Australian Open

First Serb: Djokovic pines for home when on the road

2019-01-18 06:36
Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (Getty)

Melbourne - World No 1 Novak Djokovic doesn't get to spend as much time as he'd like in his homeland and seeks out fellow Serbs when he's on the road, while feeling an obligation to promote his country.

The 14-time Grand Slam winner, in Melbourne for the Australian Open, is Serbia's best-known sportsman and perhaps the nation's most-famous person.

He makes a point of tracking local Serbian communities when he has time in cities that he visits, particularly Australia.

"I'm really glad to meet people from my country, absolutely. Anywhere I go, I try to embrace the fact that there might be a community, regardless of how big or small," he said after sweeping into the Australian Open third round.

"I try to meet with some people and exchange words or whatever it is, invite them to come and watch me play. Whatever that is, it's nice. I guess it nurtures the culture and tradition."

As one the Balkan nation's biggest export, Djokovic also feels a responsibility to promote his homeland in the right way, conscious of his standing in the global spotlight.

"Me, as one of the athletes from our country that is internationally successful, I feel there is also a responsibility to represent the country in a right way," said the 31-year-old Belgrade native.

"For a lot of those people, especially who live here, they have not seen or been to Serbia for a long time.

"So for them it's quite a treat to have me playing here and other tennis players from Serbia, other sports events."

The Australian Open is Djokovic's most successful major. He has won it six times and has been coming to Melbourne each year in January to play the tournament since 2005.

He feels at home in the city, where there is a strong Serbian community which celebrates the Orthodox Christian New Year during the opening Grand Slam of the year.

"Serbian church is a place I guess where we get to see the Serbian people, the community gathers for the Orthodox New Year, which is between 13 and 14 of January, or our Christmas, which is on 7th of January," he said.

"That's when over the years I did go to church when I could, saw a lot of people, interacted with them.

"I'm very grateful to experience a lot of support," he added. "It's quite a big community (in Melbourne). Very loud. It helps at times."

Read more on:    atp tour  |  australian open  |  novak djokovic  |  tennis


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