One minute, he’s doing the splits alongside a gymnast from Belgium. The next he’s chatting it up with Brazilian volleyball players, eating with a Mexican weightlifter and doling out advice to a cadre of Olympians from Turkey.
Based on social media posts from his first few days in Tokyo, world tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic may just be the most popular man in the Olympic Village. And it seems he’s more than willing to oblige his fellow athletes with selfies, conversations and stretching techniques.
“It’s a fantastic for experience for me,” Djokovic said. “It’s great that to see that there’s a lot of athletes that appreciate tennis players, that follow tennis.
“We are here as representatives of our country and we also represent our sport when we’re amongst other athletes in our village and it’s a very unique experience to be around the best athletes in the world, observe how they train in the gym, how they recover, what they eat, what they think about life, sports, just exchange experiences and knowledge. It’s wonderful. It’s a lot of fun.”
That is not particularly different from what most Olympic athletes experience when they get to the Games, but of course Djokovic is not just any athlete. He has won 20 Grand Slam titles, tying him with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most all time. He has made more than $150 million in just on-court earnings over the course of his career. He’s likely going to go down as the best player in the history of the game and is arguably the most famous person on a worldwide scale in the entire Olympic Village.
Under those circumstances, it would be easier for Djokovic to spend his time here locked up in a fancy hotel where he could have privacy. After all, the primary reason he’s here is to add a gold medal to the three major titles he’s won this year and become the first man ever to win the so-called Golden Slam if he could add the U.S. Open too.
But based on more than dozen photos and videos that have popped up on Instagram and Twitter from the last few days, the opposite seems to be true. Djokovic might be the most accessible, approachable superstar at the Games.
And he appears to truly relish the opportunity – not just to be part of the Serbian team but to experience something different from life on the tennis tour where players and their coaching teams are largely secluded from each other.
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) July 24, 2021
“It always has been like that in the Olympic experience, in the Olympic Village and I’ve been fortunate to now be part of a fourth Olympics,” Djokovic said. “As an individual athlete you don’t get to experience much on the tour. Being part of maybe a team competition like the Davis Cup, the ATP Cup can maybe give you a sense of that feeling but Olympic games are very unique. It’s just different and it’s wonderful. I enjoy every moment.”