Serbian icon Novak Djokovic has raucously celebrated his new all-time record for the most weeks as world No1 in men’s tennis, joining a huge street party staged by his devoted fans in Belgrade.
The 33-year-old, who won his 18th Grand Slam last month, has topped the ATP rankings for a record-breaking 311 weeks, beating Roger Federer’s achievement of 310.
Djokovic’s latest stint as the highest-ranked men’s player began in February 2020, when he reclaimed the No.1 spot from his principal rival, Rafael Nadal of Spain.
The player’s remarkable achievement didn’t go unnoticed by his fans, who took to the streets of Belgrade to stage an impromptu party in honor of their idol. Djokovic and his family joined the crowd, watching fireworks in front of the restaurant they own in Belgrade.
The all-time great was spotted singing along with fans outside the restaurant in recognition of his historic feat.
Hundreds of fans chanted, “Nolo! Nolo!” and waved Serbian flags, while a stunning light show displaying the best moments from Djokovic’s career was projected onto Belgrade’s town hall.
After sharing the moment with fans, Djokovic celebrated the new record over dinner with his family and close friends.
Speaking of his pride the following day, Djokovic reflected: “As a kid, I would dream of lifting trophies and being best in the world. The hope was so powerful that it manifested itself against all the odds – finances, injuries, doubts, competing in the era of the biggest champions the sport has ever seen.
“I’m humbled to walk the path of our tennis legends and giants. To know I’ve earned my place among them gives me chills. It’s proof that anything is possible if your heart is in it and you’re championed by a team that never loses faith in you.
“I’m grateful for receiving each and every supportive message yesterday, which still proves to me that sport isn’t just records and trophies. The adversities we face, our highs and lows, the intensity with which we go for crazy, big dreams – all of it connects us deeper to each other.
“We are all together in this game. I’m celebrating this moment and so happy knowing that not only have I reached a huge milestone doing what I love to do, but that I also have many more years ahead of me playing my favorite sport in the world.”
Meanwhile, Spanish veteran Guillermo Garcia Lopez has recalled how his rival made him shed tears in his early days on the way to becoming a player who he describes as near-flawless.
Speaking about encountering the young Djokovic in the second round of Wimbledon in 2005, Garcia Lopez told The Times Hub: “When I came back, I was 6-5 and 40-0 – but he turned that game around and then [came] back. It was one of the few times that I have cried when leaving a court.
“Novak is a phenomenon and a good person. He shows pain more than others, and that sometimes feels bad.
“I remember playing against him in Estoril and, when the game was very even, he stopped for 10 or 15 minutes because he said he couldn’t see well. He was gone for ages.
“People do not quite understand how someone is able to recover when a moment ago he was not able to walk or his shoulder fell. I think he has a higher [pain] threshold than the others.
“I fully understand that…he likes to show his problems. He’s warm-blooded, Balkan, he gets nervous.”
Unsurprisingly, Garcia Lopez rates his countryman Nadal, Djokovic and fellow great Roger Federer as “different souls” in the sport.
“He is a misunderstood idol,” the former US Open finalist said of Djokovic. “Who should set an example? He must do what he believes and feels. Nobody should act like a robot.
“Perhaps he has little filter when it comes to speaking and he says what comes to mind – maybe not like you would say to a friend.
“But if he wants to say something, he says it and that sometimes takes its toll on [your reputation]. In any case, no one can argue that he is one of the best in history.”