WATCH: Emotional scenes as Novak Djokovic is overcome with tears during Serbia homecoming
Novak Djokovic and Serbia’s basketball team received a heroic welcome on the “famous” Belgrade balcony on their return to their home country following their recent successes.
World No 1 Djokovic, the most successful tennis player of all time, returned home after winning a record-extending 24th Grand Slam title by defeating Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final in New York on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Serbia basketball team were honoured after they won silver at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, finishing runners-up to Germany in the final in the Philippines.
And while the basketball team’s homecoming celebrations were planned in advance, Djokovic’s appearance was a surprise.
He arrived on stage at Stari Dvor (Old Palace) – the traditional balcony where sporting heroes are celebrated in Serbia – to rapturous applause and held the US Open trophy aloft.
Djokovic emociona-se após a receção no regresso à Sérvia pic.twitter.com/mgE2ARIWrG
— Cabine Desportiva (@CabineSport) September 12, 2023
Djokovic – who celebrated on the same balcony back in 2011 when he Wimbledon and became world No 1 for the first time in his career – was soon overcome with tears and players from the Serbia basketball team were quickly on hand to hug him.
“This is a childhood dream come true, because once upon a time I was down there and celebrating,” he said.
What a reception ❤️❤️pic.twitter.com/CFpGe0uioq
— Julie (@NDjokofan) September 12, 2023
He added: “I have never experienced something like this and I probably won’t. For the first time, I was on stage with champions from other sports, with people whom I endlessly admire, respect and support.
“Sharing their successes is something I will remember for the rest of my life. One of the most beautiful moments in my life for sure.”
During his post-match US Open press conference, Djokovic opened up about realising his childhood dreams, first winning Wimbledon and then becoming world No 1.
More than a decade later he is still at the top and has won a record 24 Grand Slams.
Asked how seven- or eight-year-old Djokovic – a young boy who grew up in war-torn Serbia – would feel about winning 24 majors, he replied: “At that point, that was definitely not a dream. I think I was already shooting very far as a seven-year-old dreaming of Wimbledon and No 1 in the world.
“I mean, that was already, you know, incredibly high ambition for someone coming from a family with no tennis tradition, for a boy in Serbia going through sanctions and embargo, war-torn country, and being part of the very expensive and unaffordable, unaccessible sport.
“The odds were pretty much against me and my family, but, you know, we did it. I say ‘we’, because I owe a lot to my family, to my parents who sacrificed so much for me to be here. And that’s not a cliché. I really mean it. It was extremely, extremely difficult with lots of adversities that they had to face and atrocities that when you think about it, you know, the last thing you want to think about is supporting maybe your child in expensive sport.
“It was more about bringing the bread to the kitchen table, you know, at that point. So reflecting on the whole journey, it’s been an incredible, incredible ride that we all can be very proud of.
“This kind of upbringing, really, and experiences I had in childhood really allows me to appreciate this moment or any other moments that I experienced, big moments in my career in the history of this sport.
“I wasn’t at that point, as I said, dreaming of making that kind of history, because it seemed to be really far off, far away.
“But maybe three, four years ago, I started to believe that, you know, I have a pretty good shot, pretty good chance.”
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