History and 'school of life' drive Djokovic through controversies
Novak Djokovic stands on the brink of a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title and it is his determination to be the greatest ever which drives him on through the controversies.
The 35-year-old Serb is already one major clear of Roger Federer and victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open final on Sunday will draw him level with Rafael Nadal.
For Djokovic, it matters to be the best and he has a strong sense of his historical place in tennis.
But he also keeps ploughing on through the highs and lows because it is "a great school of life".
"I play professional tennis for several different reasons," he said in Melbourne.
"Some personal reason is that I feel on the tennis court I always have an opportunity to learn something new about myself, I guess fight with my own demons that I guess we all have.
"When we're on the tennis court in the midst of a battle, some of the things surface, and I have to deal with it, so it's a great school of life for me.
"Then at the same time, of course, I have professional goals and ambitions," he added. "Those are Grand Slams and being number one in the world.
"So I do want to make more history in this sport, no doubt."
- Brooding, divisive -
But while Federer and Nadal are widely admired, Djokovic continues to divide as well as unite, despite being one of the greatest players to grace tennis.
His staggering achievements on court have often been overshadowed by blunders and missteps off it.
The latest was his father posing with a Russian flag featuring Vladimir Putin's face at this year's Australian Open.
But easily the most controversial was his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid, which culminated with Djokovic last year being deported from Australia on the eve of the tournament.
Even before that, the Serb was seemingly doomed never to be held in the same esteem as Federer or Nadal, the undisputed people's champions.
There are those who see something too calculating in the Djokovic make-up -- an intense, brooding presence prone to affectation.
His infamous default from the US Open in 2020 for petulantly swiping at a ball that hit a female line judge gave a glimpse of his fiery character.
And some of his personal stances have drawn criticism -- one claim that raised eyebrows was his belief that it was possible to alter the composition of water and food through positive thinking.