A Young Serbian Player Has a Not-So-Secret Weapon: Novak Djokovic

Olga Danilovic has by no means skilled an environment just like the present court docket matches on the U.S. Open. Now she must wait at the very least one other yr.

Danilovic had been scheduled to play the reigning champion Naomi Osaka at midday on Wednesday, however withdrew from their second spherical match about an hour earlier than it was performed. Tournament officers stated Danilovic had a medical situation and that Osaka would advance to the third spherical.

“I am so sad to have to withdrawal from my match this morning,” Danilovic wrote in a post on Instagram. “I have been feeling unwell these past few days dealing with a non-covid related viral ilness. I was really looking forward to playing against Naomi on Arthur Ashe Stadium today, but not to be this time. I just want to say big thank you to medical stuff here in Us Open and everyone for your support and I cannot wait to be back in New York at this amazing tournament next year”.

Danilovic, a qualifier ranked 145th, has been mentored and impressed from a younger age by the 20-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, a compatriot who has quietly provided assist to many younger Serbian gamers, whilst he chases a spot atop the pantheon of males’s tennis historical past.

“When you talk to him you think, ‘OK, now I’m going to beat everyone after talking to him,’” Danilovic told Tennis.com earlier this year. “His energy and dedication and his passion to play and work is something that pushes you to be better.”

After successful his first round match on Tuesday night time, Djokovic stated Danilovic had been longing for a big-time alternative towards Osaka.

“She was asking me about how it feels to be on the big stage,” Djokovic stated. “Of course, you can say something, but then you really need to experience it. Hopefully she can use that to her own advantage, the motivation and inspiration.”

Danilovic, 20 broke into the WTA Top 100 after successful the Moscow River Cup in 2018, when she was solely 17, turning into the primary participant born this century to win a WTA title, however she struggled to win constantly.

Djokovic emphasised that Danilovic was nonetheless “really young.”

“She’s got the goods,” Djokovic stated. “She’s really, really strong, fit, tall, lefty; don’t have many good lefty servers in both the men’s and women’s game. I think it’s quite an advantage. If she’s serving well, she can do damage to a lot of players.”

What Danilovic is lacking, Djokovic stated, was expertise.

“The more matches she’s winning on this stage, the more comfortable she’s going to feel,” Djokovic stated. “So, yes, we’ve been speaking a lot. I’ve been trying to help her out as much as I possibly can, her team, her family, with guidance on and off the court, some advices.”

Danilovic has loads of athletic expertise in her household, though not in tennis. Her father, Sasha Danilovic, was a star taking pictures guard in European basketball leagues within the 1990s, and performed for 2 seasons within the N.B.A. He is now the president of the Basketball Federation of Serbia.

“She’s got the great genes for sport,” Djokovic stated Tuesday.

Djokovic watched Danilovic’s second-round match on the Australian Open courtside earlier this yr.

“I noticed at the very end,” Shelby Rogers, Danilovic’s opponent in that match, stated. “She definitely won the cheering squad award today, I’ll tell you that.”

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