Djokovic name is burden and blessing for brother

Updated: 2012-02-28 10:55


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Djokovic name is burden and blessing for brother 

Marko Djokovic of Serbia hits a return to Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan during their men's singles match at the ATP Dubai Tennis Championships February 27, 2012.  [Photo/Agencies]

DUBAI - Being the younger brother of world number one Novak Djokovic has plenty of advantages but world number 869 Marko is finding that the surname is not always one of them as it seems to make opponents raise their game.

The 20-year-old Serb was playing in the Dubai Championships where his all-conquering brother is defending champion and despite a strong start against Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev, he succumbed 6-3 6-2 in the first round on Monday.  

His association with five-times grand slam champion Novak has opened doors for the younger Djokovic, for instance in terms of coaching, but in matches the name can work against him.

"They're trying more. I played qualifiers and futures and was coming back from the injury, and it was really tough. I had to fight for every point," Marko, who injured his wrist at the start of 2011 and did not play for 10 months, told reporters.

"So this is the big difference when they play against me and then when I see them playing against somebody else."

Novak, who by Marko's age was already number three in the world and had the 2008 Australian Open title under his belt, said it was hard for his brother to live up to the comparisons.

"He has to face this pressure in a way for having the Djokovic surname. All over the world where he plays tennis, I guess he has to face this pressure that is not necessary for him at this age," the 24-year-old said.

"It's his burden, and he's very committed. He wants to succeed in tennis. But everybody obviously has a different path.  We have a younger brother who is 16 years old who is coming up, so hopefully they can become world class players."

Mental Battle

Novak, who watched his brother's match courtside before winning his own first-round encounter against Germany's Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-4 6-2, said Marko faced a mental battle more than anything if he wanted to succeed.

"I think as soon as he manages to control his thoughts and focus on his own career, I think he's going to be good," he said. "He has potential obviously, and it's in the blood."

Marko made his tour debut in 2008 but has since played only a handful of matches at the highest level. His highest tour ranking of 628 was achieved in November 2010.

Despite the downsides to sharing the Djokovic name, there are also many helpful aspects for the youngster.

"A brother like that is a privilege," he said. "He's helping me a lot. He knows a lot about tennis, and he's trying to push me to go more and more, to improve, to not make mistakes that he made in that stage of his life.

"There have been a lot of positive and negative things being his brother. It's a lot positive. Financially I have all the needs and I can get all the coaches and all the practice.

"But negative things, there is a lot of pressure. Everybody expects, which is really tough to achieve. But I'm trying. I'm doing my best."