The powered goggles he wears on court rest on the top of his head as he fields questions during the mandatory press conference. Janko Tipsarevic has been asked about his tattoos, his tryst with literature (especially that of Fydor Dostoevsky), the rise of a war-torn country like Serbia in tennis and his girlfriend a time too many in recent times.
But the Serb, who knocked out crowd favourites Carlos Moya and Somdev Devvarman in consecutive rounds of the Aircel Chennai Open, is patient and sincere whenever it is his time to take over the microphone.
“I don’t believe in Rocky Balboa stories,” he says, measuring each word. “I believe that even if Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s parents had been poor they would still have been the champions they are.
Being a champion had got nothing to do with how much money you have.”
Unlike his compatriots Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, Tipsarevic did not have the luxury to train abroad.
He stayed back, ploughing through the non-existent tennis facilities in the country, which had bigger problems, like avoiding being bombed into oblivion.
“There was a time when I was a kid and when I was breaking through onto the tennis world. The country was falling apart, my family really didn’t have any money, I should have felt the pressure but I actually didn’t; because, maybe, I was crazy in the head and really didn’t care about any of that stuff,” he recently said on the ATP website.
“I am jealous of Novak. I hate him, but in a positive way. Why is he better than me? At the end of the day I come to my room and say to myself that if he can do it, be the No. 3 in the world, I can be No. 10.”
That Eastern Europe is rising as the epicentre of tennis is, because of a generation of players, who have come out of hostile social conditions and have an instinct to survive.
“I don’t know if it really helps. But I think coming from a country like Serbia teaches you to fight better, said Tipsarevic, who made his Davis Cup debut in 2001 for Yugoslavia.
Talking about his love for literature, Tipsarevic says he picked up the habit from his mother. “I used to read to pass time on the tour, not a very good decision,” he muses. Apparently, books made him think too much. “The last time I read Dostoevsky was six months ago.”
But a thinking mind is always welcome on the court. Currently, the 25-year-old is ranked 38 in the world and is the number three player in his country, behind Djokovic and Viktor Troicki, and harbours ambitions of breaking into the top-10.
He may not be fond of Rocky Balboa but Tipsarevic’s story is as fascinating as the Sylvester Stallone movie.