February 29, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

For patient fans, Djokovic worth the wait

MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic arrived at his practice court about an hour later than scheduled Sunday.

But the large group of Djokovic fans who waited patiently were well rewarded.

A whole lot of things happened within the space of about an hour, all of them good things.

First, there was a Boris Becker sighting. And Djokovic had bro hugs and all the love for his former mentor.

New mentor Andre Agassi also showed Becker the love. And new coach Radek Stepanek showed his love by poking fun at Becker’s distinctive service motion.

There were a lot of coaches, a few Grand Slam titles as well.

(Warning, lots of Djoker pics below).

Coaches all over the place

And then, there was the hitting of the tennis balls. For that purpose, Djokovic had two young Aussie kids on the other side of the net. 

They kept up well with him, except … they really couldn’t touch his serve. Not the first serve, not the second serve. After awhile they got their rackets on a few. But it was truly beyond their ken.

After that, it was time for some team bocce.

Becker was invited on court for that little contest, which consisted of of tossing the ball and trying to be the one who got it closest to the baseline.

None of the former players won, despite a variety of techniques. Agassi used his left arm. The winner was his physio, Marco Panichi.

After a little team group hug, it was on to the fan portion of the hour.

Babies and little boys and smiles

It’s no secret that bringing an adorable baby is a great move if you want to get a professional athlete’s attention. And Djokovic was no exception.

He immediately took the baby girl from her father’s arms (trusting a total stranger with your baby because they’re famous is this thing that some people can do), and posed with her for dad.

Then he lifted a young boy right over the fence and had a hit with him – and Djokovic provided his own Head racket for that purpose.

Djokovic does this regularly. The kid was in absolute heaven when he finished off the final point with an emphatic overhead.

It turns out that new coach Stepanek has an alternate duty – souvenir distribution. The Czech followed DJokovic as he made his way down the crowd line with a Vegemite drawstring bag full of ballcaps – with Novak Djokovic and Lacoste logos. 

Hello, Schatzi!

One final duty – an interview with Becker on Eurosport, where Djokovic proceeded to explain that he calls Becker “Schatzi” – a term of endearment. 

The hour of love definitely put some good karma on Djokovic’s side.

He made a lot of people happy.

Djokovic’s fourth-round match is a tough test. The Serb will play Next-Gen finals champion Hyeon Chung during the night session on Rod Laver Monday night (7 p.m. Australian time; 3 a.m. EST and midnight PST back in North America)

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