Djokovic's little brother fails to make his Marko

view gallery VIEW GALLERY



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."


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

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

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent