(CBS News) - In an interview for this Sunday's "60 Minutes," the world's top-ranked tennis player, Novak Djokovic, says he tries to remember the days of the bombing of Belgrade "in a positive, in a very bright way. Let's say I, we didn't need to go to school (chuckles) and we played more tennis."
In 1999, as the conflict spread to the province of Kosovo, the U.S. and other NATO countries bombed Serbia for 78 days and nights. The Djokovic family took shelter in Belgrade.
"We were very scared," Djokovic told "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon. "Everybody was very, very afraid because, you know -- the whole city was under attack."
Djokovic's grandfather, parents, two younger brothers, aunts and uncles, all sought refuge during the blitz in his grandfather's apartment - a two-bedroom flat. The building had a basement. When the air raid sirens sounded, they retreated there -- it was as close as they could get to safety.
"This is where practically we stayed right, right here, right inside," Djokovic said. "Everybody who could fit here, they came, you know, and there was really no limitation."
Djokovic says the family spent every night in the basement for the first two weeks of the bombing. But he continued to play tennis every day.
Djokovic said he lost his focus during those first couple of weeks, "because we were waking up every single night, more or less, at 2:00, 3:00 am for two and a half months."
"The best thing about it, you know, I always try to remember those days in, in a positive, in a very bright way. Let's say I, we didn't need to go to school (chuckles) and we played more tennis. So, for us, that was/something that we remembered the most."
"So in a way," Simon asked.
"The war helped you become a champion?"
"In a way."
"It made you tougher."
"Yea, it made us tougher," Djokovic said. "It made us more hungry. More hungry for success."
(Watch the full interview this Sunday on "60 Minutes.")