Should Novak Djokovic carry Serbia’s flag at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics? And which other tennis players might get the honour with their country’s flag?
The relationship between tennis and the Olympics is a funny one. Plenty of top players will admit, when pushed, that they don’t really think tennis has a place in the Games, in the purest sense. But it’s not their job what does and what doesn’t make it in and when they find themselves in that environment, with the best athletes in the world, they love it.
So it was no surprise to hear this week that Novak Djokovic would like to carry the Serbian flag at the opening ceremony, one of the real honours for any competitor and something few tennis players have done in the past.
Having won Serbia’s top award – the Order of the Karadjordje’s Star of the 1st degree, which recognises the world number one as the best ambassador of Serbia – Djokovic would seem to be the obvious choice to lead his country into the Olympic stadium on July 27.
Djokovic wears his heart on his sleeve and his country close behind, as he showed when leading them to their first ever Davis Cup triumph in 2010.
“The whole sporting world is focused on the next Olympics right now and in particular on the opening ceremony,” Djokovic told Serbian news agency Tanjug. “It would be an honour and an immense pleasure to carry the flag for my country on this occasion. This is the competition with the longest history and also the most important sporting event.
“Together with all my Serbia team-mates, I will be trying to win a medal in my sport. In life, everything is possible. I have seen that in my life in the last year and a half. I don’t want to seem arrogant but at this moment, there is no reason to be anything other than positive.”
Should Djokovic be handed the honour – and you’d have to think he’d have a great chance – he would be following in the footsteps of the likes of Roger Federer (2004 and 2008), Fernando Gonzalez, Nicolas Massu and Leander Paes in carrying their country’s flag.
And the Serb’s declaration of hope got me thinking; which other tennis players might be given the honour this year?
Former world number one Federer could make it three times out of three; Rafael Nadal would be a popular choice in Spain and perhaps someone from a smaller country, in Olympic terms, like Marcos Baghdatis for Cyprus, might get the nod.
And there is even more possibility on the women’s side. Though newly crowned Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has a host of Belarus stars to overcome to get the job, Li Na (China), Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark), Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) and even Kim Clijsters (Belgium) might be worth a dabble, if the bookies ever priced something like this up, that is.
And what about a sentimental vote for Venus Williams to carry the US flag? Ok, so the Americans have hundreds of great athletes but Venus is a role model and a star in her country and (providing her health actually allows her to make the team) it would be a fitting tribute to her commitment to her country over the years.
Just one note of caution for Djokovic. When Maria Sharapova came out and said she would like to fulfil the duty for Russia in 2008, the country’s coach Shamil Tarpischev said it would tire her out too much and then she got injured anyway and missed the Games. Just saying….
Oh, and did anyone notice those pictures of Djokovic in the Serbian mountains this week? Skiing must be just about the most dangerous sport a leading tennis player could do, but it seems nothing fazes him right now. It looked bloody cold, though.