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'I didn't want to play a lot': Tennis ace Djokovic admits HEARTBREAK at religious leader's death from COVID-19 before SHOCK defeat

'I didn't want to play a lot': Tennis ace Djokovic admits HEARTBREAK at religious leader's death from COVID-19 before SHOCK defeat
Novak Djokovic was grieving the "very sad" death of a bishop with "beautiful energy" when he suffered the joint-heaviest defeat of his career last week, the tennis world number one has revealed after his shock thrashing in Vienna.

Djokovic decided to play on at the Erste Bank Open despite being hit hard by the loss of Anfilohije Radovic, a prominent figure in the Serbian Orthodox Church, earlier in the week.

The usually formidable top seed was beaten 6-2, 6-1 in just 68 minutes by world number 32 Lorenzo Sonego, later revealing how he had been in mourning before the match.

When asked whether he had wanted to be at Vienna's Stadthalle, Djokovic replied: "To be honest, I didn't want to play a lot.

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"This sad news has had an effect on me, but obviously not enough to force me not to play.

"I had the great honor and privilege of meeting this man, spending time with him and feeling the beautiful energy he possessed and conveyed.

"Even if he is no longer with us physically, I am sure that his spirit will still be felt around us for a long time."

Hugely influential theologian, writer and professor Radovic oversaw the rebuilding of hundreds of churches in Djokovic's homeland before the 83-year-old died after a short battle with Covid-19.

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"I think we should remember him with a smile and be grateful for all he has done, especially recently with the political turmoil that has characterized Montenegro," said Djokovic.

"There was a lot at stake, particularly with regard to the church, and he was courageous and set an example of how to preserve and cultivate our cultural heritage and all of our traditions."

Djokovic has proudly admitted that he puts his faith before his sport and has contributed to the renovation of some of the buildings that were reconstructed under Radovic's guidance.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion also acknowledged that he was demotivated after learning that he had already secured his number one ranking until next season before the quarterfinal against Sonego.

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"The truth is that I came to Vienna with a goal and I managed to achieve it," he said.

"Securing the top position on the ATP rankings until the end of the season affected me.

"It totally affected my game. I felt I had already achieved the goal for which I came to Vienna.

"I did not have the energy. Sonego was simply superior to me in all areas of the game. It was a pretty bad match to play."

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