Novak Djokovic “still feels the hunger”. The hunt for records also drives the Serbs at the US Open. The fans’ affection grows. In a moment he becomes sentimental.
Even Coco Gauff likes to slip into the role of stadium announcer for Novak Djokovic. After making her own semi-finals at the US Open, the American crowd favorite grabbed the microphone at Arthur Ashe Stadium and announced the Serbian superstar’s next game with a whoop of joy.
“Novak is a player that only exists once in a generation,” enthused 19-year-old Gauff at the Grand Slam tournament in New York about the most successful tennis player in history. “I’ve always seen Novak against Roger and Rafa, it’s tennis at the highest level.”
Roger – Roger Federer – is retired from sport. Rafa – Rafael Nadal – fighting for one last comeback. Djokovic, as the only remaining of the Big Three, is the main attraction for men at this US Open. With 6: 1, 6: 4, 6: 4, the 36-year-old ended the hopes of the American Taylor Fritz in the muggy midday heat of New York and meets the next favorite of the home fans – Ben Shelton, 16 years his junior. With his 47th semi-final appearance in a Grand Slam, Djokovic also got this sole record and is now ahead of Federer.
Djokovic thanks his parents
Sentimental feelings mixed with Djokovic’s celebration of the next record. “This sport has given me so much in my life. I come from Serbia, a country torn by war in the 1990s. I had to face a lot of adversity with my family just to be able to travel and do international sports at all,” he said on the pitch, pointing to his parents in the stands: “I wouldn’t be here without their love and their incredible sacrifices.”
The audience cheered him on. The fact that he was missing last year without the corona vaccination required for US entry does not seem to damage the affection. The bitter final defeat in 2021 against the Russian Daniil Medvedev, with which Djokovic missed the triumph in all Grand Slams in one year, also won the affection of the New Yorkers. “I thrive on this energy, I use it as a drive to play my best tennis,” he said after defeating Fritz.
He then even intoned “You gotta fight for your right to party” by the New York hip-hop band Beastie Boys and asked fans to sing along. Unlike at the French Open, when he caused a stir with a political message on a camera, there are no other side shows that are so common these days. The fact that he yelled at a man who was sitting in the stands with Djokovic’s friends for an out-call in the middle of a point was the biggest excitement.
Tennis ace still hungry for titles
“At the age of 36, 20 years after I came to New York, I still have the hunger to play my best tennis on the court,” the three-time US Open winner explained his approach. “I have the experience and the understanding of what it takes in the important moments: to save energy and focus on the present.”
In the near future, after the US Open, Djokovic will again take over the top position in the world rankings from Spanish defending champion Carlos Alcaraz and extend his record with the 390th week at the top. And when it comes to tournament selection, the 23-time Grand Slam tournament winner only looks at the record books. A win in New York would put him on that tally with Margaret Court of Australia, who holds the most women’s titles.
“Even at this age, Djokovic still amazes his rivals that he is so good, so great,” said tennis legend John McEnroe, who is an expert at the US Open for ESPN, explaining the uniqueness. “It seems like he still wants it more than others. That makes it incredible.”
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