Janko Tipsarevic's accomplishments on the tennis court have frequently been overshadowed by his more exalted compatriot Novak Djokovic.
The 27-year-old leapfrogged 40 places last year to occupy ninth spot in the ATP Tour World rankings. His ascent — along with that of Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic, Victor Troicki, and Ana Ivanovic — has been a captivating sub-plot in studying the emergence of a strife-free Serbia.
With an interview scheduled for 12.30 a.m., Tipsarevic is naturally knackered after a long day's work. But the cerebral Serb doesn't come up with contrived or frivolous responses.
Instead, he speaks with class and assurance of tennis' role as a healer in Serbia, being a role model to an aspiring nation, Dostoyevsky, and politics, in a chat with The Hindu.
What would you attribute the tennis revolution in Serbia to?
There is no real reason. Nobody was interested in our development except for our parents who gave everything. There was no system, no infrastructure. Tennis has been a welcome hope to Serbia. But unless more money is invested in the game, nothing is going to happen. We are also getting old. We won't be playing forever.
How's it being role models to youngsters back home?
It's very good. In the past, role models in Serbia were criminals. People were exposed to only gossip newspapers and yellow journalism which I don't think is good for the younger generation. Nowadays, kids look up to Nole (Djokovic) and Ana (Ivanovic). If children are given the right opportunity, they will go places.
You are said to be an avid reader of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Friedrich Nietzsche. How has it influenced you as a sportsman and a human being?
I used to read a lot of Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche in the past but not so much these days. I believe that books always provide excellent learning opportunities.
But if you are trying to make a connection between that and tennis, then I don't think there is much of it. As a person, it has definitely had a positive impact on me.
Does being an unofficial ambassador of your country bring additional pressure with it?
I honestly don't feel that way. You feel pressure only if you put it on yourself. It's important to look at your immediate goal; the next point is most important.
Champions like Roger Federer, (Rafael) Nadal, and Djokovic deal with pressure every single day.
What has been your contribution to promoting tennis talent in Serbia?
I opened up a small agency to manage young talent. There are six to seven players and two of them went on a pre-season tour to Kenya recently. These things don't take away the momentum from my tennis career.
You speak very passionately about your nation. Any political ambitions after you are finished with tennis?
I don't intend to get into politics. But, never say never. I am not giving it a hard thought right now.
On a lighter note, do you find it difficult to play wearing glasses?
That's a different question (laughs). I luckily don't sweat too much on the face. But I don't want to jinx it by talking about it now!