Djokovic's little brother fails to make his Marko

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Dubai

The name is the same and the game is not dissimilar, but it soon became clear here yesterday that Marko Djokovic still has some way to go before his tennis can match his older brother's.

Five hours before 24-year-old Novak Djokovic, the world No 1, began his quest for a fourth successive title at the Dubai Duty Free Championships by beating Germany's Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-4, 6-2, his 20-year-old brother, the world No 869, had a rare chance to make his mark on a major stage when he opened the tournament against Kazakhstan's Andrei Golubev.

Watched by his brother and their parents, Marko had his moments, breaking in the first game and going 3-1 up, but once the world No 143 had put his tentative start behind him he ran out a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 winner.

"I didn't play my best, but there was a lot of pressure," Marko said after his third defeat in his three matches so far on the main tour. He said he thought it was the mental strength of the players on the ATP Tour that separated them from their counterparts on the lower-level Futures circuit.

"It's not that different from Futures tennis. There are a lot of players in Futures who are playing really good, top-quality tennis, but not mentally."

Novak was world No 3 when he was Marko's age, but the younger one's career has been dogged by injury. Marko had wrist surgery at the start of last year and was out of the game for 10 months. He was given a wild card here – it clearly helps to have family in high places – and is aiming to return next year with a high enough ranking to play in the qualifying tournament. He would need a remarkable 12 months to achieve that.

Marko spends as much time as he can with his big brother. They have trained together in the off season for the last three years and they recently shared a skiing break in the Serbian mountains, where they grew up. This week Marko is staying with Novak in the Burj Al Arab, the iconic Dubai hotel where the organisers put up the top players.

Although there are plenty of material benefits to having a brother who is world No 1 – "Financially I have all I need and I can get all the coaches and all the practice I want," Marko said – there is also a downside. "There's a lot of pressure," he said. "Everybody expects you to be like your brother."

Like Novak, Marko attended Niki Pilic's academy in Munich. At junior tournaments, the biggest crowds would inevitably be watching Marko. "Normally there are only parents and coaches watching, but maybe 100 people would watch my matches. It was tough when I was younger, but I got through it."

Opponents are always keen to claim a Djokovic scalp, which is no doubt the same for 16-year-old Djorde, the third of the brothers, who is said to be a particularly good prospect. "They try more," Marko said of his opponents. "There's a big difference when they play against me and when I see them playing against somebody else."

Marko described Novak as "my idol", but that does not stop the brothers from being competitive. Marko could not say who was the better footballer or skier, but said he usually beat Novak on PlayStation. As for tennis, the gulf between them was seen in Novak's win over 21-year-old Stebe, the world No 72. Although the Australian Open champion looked rusty in his first match for a month, the result was never in doubt.

Novak said afterwards that it had been easier to play than to watch his brother. "It's hard because people compare him to me," he said. "I think he's going to be good. He has potential obviously – and it's in the blood."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment