The Tennis Space’s People of Influence:
Number 14: Novak Djokovic.
Sphere of influence: Men’s tennis, the international stage, diplomatic channels.
Here’s a debate to be had in tennis’s saloon bar: Serbia’s tennis players have done more than any politician or public figure in rehabilitating the country’s image. No longer is Serbia regarded as a pariah state. In no small way, that is thanks to Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic. After the men won the Davis Cup in 2010, they were given diplomatic status, a recognition of their importance in the international game of PR ping-pong. Djokovic has never been as important or as influential as he is now. He has won the last three slams, he is the world number one, and this month he had tea with David Cameron at Downing Street before winning the Sportsman of the Year accolade at the Laureus Sports Awards.
This month, Djokovic was also presented with Serbia’s highest honour, the Order of the Karadjordje’s Star of the first degree. “I may have dreamt of lifting the trophy at Wimbledon, but I could never have thought that my country would regard me with such a great honour,” Djokovic said.
Ask Men magazine, which put Djokovic at number 19 on their list of the most influential men, said: “Just when it looked like Rafael Nadal was set to begin his long reign atop the men’s rankings, the notoriously hot-headed Djokovic ignored the outside noise, put all his tools together and reminded us why, right now, men’s tennis is the most exciting sport on the planet.”
“I am indebted to my people and I will do my best to continue representing our beautiful country in the best possible way.”