Serbian tennis champ Novak Djokovic is one of those athletes who made an entire country focus on a sport. Developing a sports culture is not easy. In fact, when a child plays a sport since a young age, it’s very difficult to switch.
Tennis was played in Serbia before Novak Djokovic became a thing. However, the superstardom achieved by Novak has propelled the popularity of the sport in the country.
In his Australian Open post-match press conference, Novak Djokovic opened up on the tennis scenario in Serbia.
Novak is the most popular but not the first tennis star to emerge from Serbia. Players like Monica Seles were the first athletes from Serbia to create a stir in the tennis world. Djokovic opened up on the impact that a popular sports star has on developing a sports culture –
“It obviously helps when you have success on a global level. Of course, it has a very positive impact in your country. Serbia didn’t really have a successful tennis tradition before players like Monica Seles. That was probably the first generation of successful tennis players coming from our country.”
Novak said that he didn’t believe in coincidences but the tennis growth in Serbia looked like a massive coincidence to him.
“I don’t believe in coincidences in life. Still, it looked very much like a coincidence because there was no system or structure that really supported our breakthrough to professional tennis.”
Novak Djokovic named tennis stars like Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic who reached the No 1 spot in WTA rankings. Along with Novak Djokovic and doubles star Nenad Zemonjic, they helped Serbian tennis gain worldwide legitimacy. It all happened for Serbia in the 2000s.
“It was an amazing decade for our tennis. That has obviously helped the popularity of that sport in our country. There was a lot of interest and a lot of young people choosing to grab a tennis racquet.”
However, Novak confessed that the problems still persist in Serbian tennis. The administrative side never supplemented the tremendous success achieved by the players. He blamed the infrastructure as well as the system for the same.
Novak Djokovic explained the efforts that he is making towards making the Serbian ecosystem more tennis friendly. He runs his own tennis club in Belgrade that helps to increase the accessibility of the relatively expensive sport.
“I try to help federation and help anybody that likes tennis. The goal is to establish some system that will be a long-standing system that will allow kids and parents to have easier and cheaper access to tennis.”
Novak displayed an incredible understanding of the nuances of Serbian grassroots. He explained how tennis equipment is expensive for an average Serbian family. Ultimately, this makes them go for cheaper alternatives like Football and Handball. In fact, that’s precisely the reason why team sports find currency in Serbia.
Novak is all set to face Canadian veteran Milos Raonic in the next round. As both the players are in splendid form, the match is supposed to be great.
Do you think Djokovic can run through Raonic?