with their parents,want to compensate all that by attracting attention to their physical appearance later.Nonetheless,ever since I started to know myself,I’ve had all the attention of this world,starting with parents,going all the way over society,girlfriends,even my brother,who was often put in the second place in my family because of my tennis.That is why I would like not to change my appearance just because of sending some message to the people around me like: “Hey,look,it’s me,my hair is green…” It often happened to me that I used to do that only because of boredom,like when I am sitting at home not knowing what I should do with myself.In fact,I started putting some earrings on me under the influence of a buddy from my neighborhood,and he is totally pierced having even the ring on his genitals.I’ve never done anything by planning like knowing that I shall do a tattoo in a month or something.One thing is for sure about that: Once you start tattoing yourself,there is no stopping there.It almost seems to be like heroine.And every time I do a tattoo on myself,I always tell myself that I won’t do it any more and that’s that,but no use of that…It just happened that I had to do a new tattoo before the tournaments in Monte Carlo and Rome,but I was a bit lazy about that.I can tell you how my new tattoo is going to look like,but just don’t put that in the newspapers.
You seem to be pretty frisky on the court.Is it the way your nature is set?
It’s definitely not like that since I am known as the biggest idler in the world and I hate to go anywhere.I quickly get bored off-court.I am doing something and all of a sudden I can’t do that any more and that’s the end of story.Even friends from my neigborhood have begun recognizing me for that,and some tennis players that I get along with as well.That’s the problem of mine even on the court.When I play against some better known tennis players today,the names like that don’t allow me to get bored.That’s why it normally happens that I play the best against the ones who are at the top of the ATP list.But,when I play against somebody whose position is 60th or 70th ,though the players with that ranking are world class for sure,it occasionally happens that somehow I get bored in the middle of the match then.Simply,I say to myself: “I am going away from here,I shan’t stay here and that’s the end of story.”I just want to get back to my hotel room and play “Warcraft” then.
A couple of years ago you said that you earned enough for buying your first car.It was about some model of Peugeot.You said that you loved cars.
It was one idiotic period in my life too,when I used to drive Peugeot 307 and stuffed it with some Chinese parts.It looked as if it had come from the movie “Fast and Furious”,but more like a gipsy-like version of that.Well,it was a complete disaster.Indeed,I am so glad that my parents and society have much of a tolerance and understanding for all the phases that I’ve been going through in my life.Honestly,those phases are much less present nowadays and I hope that there will be no drastic changes any more.I can’t say that I am not interested in cars,because I really love them.Let’s just not go on with talking about Ferraris or Lamborginis,I can say that my favourite car is BMW M3,this new sports model.Currently,I drive Volvo C70,convertible,and I bought it from a friend of mine.I often think of buying a new car,but when I see how much I travel and how rarely I am present in Belgrade,I realize that there’s no point to that.I earn enough,but it is not so much so that I can throw some big amount of money on something that I really don’t need at the moment.
Q: From a guy's standpoint, what do you think about women tennis players? Is it possible to have a steady relationship with a girl, because tennis players are always on the move?
99% of men tennis players can't stand women's tennis. There is no sport where, considering how much women tennis players earn, there is a significant difference in quality between men and women players. A friend of mine says: "If I could have it my way, a woman tennis player who wins a Grand Slam would get free air tickets and that's all". If there were no Ana and Jelena as, in a way, my friends, I could've said a lot more about all that. Of course, I respect and appreciate their efforts, because they don't spend any less time training than me.Back then when I was a 16 year old junior, my friend of the same age, a Swiss guy, spent one month preparing for a tournament, training with Martina Hingis. Then she was as dominant as Federer is now, but during that one month she didn't win more than two games from him, and he was just 16 year old.I put aside the fact that women serve 160km/h and men 220km/h. That's another thing. However, women’s thinking on the court cannot be compared with men’s thinking. Women’s tactics is "send the ball where your opponent isn't". And that's all! They don't have "put some spin, now is the important point, now raise it up a bit, now send to backhand...“, no way! It's all just "close your eyes and blast the ball to the other side". The worst part is that they get away with such tennis today. Look at Williams sisters, Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, who hits like a truck on steroids. With all her might - to the other side! I'm feeling a bit sceptic about all that when I see how much money they make and how the seeds fare through the first rounds. That's what's bugging me the most, I feel like going to the WTA and ‘explaining’ them a thing or two... Just follow closely the next tournament and you will see I'm right. I see Federer who is the greatest, and yet he has to break a sweat playing against Staracce, Almagro, and even he can lose a set... Then I see Ana or Maria losing three games in four matches on a tournament, or I check the women’s draws and see that out of top 16, top 15 advanced to the next round, losing like 50 games altogether. Altogether! That's when I start feeling not so well... I feel very glad to have a girlfriend who can understand my profession. She is at moment sort of her own boss at her work and she can organize her time so we can spend together. And for this two and a half years that we are together, it's rare we spend separately more than three weeks. We use every chance to be together. She knows this kind of life isn't easy, and that for around 40 or so weeks in a year I live in hotels and I hope she understands that until the end.
Q: How often can you go out with or without your girlfriend, in Belgrade or while you are on the road?During a period I was totally nuts for going out and I lived for Fridays and Saturdays. Those were wild parties and experiences, and after partying almost I wasn't able to walk. Luckily, it's all in the past now. Now I'm more serious about my tennis game. Of course, there are still "breaks", but much less than before. When I'm Belgrade, when I go out I'm almost always in "Stefan Braun", that place suits me best. I don't like those situations like we spend upstairs separated from other guests, and you downstairs are maggots. That's why I like Stefan Braun. I feel pleasant there, same as the drunkards and the people from the gutter, somehow feels damn good.
Q: If you could settle down, where that would be?
Aside from Belgrade, probably it would be Barcelona. Their mentality is similar to ours. They have that siesta thing, or like, where are leaving in 15 minutes, actually we are leaving in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Besides that, Catalonia is quite different from the rest of Spain. They are more disciplined, in some ways remind me of German system, which I adore. Ok, I could never live in Germany, because the weather and the language are horrible, but people, service and kindness are on a level of its own. Everything is known there, if something is impossible, a German will tell you why. Unlike Americans, to whom you can say that two plus two is the same as three plus one, and they will say it is not, because their boss said so. I like discipline when I'm on a tournament. That's why I like Barcelona, cause there they have a mixture of "siesta, tequila and sombreros" and a certain responsibility. It is sure I could never live in the States. It is dumb to say I hate the USA, however I don't like their way of life, and I don't like their personality. They are not natural and they don't have "middle". Either they are extremely unkind because they are frustrated by their jobs they work on for small money, or they are so kind that I'm under the impression I could spit in their face and they would say Thank you. It has nothing to do with me being like Serbian patriot and calling them villains because they bombed us and so on... Simply, I cannot spend more than two weeks in the USA because I start feeling too nervous. The exception is New York because it reminds me a little of Europe. Shopping is their strong side, because you cannot find such discounts anywhere else. Whenever I go to USA almost I don't carry any clothes just to have more reasons to shop. It's never enough. I buy a mountain of clothes and pay overweight at the airport.
Q: You like philosophy, Nietzsche, Goethe, Dostoevsky, I've heard you are interested in psychology too...
It's not true I like Goethe. I've read one book, Faust, and it was great, but I didn't want to read anymore. Just a few days ago I called the ATP and told them to remove from their site the information I read Goethe, because somebody will ask me something about it someday and I won't have a clue, all that I know is the devil is Mephisto. My mother had a big influence on me regarding that. She is a law graduate, though she is a housewife because she didn't want to work, rather she wanted to stay at home and raise kids. She pressed me when I was 13 to read Dostoevsky. I did read it, but didn't understand a thing. Right now, many people around me says I like to manipulate people. It is possible that is connected with my love for psychology, which is indirectly linked to philosophy. Maybe subconsciously I'm trying to gain something from it and manipulate people, I'm trying to foresee a situation, to assume what will somebody think or do. In any case, I really like psychology.
Q: You were no.1 junior player. What is missing for you to go to the top and to enter the top 10?
For 10 months I was at the no 1. of junior rankings, but I finished that year as no. 2 with same amount of points as no 1, but had less points from the first category that I didn't even know to exist. There is time; it's never too late... There, Ljubičić from Croatia was completely unknown, and then for three years he was no 3. and he solved his every problem. I'm still convinced that the biggest obstacle is that I'm not totally committed to tennis. I still think I'm my biggest opponent. My coach, a top expert made two players no.1 He started working with Carlos Moya when he was no. 700 and they achieved no.1 in the end. Also he worked with Coria when he was third and he started with Ferrer when he was no. 50 and brought him to the no.1 He told me the big truth: "You put yourself to a position where you beat the best because you have the knowledge, but you still have to learn a lot to become a complete player". And that is 100% true. I can quote even my dad, which the thing I hate the most: "The idea of tennis is to beat big names, on big tournaments, on big courts. Tennis is not winning five challengers that nobody heard of. The goal is to beat Federer on Australian Open".
Q: Well then, what is your strategy?
It also goes for football that you don't win a title by winning in a big match; you win by collecting points winning in matches with small clubs. Well, that's the part I'm missing, and that I need to become a complete player... It's not a problem for me to play great against big names, I don't get nervous playing in front of 20 000 people... I don't want to sound arrogant, or to look like I can't get motivated unless I play in a Grand Slam. If I can't get motivated by the ATP Masters in Hamburg, then I don't know what else could I need - strip show or something... Simply, I'm my biggest opponent. I believe I can achieve more, the same as every player in the world thinks. Not even Roger is satisfied with his game; he thinks he can do more, break every record in men’s or women’s tennis. I'm 24 and the good part is that I still have time, that I'm surrounded by the right people and that I solved some things inside my head, and I'm ready to give 100%. I can enter the top 10! Anyone who has the balls to admit to himself that he is ready for whatever it takes to enter top 10 is already closer to the goal. I admitted that to myself this year. Before, the story went something like I'm talented, good junior, I have cards up my sleeve... The biggest problem with tennis players and other sport players is they don't have the balls to admit they've reached their limit and that they gave their best shot. Maybe no. 32 is my limit, but the players won't admit it. And nobody wants to admit he is not training enough... It is enough that somewhere in your head you know that maybe you could've done more. Time and again I've heard stories like "if only my parents had helped me, if only I had luck, and so on..." The biggest opponent of every player is the player himself.
Q: You are participating in the Fellowship of the Blue Knight initiative, organized by Metals Bank, which is also your sponsor. You lectured to kids in schools...
I’m very glad people started to invest in tennis and to realize how big potential we have. What happened with Serbian tennis recently, came out of the blue, from the dust, out of nowhere... Out of the radiation, bombing, or who knows what... I don't need to pretend, I am happy that Metals Bank decided to help me and to help me get rid of some financial pressure. I’m happy also that I can be a part of a something nice, where I can do some good. It would be stupid of me to tell fairytales, how I'm happy being able to tell the kids they should stay away from the heroin and like that, because that's just empty. Metals Bank explained and stated their plan to me - to spread sports and culture. Those are the good things, because from '90s till today we were mostly a part of some ugly things. Sports and culture, to some extent, were able to survive. Even though the cooperation is based on a mutual interest, I like that the Fellowship of the Blue Knight is a great idea, and that people from Metals Bank are serious and professionals. Because I was known as a promising player ever since I was a kid, I've heard every kind of promise in the book, but those were mostly empty ones, and all of them were starting like "Hey bro'..." and "...I tell you!", Well, this story is a different one, these people speak little and do much.