2023 started in the sign of Novak Djokovic. The Serbian phenomenon won his tenth Australian Open by losing only one set and reiterating that he is the best player around at almost 36 years of age. The Belgrade champion showed up in Melbourne with an injury to his left hamstring, but his level rose exponentially from the second round onwards.
Nole liquidated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final and won his 22nd Slam, thus hooking his eternal rival Rafael Nadal at the top of the all-time rankings. As if that weren’t enough, the ‘Djoker’ returned to the top of the ATP rankings by ousting Carlos Alcaraz from the throne after 20 weeks of reign.
During the first Major of the season, Novak ended up in the eye of the storm after his father Srdjan was immortalized in the main square of the tournament together with some Putin supporters. In the latest edition of the ‘No Challenges Remaining’ podcast, Ben Rothenberg highlighted how Serbian fans often end up putting their idol in uncomfortable situations.
Djokovic is one of the greatest athletes of all time
“The sort of increasing wrapping up these tennis players in nationalism – it’s obviously really strong with Novak Djokovic. I mean Nole Djokovic is tied to Serbian identity and Serbian national pride in this way that I don’t think any tennis player has ever been tied to their country before,” Rothenberg said.
“Like you see his name being projected on skyscrapers and stuff in Belgrade after he wins. And the parades and the level of just fervor for him,” he added. “You know downright messianic figure almost in Serbia, who’s come to redeem Serbia and bring them out of this dark time they’ve had, into the light, being this great champion and the greatest of all time in the sport,” he remarked.
“It’s just a lot. It all becomes very, very fraught and very charged,” he said. “I feel like it’s worth bringing down the temperature, however possible, for the sport”. Reflecting on the win, Petchey noted that it is not just the hard work and psyche work that pilots players like Djokovic towards such massive achievements.
“Worth noting that two of most improved players on the @WTA in the past year changed their service motions. They didn’t just work harder or do psyche work. @DjokerNole also with his ball toss had the equal least number of service games lost in winning a slam,” wrote Petchey in his tweet.
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