Australian tennis legend Mark Woodforde revealed he once denied Novak Djokovic a wildcard into the Adelaide International. Woodforde, a former 16-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, was once co-tournament director in Adelaide alongside Peter Johnston.
One day, a young Djokovic and his coach at the time, Dejan Popovic, walked into Woodford’s office and asked him for a main draw wildcard. After Djokovic walked into the office, he told Woodforde he should really consider him giving a wildcard because one day he would be No 1 and they would always remember having him at the tournament.
But Woodforde had to reject Djokovic, saying main draw wildcards were already reserved for Australian players. That year, Djokovic didn’t even get a wildcard into the Adelaide qualifying event. But in 2007, Djokovic made it all the way in his Adelaide main draw debut.
16 years later, Djokovic is back in Adelaide and again starting his season at the Adelaide International.
Woodforde recalls having to reject Djokovic
“I was running the event with Peter Johnston and we were sitting in the office the day before qualifying began and in came Dejan with Novak Djokovic,” Woodforde said on Nine’s Wide World of Sports.
“He introduced himself to both Peter Johnston and myself and said, ‘I’m happy to be here in Adelaide and I was hoping that you might give me a wildcard’ Peter and I just looked at each other, we’d already given out our wildcards in the main draw.
Novak said, ‘Because I’m going to become No.1 in the world one day and I think this would help give me a start’, and we just smiled and said, ‘Unfortunately, we don’t have space’ Dejan, who I’ve known for a number of years just said, ‘He really does believe he’s going to be No.1’ and we just had to apologise and say we had to reserve some of the wildcards at the time for the Australians.
I said, ‘We’ll try to get you into the qualifying at least’, and he said, ‘But I want to be in the main draw because I’m going to be No.1 in the world’ Unfortunately, we couldn’t even get him into qualifying that year, but that’s the belief that Novak Djokovic had at a very early age, that he was going to achieve great things.” Now, Djokovic is the top seed and the top favorite to win his second Adelaide title.