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stated on August 2, 2021 in a Facebook post:
Says Novak Djokovic said of Simone Biles: “Pressure is a privilege, my friend. ...If you are aiming to be at the top of the game you better start learning how to deal with pressure…”
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Jason Asenso
By Jason Asenso August 2, 2021

No, Novak Djokovic did not refer to Simone Biles when he said ‘pressure is a privilege’

If Your Time is short

  • A reporter referenced Biles in a question, but Djokovic’s response did not directly deal with Biles.

  • The reporter later clarified that Djokovic was referring to himself in his answer. 

  • The social media post omits that Djokovic also referenced feeling pressure “on the court” in his response.

After U.S. gymnast Simone Biles cited mental health concerns and the pressure to win in her decision to pull out of several event finals at the Tokyo Olympics, she received both praise and criticism.

According to a viral Facebook image, top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic of Serbia had his own take on Biles’ decision. A quote attributed to him overlaps side-by-side photos of Djokovic and Biles and reads, "Pressure is a privilege, my friend. Without pressure there is no professional sport. If you are aiming to be at the top of the game you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments …"

Below this caption, the image shows that two days later Djokovic threw his racket into the stands, smashed another, and then skipped his doubles match in an "Olympic meltdown."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Djokovic did say this, but it’s not clear that he was "commenting on Simone Biles," as the post asserts.

Reuters reported that Djokovic made the comment on July 28 as he prepared to face the pressures of completing what’s known as a Golden Slam, which is winning all four tennis Grand Slam singles titles and a gold medal at the Olympics in a calendar year. The only tennis player to accomplish this feat was West Germany’s Steffi Graf in 1988.

Reuters reporter Sudipto Ganguly said he asked Djokovic the following question: "Novak, you would've heard about Simone Biles yesterday talking about mental health and the pressure of performing. You are in this position going for the Golden Slam, you know, there is no more pressure on a tennis player than you currently. Can you speak a bit about it?"

Djokovic responded by referencing his work on the tennis court, a mention that is omitted in the social media post, but which we highlight here in bold. Here’s how Ganguly’s article framed it:

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"Pressure is a privilege," Djokovic said when asked about the attention on him after reaching the singles quarter-finals and also winning a mixed doubles match on Wednesday. "Without pressure there is no professional sport. If you are aiming to be at the top of the game you better start learning how to deal with pressure. And how to cope with those moments on the court but also off the court, all the expectations."

Djokovic did throw his racket and smashed another one during his July 31 match where he lost his chance to get a bronze medal. This was after another two losses on July 30, when he missed a shot at a gold medal in singles and mixed doubles.

Djokovic then pulled out of the bronze medal match in mixed doubles, citing a shoulder injury.

Djokovic has lost his cool on the court before. At the 2020 U.S. Open, he was disqualified after he hit a ball toward the back of the court in anger and the ball hit a line judge in the neck.

"Pressure is a privilege," was the title of tennis legend Billie Jean King’s 2008 autobiography. Djokovic has referenced the quote before, crediting King for the "wonderful quote" that describes a mindset he said he tries to stand by.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claimed that Novak Djokovic was commenting on Simone Biles when he said "pressure is a privilege." 

The Reuters reporter who asked the question did mention Biles in his question, but it’s not clear that Djokovic’s response was about Biles. In fact, he referenced his own experience on the tennis court, saying "you have to learn … how to cope with those moments on the court."

We rate this claim Mostly False.

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No, Novak Djokovic did not refer to Simone Biles when he said ‘pressure is a privilege’

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