Only by kicking off your shoes and speaking to a monk inside a Buddhist temple -- a place of great calm and serenity just half a mile from the hum of the All England Club -- can you fully appreciate the strength of Novak Djokovic's mind. It is here at the Buddhapadipa Temple that the Wimbledon champion comes to meditate under a tree -- or on the lawn next to a small lake.
For the past few years now, the world No. 1 has been a regular visitor to the temple, which he describes as a quiet and beautiful environment where he can switch off and recharge between matches and training sessions.
"When I'm staying in Wimbledon Village, I like to relax between matches by being with nature," said Djokovic, a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 winner against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the opening round of Wimbledon. The Serbian also disclosed how he enjoys "hearing the peaceful sounds of the water and seeing people just relax and connect with nature."
Will the power of meditation help Djokovic win a third Wimbledon title by -- as one monk explained it -- "clearing his mind of worry and anxiety"?
"Meditation will help you if you are playing tennis, just as it will help you if you are playing other sports or if you [are] working in an office," said Phramaha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso, who was dressed in an orange robe and speaking amid a room brimming with golden Buddha statues. "Meditation helps you to keep focused and to train your mind. With proper training, you can improve your concentration and that will keep you focused on what you are doing."
While the monks run meditation classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and on the weekends, Djokovic prefers to meditate alone, usually on weekday mornings.
"Novak is an easygoing guy," Piyobhaso said. "We're glad that he comes here to enjoy the calm and the relaxation. The first time he came, there was no need for him to introduce himself to the monks. We knew who he was. Novak walked in, said hello and then went to meditate on his own. We have known him for a while now."
When Djokovic strolls around the five-acre site, he will read the Buddhist sayings on wooden boards. "All things are not self," reads the first of the boards. "When one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification." Another reads: "Wisdom springs from meditation. Without meditation, wisdom wanes. Having known these two paths of progress and decline, one should so conduct oneself that wisdom may increase."
Maybe, as the best tennis player in the world, Djokovic feels that this is the board that speaks to him: "Though one may conquer a thousand men in battle, the one who conquers himself is the greater warrior."
On a still day, the sound from Centre Court carries to the temple, but only, Piyobhaso said as we walked around the garden, "when someone has played a very good shot and the crowd make a lot of noise." They don't have a television in the temple, so the seven monks who live there won't be able to watch Djokovic's progress through the fortnight, when he will try to equal his coach, Boris Becker, as well as John McEnroe, with three Wimbledon titles.
"It's not that we can't have a television," Piyobhaso said. "And we are not forbidden from watching tennis. We just shouldn't be watching anything that arouses the mind and inspires lust or greed. But we just choose not to have a television. But that's OK, as we can follow Novak on the Internet. We can have a look at the computer and see how he is doing."