Born a week apart and rivals since they were 11, it would seem that there is little that they do not know, at 32. However, their Instagram exchange for more than an hour on Friday evening told a different story. They even surprised themselves, never having sat together for a long time.
They shared their concern for the fate of those who had suffered or died because of Covid-19 and were aware that their self-isolation was more comfortable than most. Djokovic is in a house in Spain, with a garden and sun; Murray is at home in Surrey. Both spend quality time with their families. Nor is it taken for granted.
“It is difficult to be in Spain, next to Italy, the country which is going through the most difficult period at the moment,” said Djokovic. “Six weeks of 24/7 lockout. Honestly, as a tennis player, it’s really weird to be in the same place for more than a day, then five or six weeks. I haven’t experienced this for probably 15 years. But happy to be with my children. “
Murray agreed, “It was nice. I have to see my kids doing things for the first time, usually when we are traveling, which you miss. I saw my kids riding their bikes for the first time, swimming alone for the first time.
“You are learning a new way of living. You are so used to travel and the structure that the Tour brings. You hurt yourself, or what’s going on now, and you’re constantly at home with your family. It’s a big change. But the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. I realize, once tennis is done for me, I’m fine. I was always worried about what it might look like, being in the same place all the time. I liked. It was good. “
They also realize that they are prisoners of another type. Djokovic, whose only long absence in the match was the first half of 2018 during an elbow recovery, said: “It was really difficult to get out of this adrenaline rush. Tennis players, all athletes in general, that’s the nature of what we do. We are constantly [in] increased energy, we need competition, we have to challenge ourselves in all parts of life.
“As long as the season is running – it’s the longest season of all sports, from January to mid-November – you can never fully relax. When I missed these six months for the first time, it was the first time I had missed a slam since I became a professional player. I did not feel any discomfort. I was happy to be at home, doing other things that are still waiting to be treated, because there is never really any time or energy to think about other things or do other things.
“But I thought I would manage the competition better mentally and emotionally after returning from an injury. I was very confident in myself. I said to myself, I’m fine, I’m going to train for every week, it’s going to be fine. Nothing I don’t know, okay? But once I entered the field, it took me four or five months to play the way I wanted to play. “
Murray, who has had at least five serious back and hip operations that robbed him of two years of his career, said, “Being out of competition for a long period of time is losing your edge. You lose a bit of your aura. Maybe people see you coming back from an injury, there’s a sign of weakness. You have to rebuild that by winning matches. The psychological aspect is sometimes more difficult than the physical aspect. “
In the end, Djokovic tells Murray that he could have been any athlete or scientist if not a tennis player; Murray says he once wanted to be a footballer – “I was pretty good” – but now maybe a doctor. Like most of us, they have learned a lot about themselves far from the normal roar of modern life.
Djokovic said on Saturday that he had been in contact with other ATP player council members Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal to discuss ways to help players facing financial difficulties. “I spoke to Roger and Rafa a few days ago and we had a conversation about the near future of tennis. How we can help help the lower ranking guys who are obviously the hardest hit, said Djokovic in a live Instagram chat. “We hope the players will collectively contribute to the relief fund that ATP [and the WTA and ITF] will distribute using templates and criteria.