Not for the first time this season, Novak Djokovic excelled under the gaze of NFL greatness with his fourth-round victory Sunday at the US Open.
In the stands at Flushing Meadows for the Serbian’s 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 triumph against Borna Gojo was NFL legend Aaron Rodgers. The New York Jets quarterback was following in the footsteps of his former on-field rival Tom Brady, who sat in Djokovic’s player box at Roland Garros in June as the Serbian charged to a record 23rd Grand Slam crown.
“It was a pleasure to have Aaron in the stands tonight for the match,” said Djokovic in his post-match press conference in New York. “I’m hoping he enjoyed himself. Obviously him, Tom Brady being in my box for Roland Garros finals and sitting next to my wife, was a huge honour. I have a relationship with Tom for several years. We go back. I have tremendous respect for him.”
Rodgers and Brady are the latest in a string of high-profile athletes from other sports to have watched or met ATP Tour great Djokovic over the years. His friends from other sports also include Swedish soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic.
“Zlatan is my favorite football player, no doubt,” said Djokovic. “His Balkan mentality is something that is very familiar to me, let’s say, even though maybe it looks weird to the rest of the world. I understand him very, very well, have known him the last 15 years.
“Nikola Jokic is the best basketball player in the world at the moment. Incredible guy. Everyone is so amazed with his skills, what he does on a basketball court. I’m not a basketball expert, so I can’t really talk about his game so much, but I’m a huge fan.
“Obviously a Serbian basketball player coming from Serbia, dominating the NBA, is something that doesn’t happen very often. I think it never happened in the history of our basketball in Serbia, that we had best basketball player in the NBA. That’s amazing. We all love him, support him.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals. Photo Credit: FIT
Djokovic believes that a unique mindset unites many of the elite sportspeople he interacts with. Even after all his achievements across his groundbreaking ATP Tour career, the 36-year-old remains on the lookout for any lessons he can take from fellow sporting greats.
“I try to maintain and nurture relationships with athletes from different sports because, as an athlete, of course I relate to them,” said Djokovic. “I…