Dubai – World No. 1 men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic described Dubai as his “second home” and hailed its winning mentality at Dubai Future District Fund’s (DFDF) annual general meeting today.
The Serbian tennis player praised the emirate’s “incredible and rapid growth” in a conversation with Becky Anderson, Managing Editor at CNN Abu Dhabi & Anchor, at the Museum of the Future. The 22-time Grand Slam winner lauded Dubai and the UAE’s “culture of innovation” which has had a major positive impact around the world.
“I want to have Dubai as a base for my business and innovation,” the 35-year-old said in a fireside chat titled ‘Belief to Champion’. “I love the champion mentality here in Dubai. I love that people here want to be the best in the world. And I’m sure that with this kind of mentality and approach, they will become the leaders.”
In a wide-ranging discussion, Djokovic spoke on the “trials and tribulations” he faced as a young child growing up in conflict-hit Serbia and how those experiences helped him become one of greatest-ever men’s tennis players.
“I was a young boy who dared to dream big and believe that those dreams would come true,” he added. “Obviously coming from a war-torn country in the 90s, it wasn’t easy and there was a lot of adversity in society and challenges that my family had to face to support and fund the career of a tennis player.
“It has had a great influence on my character. Waiting in line for several hours from 6 a.m. to have a piece of bread that we would all share. It was hard but at the same time I look back and reflect on that as a very important stage in my life.”
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Jessica Smith, an Australian Paralympic swimmer who has one of the world’s most advanced bionic arms, also spoke at DFDF’s meeting. Fitted with a prosthetic limb at 18 months old and then suffering third-degree burns to 15% of her body as a toddler, Smith said she understood adversity when medical professionals saw her as “broken and incomplete”.
But this did not deter her. “I was going to prove to the world that I was going to do whatever I wanted to do without any help,” she said, adding: “We are no longer looking at disability through a medical lens, but a social one. We realise people are more disabled by their social environment than their own disabilities.”
With the global disability community boasting $13 trillion of spending power per year, Smith also called on companies to accelerate disability-focused innovation and praised the UAE’s work in this field. “I am so grateful to the UAE leaders who are working hard to create more inclusive pathways for people of determination.”