London - The bombing and privations that came as part and parcel of the punishment Serbia took during the Kosovo war taught tennis world number one Novak Djokovic how to deal with adversity, he told The Times.
The 29-year-old -- who is preparing for Wimbledon where he is the two-time defending champion and which gets underway on Monday -- said life had hit rock bottom during the 1998-99 conflict between Albanian guerillas and Serbian forces with Nato siding with the former and bombing Serbia.
"We grew up in harsh conditions, which is the most important factor to understand our journey," said Djokovic, who was 12 at the time and huddled with his family in a bomb shelter for 78 successive nights.
"Sanctions, war, bombing. The economic crisis. I skipped many junior tournaments because my parents didn't have the money.
"These experiences have shaped us. I believe we appreciate things more. We have started from the very bottom.
"The consequences of those times, and adversities are deep inside us," added the 12-time Grand Slam winner.
Djokovic, who on winning the French Open last month became the first player since Australian legend Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, said it was those experiences which made him impervious to the hostile receptions he sometimes receives.
"Those difficult times have made me stronger," said Djokovic, who on the rare occasions he has time off resides in Monaco with his high school sweetheart now wife Jelena and baby boy Stefan.
"But I am not invincible. I have weaknesses and sometimes misbehave on court. And I do ask for forgiveness from the universe for being who I am, because sometimes the ego controls you.
"I feel there is still immense room for improvement.
"I am not talking about forehands and backhands. I mean as a person and this excites me."
Djokovic, who could go on and secure the Golden Slam with an Olympic gold medal in Rio in August, said what drives him on is not the accruing of riches or trophies but to reach out to a wider audience than the one that follows tennis.
"We are often taught to think about motivation in a selfish way," he said.
"It is about what we can monetise, what can we get out of my success for myself.
"But think of Muhammad Ali. He has left a strong legacy not just on sports, but the wider society. Why? Because he had a mission beyond himself.
"He wanted to reach out to others."