Novak Djokovic is one of the greatest athletes of our time. He’s dominated the tennis world in a way few others have. But the art of tennis is not the only thing the 32-year-old has mastered. Djokovic has also shown incredible sportsmanship throughout his career. Two specific examples of his otherworldly grace demonstrate just how nice the tennis star really is.
Novak Djokovic’s achievements
Currently the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Djokovic’s record over the course of his career is 871-182. He’s claimed 75 titles and won nearly $135 million in prize money. The Serbian athlete’s last Grand Slam win occurred at Wimbledon, which brought his record to 35-6 this year.
Djokovic grew up idolizing Pete Sampras, and his career turned out an awful lot like his hero’s. Here are some of his notable accomplishments:
- Five-time ATP Men’s Player of the Year (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2018)
- 16 Grand Slam titles
- Appeared in 51 straight Grand Slams before skipping the 2017 U.S. Open due to injury
- Career Grand Slam win-loss record of 277-42
The Joker, ballboy, and umbrella
When a tennis player is in the zone, rain can really disrupt their flow. Ballboys and ballgirls can help them out by holding an umbrella over their heads during a break in play. It’s seen as a common courtesy toward the players who work so hard to win. Of course, for someone as humble as Djokovic, this wouldn’t do.
When a ballboy approached Djokovic with an umbrella at Roland-Garros in 2014, the world’s best player flipped the script. He first invited the attendant to sit alongside him rather than hover over him. Then, Djokovic put an arm around the kid and took the umbrella from his hand, holding it over him to keep him dry.
It’s unclear whether the ballboy had any pointers for Joker on his umbrella-holding technique, but it appeared to be effective. The fact that a world-class athlete like Djokovic would take a moment to put himself on the same level as a ballboy says volumes about the tennis great’s character.
Five years later, Djokovic had another French Open moment, demonstrating sportsmanship and class unlike any other.
Djokovic overrules the umpire in favor of his opponent
At the 2019 French Open, Djokovic’s up-and-coming German opponent Alexander Zverev was serving at 4-3. Zverev hit a serve that Djokovic didn’t return. It looked good to both players, but the umpire called it out.
Zverev urged the umpire to look at the mark the ball left, which would indicate it was in. The umpire did, but his call remained. This wouldn’t be the end of it.
Djokovic took a look at the mark, walked back to his initial position, and gave Zverev another opportunity at first serve. It was truly a rare occurrence in sports. Most athletes would take advantage of a call going against them, even if they knew it was wrong.
Djokovic took a different route, however, essentially overruling the umpire in this case. It could be said that the tennis star has a future in officiating when his playing days are done. But more than likely, his strong ethical code overruled the desire to play with the slight advantage of an incorrect call.
There’s no question Djokovic is a great player. These instances show he is a pretty great person,too.