But if you have to pick just one essential starting point, perhaps it is best to drive south from the capital toward the still-disputed border with Kosovo and follow the serpentine mountain road to Kopaonik, Serbia’s leading ski resort. Like so much of this diminished nation, Kopaonik has seen better days and is preparing to see them again.
It was here that Novak Djokovic’s family, much more familiar with schussing down slopes than hitting balls over nets, once operated several small businesses — including a pizzeria, a sports equipment shop and an art gallery — on the ground floor of a large complex during the winter and summer. And it was here that the state-owned Yugoslav company Genex, which developed much of Kopaonik, chose to build three tennis courts just across the parking lot from where the Djokovics opened their Red Bull restaurant in the late 1980s.
Now full of cracks, holes and undulations, the green hardcourts are hardly a playground for the elite. It is hard to believe that the world’s third-best player, the man who held off Roger Federer at the United States Open in September, emerged from this.
Ocean is shown in front of a statue of Novak Djokovic, the Serbian tennis star and current world’s number one men’s tennis player. He got the statue from the Master’s Championship in Beijing last year. It is in the style of the terracotta warriors from the famous archeological site.
We visited the Novak Tennis Center in downtown Belgrade last night. The family with the help of the city has created a tennis center that can host an ATP tourney as well as become a tennis academy. We looked around and will book a court for later this week. They had some reasonable prices and the club seemed very nice. I’ll do a blog post when we play.
Djokovic won the Roger’s Cup last night in Montreal, Canada. He raised his record to an amazing 53-1 this year. That is a 98% winning percentage and he is on pace to beat the best single season record ever of 82-3 set by John McEnroe. His 43 consecutive wins to start the season was the most since the ATP era began in 1990. Only Ivan Lendl (44) and Guillermo Vilas (46) have had longer streaks. Federer’s longest streak was 41 and Nadal’s was 32 wins.
The Roger’s Cup victory was his fifth “Master’s” series, also a record in a single season. The Master’s series are tournaments that all the top-ranked players must play and are worth more points and money on the tour. Djokovic skipped the Master’s tourney in Monte Carlo because of a knee injury, otherwise he probably would have had six. He is playing in the Cincinati Masters this week. Besides the Master’s wins, he also won two majors, the Australian and Wimbledon. The US Open begins at the end of this month. Novak also has accumulated almost 8 million dollars in prize money this year and is heading towards the record of Rafael Nadal, who won over 10 million in one season.
I don’t think that his season is getting enough attention. I hope he can finish out the season undefeated, it would be a remarkable feat.
As expected, Novak Djokovic won the inaugural Serbia Open in a straight sets victory over Lucasz Kubot. It wasn’t as easy as I thought, as Novak had a flair for the dramatic, going down 2-5 in the second set, only to come back to win, 7-6 (7-0) in a tiebreaker. Djokovic won the first set, 6-3.
Kubot did not have history on his side. He was a Lucky Loser from Poland and ranked #179 in the world. Kubot did win the doubles tourney however, his second career ATP title. This was Novak’s 13th ATP tour title.
It was a celebration for Serbia. The hero brought the ATP tour to this tennis mad country. It was a beautiful day, with the Kalmegdan Fortress on one side of the stadium, and the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers on the the other. The President, Prime Minister, and Serbian military representatives were all there as well as a packed, enthusaistic stadium.
Owen, Nadia and I really enjoyed the game. We got to see Tito’s Blue Train (a future post) and some world class tennis.
Nadia, Owen and I are excited for our first ATP Finals tomorrow. We will be attending the Novak Djokovic, err, excuse me, Serbia Open. I joke that it should be called the Novak Open as he bought the rights to the Dutch Open tourney and moved it to his hometown of Belgrade. Thankfully, he didn’t disappoint his family and the home crowd and made it to the finals. Unfortunately, all the Serb players ended up in the same side of the draw and Djokovic cruised through defeating two Serbs, including the second highest ranked Serb, Victor Trocki (#40 in the world). It was almost like a Davis Cup practice. Tonight he got by the Italian, Andreas Seppi, but lost one set.
He will be taking on a “Lucky Loser” named Lukasz Kubot, from Poland. He is the first Polish player in an ATP final in 27 years. The term lucky loser means that Kubot lost in the qualifying rounds to get into the tourney, but due to an injury, was the alternate and got to enter the main singles draw. Only 5 lucky losers have won ATP events in the last 30 years. Lukasz is a decent doubles player, with one ATP doubles title, and he is currently ranked #22 in doubles, but #179 on the singles tour. After catching a lucky break to get into the tourney, he got another one when #25 ranked Russian Igor Andreev, withdrew in the first set of their second round match. This afternoon he defeated world #24, Ivo Karlovic, the 6 foot 10 inch big server from Croatia. For Kubot, with a career singles record of 15-16, this was the biggest win of his career. The 26 year old will have the biggest match of his career tomorrow.
Does Kubot have a chance tomorrow? His only hope is that Djokovic played late tonight and played three sets, and he might be tired tomorrow afternoon. Will Novak be over confident? Kubot has to be happy already with getting this far and the guaranteed 40,000 Euros. Will his luck continue?
I predict a straight sets victory for Djokovic, and if Kubot wins 6 games in the two sets, he should still consider himself lucky.
With our finals tickets, we also have access to the doubles final. I see that tonight, Kubot won again and he will be playing in the doubles final as well with partner Oliver Marach.