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‘Novak has put Serbia on the map’

February 03, 2020 12:15 am | Updated 04:37 am IST - PUNE

Serbia's Viktor Troicki returns the ball to France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Serbia's Viktor Troicki returns the ball to France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Viktor Troicki was in a hurry. “I gotta go fast, it's fifth set, he’s just a couple of games away,” the Serb said after quickly wrapping up his final qualifying match. It was not long before Troicki watched Novak Djokovic — his Davis Cup doubles partner and one of his closest mates since their early days in war-torn Yugoslavia — win his eighth Australian Open and 17th Grand Slam title.

“Novak has put our nation on the map with all the things he has done for our country,” Troicki said. “He is the most famous person in the whole country and the region. People recognise it, kids want to be like him.”

The 33-year-old recollected those times back home when they were literally in penury. “We had nothing. There was no help from anyone except our parents, who were giving us everything they could. We had to go outside Serbia to even practice. Abroad, the kids that had everything — coaches, support behind them, the federations; we had nothing. We had to find it all on our own. That made us stronger and believe even more.

“Many, many, many players didn't make it, but we are the fortunate ones who did. Now, tennis has become very popular in Serbia, probably the most popular [sport] and because of Novak there are a lot of kids playing tennis. Federation is also supporting more and we have more clubs and more courts to play.”

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