Seeking love alongside tennis immortality

Novak Djokovic now has 21 Grand Slam titles

Novak Djokovic is already a sporting immortal but he will be desperately hoping he is finally becoming a “people’s champion” after winning a seventh Wimbledon crown on Sunday.

The Serb has long been seeking the missing ingredient to make him an equal of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the hearts of tennis fans.

Djokovic nibbled a blade of grass in his customary celebration before making his “cup of love” gesture to all corners of the Centre Court, who roared their approval for the champion.

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Many had already picked either the Swiss or the Spaniard as “their man” by the time Djokovic won his first major in 2008, leaving him in a position as the awkward interloper.

– Fiery character –

And some of his personal beliefs have drawn criticism — including his refusal to have the coronavirus vaccine, a decision that cost him a place in this year’s Australian Open.

Djokovic — so used to battling the crowd along with his opponent — appeared to have turned a corner at last year’s US Open final, which he lost to Daniil Medvedev

“The amount of support and energy and love I got from the crowd was something I’ll remember forever,” he said, giving an indication of how much it means to him.

Federer, approaching his 41st birthday, has been out of action for a year after a knee operation while Nadal, 36, pulled out before his semi-final at Wimbledon with an abdominal injury.

But he appears likely to be kicking his heels when the US Open starts next month at Flushing Meadows.

It is also unclear whether he will be able to travel to Melbourne to play in the Australian Open in January after his deportation earlier this year following a row over his vaccination status.

To add lustre to his achievements, he has winning records over both Federer and Nadal — 27-23 over the Swiss and 30-29 over the Spaniard.

He dropped gluten from his diet and his lithe physique allowed him to chase down lost causes, transforming him into the rubber man of tennis with a rock-steady defence.

Since then he has won at least one Grand Slam each year since apart from in 2017.

Father and son have been pictured playing together at Wimbledon this year but while the seven-year-old might be a future star Djokovic senior is far from finished.

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