A Word from @Noleksa: Nole’s Numbers – or Top 9 Reasons Why Novak Djokovic is Particularly Amazing

April 8, 2011

One person who’s been making a fair few headlines lately is the incredible Novak Djokovic. A long-time favourite on this blog, we’ve been more than delighted to see the awesomeness streak that Nole’s been leaving across Australia, the Middle East, and the USA – in fact, Dubai excepting, pretty much any continent where I’ve been over the last few months. Huh, how’s that.

But there’s one continent that matters more than the rest, and that’s Nole’s home of Belgrade, Serbia. Luckily there’s one lady who knows better than the rest of us just how fabulous this man has been – because she’s our resident Serbian on Twitter, and lover of all things Nole. Even my Davis Cup envy can’t get in the way of jumping into a Nole Love Bubble with this girl during his matches.

To wax lyrical from her fountain of knowledge, I present to you… the lovely and fabulous NOLEKSA!

9. Nole finished ATP World No. 3 for the four straight years and he achieved it in the era of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (2007-2010).

8. Novak has won 7 ATP Masters Titles which makes him the 6th player on All-Time list of Masters Champions behind Rafael Nadal (18), Roger Federer (17), Andre Agassi (17), Pete Sampras (11), andThomas Muster (8).

7. Only four active players have reached semi-finals of all Grand Slams: Roger Federer, David Nalbandian,Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. And the feat was achieved in that chronological order.

6. Also, in 2008 at 20 years of age by reaching Australian Open semi-finals, before winning his first Grand Slam Trophy, Nole has become the youngest player in Grand Slam Open Era history to reach the semi-finals of all four Grand Slam events, separately and consecutively.

5. Nole is the fourth player since 1990 to win the three biggest titles (Australian Open, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells, and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami) in the first three months of theseason (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras).

4. Nole is the first player since Roger Federer in 2006 to win both Indian Wells and Miami in the same year.

3. Nole has won 24 straight matches since the start of 2011, which is the third longest streak to start theyear behind Ivan Lendl (started 25-0 in 1986) and John McEnroe (started 39-0 in 1984).

Bearing in mind that during the aforementioned streak Nole has achieved 5:0 score vs. the Rafael Nadal and the Roger Federer we can arguably call it “the mother of all hot streaks”.

It takes greatness to inspire greatness.

2. Nole is 23 and Rafa is 24 and yet they have played each other 25 times already.
Rafa leads their H2H 16:9 but Nole is the only player to score 9 wins against Rafael Nadal.
Out of these 25 matches Rafa and Nole played thus far seven (7) were Finals matches, eleven (11)were Semifinals, three (3) Quarterfinals, three (3) were Round Robin matches at the ATP Year End Championships (World Tour Finals), and one (1) was Round Robin match in Davis Cup World Group tie.

1. Nole is the most loved athlete in Serbia, a very sport-centric country, and is a proud double winner of the award ‘The Best Sportsperson of Serbia’ and award for ‘The Best Sportsman by Olympic Committee of Serbia’.

NUFF SAID. THANK YOU, ALEKSA!

Now I’ll say my bit… Here are some of my own reasons we love this man:

He’s hilarious when he talks, entertains anyone and everyone, looks fabulous with his shirt off and, oh yeah, he plays a mean game of tennis.

Also, along with a lovely little elf called Juan Martin Del Potro, he is the only man aside from The Big Two of Nadal and Federer to win a Grand Slam within the last six years.

I rest my case.


Watch out, FIFA Scouts

March 22, 2011

When you watch as many post-match pressers and read as many tennis profiles as I do, it’s easy to start assuming that tennis is kinda the uncool little-brother sport to it’s cool-big-brother sport of football slash soccer. Many players admit to wanting to play football when they were younger, some dropped out in order to make room for tennis, and there are still a few who readily acknowledge they would’ve preferred to be better at their bigger, glitzier, shall we say more-universally-renowned big-bro sport. As a hardcore tennis fan, this is when it’s apt to grin smugly that “we” got that dude who looks rather dashing with an unclad torso in “our” camp, even though he clearly wants to be bromancing it up on a muddy field with twelve of his equally dashing European-or-South-American-but-either-way-from-a-hot-looking-country mates.

Luckily, some tournaments let our boys release that inner energy, and that’s why last week at Indian Wells the grassy turf killed about seventeen birds with one stone, giving the boys a chance to get kickity and the girls a chance to watch. (Credit to C Note for doing an amazing job stalking – I mean, blogging – and keeping us posted with the soccerhotness.

Now we’ve moved on beyond a few minutes of boys kicking around a tennis ball at the end of practice, Melbourne-style, or some serious grassy matches, a la Indian Wells. In Florida, the childhood fantasies get indulged and your favourite specimens of men-with-unclad-upper-torsos will be showing off their goods – for a good cause.

I know I’ve made this sound trivial, but it’s not, so let me go on: This is really all about Japan, and the ATP guys have gotten together to raise money for the victims of the disastrous earthquakes and tsunami of the last week. This is not the first time this sporting organisation has gotten together to raise funds for relief to those hit by natural disasters (see: Haiti; Chile; Queensland) and it’s a very special thing to see. This week in Coconut Grove, Florida, an ATP all-star team of tennis players will be bringing their soccer skillz to the stadium so you can all throw your cash at them and make sure it goes to help the people of Japan. Who need it. Really bad.

According to Nole, who, let’s face it, is teacher’s pet of the ATP at the moment:

“I am very concerned for the people of Japan and think it is only right that we do whatever we can to help those in need,” Djokovic said.

“I would love to see all of Miami support both events by showing up Wednesday, March 23rd at the Ransom Everglades High School soccer field at 7:00 pm to cheer on your favorite team and attending the dinner afterward.”

More facts:

The match against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers will take place at Ransom Everglades High School (3575 Main Highway), a couple miles south of the tournament in Coconut Grove at 7:00 pm. A dinner and auction will follow the soccer match at an undisclosed Miami location. Info at http://www.GR8Miami.com.

Confirmed ATP Players
Novak Djokovic (Team Captain, obvs)
Kei Nishikori (Japanese rep, vital)
Rafael Nadal (Little boy’s dream, couldn’t be left out)
Andy Murray (Nole doesn’t leave out his besties)
Fernando Verdasco (Too cool for the tennis court. Also, looks good shirtless)
Feliciano Lopez (See above).

Also included are other fine graduates of the European summer outdoor training scheme and unclad torso specimens:

Richard Gasquet; Viktor Troicki; Marcos Baghdatis; David Ferrer; Jurgen Melzer

Kick away, lovely gentlemen!


State of the Nation: Tennis

March 22, 2011

For those of you who aren’t perpetually linked in to the world of tennis via a plethora of fancy tools that your parents call “hi-tech” and you call “my life, dammit”, you may not have had the same last several weeks as the rest of us, watching a little piece of yellow fuzz being hit back and forth by exceptional characters clad in various fashions showcasing specific examples of the amazing strength of the human body. Such shenanigans were going on in the state of California, in a little-known place just off Palm Springs, called Indian Wells.

Indian Wells is supposedly an oldies resort, where tennis courts and golf courses stretch on for mile after green mile, overlooked by the oh-so-purdy snow-capped mountains in the background. As players converge on this little spot of the California desert in the beginning of March for the first Masters Tournament of the season, it’s all about seeing just who’s held up since the last time the boys and girls got together in Melbourne: Will the up-and-comers (hi, Dolgy, Bernie, Milos, yeah you) live up to the hype? Is Novak Djokovic really on fire? Can Roger Federer cash in his superannuation yet? Does Caro really DESERVE the Number One ranking? (Yawn.) And, more importantly: How fat is Fernando Verdasco? Does Jada need a haircut for those cute blonde curls? Are all Serbian fans really that awesome? Will John Isner EVER get the girl?

The questions of tennis fans never cease, and we tend to have the important stuff covered: Food, fashions, children, celebrity friends, rumoured relationships, bromances with other sports, how men look with their shirts off. Tennis journalists, on the other hand, and dabblers in the sport we like to call “casual fans”, all have just one question, constantly, and damn it does get boring:

OMG, So, Like, Do you think, like, Roger Federer, isn’t he, just the BEST EVER? *gush* Followed by: How about that Nadal dude? What’s wrong with Andy Murray?

And lately, if you get just the right sort of tennis fan: “What’s up with Djokovic? He won the Australian Open, hey?”

And the zinger: “So are Federer and Nadal over?”

I love reading responses to this question because everyone pretends to know and no-one really knows and the fun part is, we’ll never know, until it happens, and THAT’S WHY WE LOVE THIS SPORT SO MUCH.

We love sport BECAUSE it’s unpredictable. Because there is no way of knowing what’s going to happen next. Because tennis, of all glorious wonderful sports, is so wondrous precisely because you can be staring three match points in the face at 5-4 in the 2nd set only to have it turned around to face ANOTHER match point in the tie-break to TURN IT ALL AROUND and win the goddamn match in the third set and then WIN THE TOURNAMENT. Because when your friend texts you to find out what time you’ll be done watching the tennis and you say “I don’t know” it’s because, You really don’t bloody know.

And that’s why it’s awesome.

We don’t know if Nole will end the year number one, or Rafa, or even (please not) Roger. We don’t know if Nole’s luck will snap, or he’ll finish Miami with the hard-court-major-trifecta (Melbourne, Indian Wells, Miami) and get the longest streak ever, or take over Number One by riding through clay season.

Or if Rafa will join a soccer team tomorrow and Roger opens a day-care center and leave the rankings open slather for the rest of the top 10. Andy Murray could win the next fourteen slams after this, and everyone will laugh hysterically at the hiccup of the first few slam finals he was in.

I’m happy to say that the Indian Wells results were true to life, in my humble, stream-watching-incessantly-tweeting opinion. I *do* think Caroline Wozniacki deserves the Number One spot, and I’m glad she proved it. I *do* believe Novak Djokovic is on an unbelievable hot streak and the better player of the big three – as he so proved to us this weekend. Having those two as our champions this weekend says something about the state of the nation in sport – and having two kids who are both pretty awesome, as far as kind, generous, funny (ok, only Nole, but Caro does give good tweet when Jisner is around), good-looking ambassadors to a sport that needs a bit of marketing help – is a total plus. As for what happens next? Who the hell knows. But I sure as hell can’t wait to find out.

THIS SPORT IS THE BESTEST, YOU GUYS.

Because no matter what happens tomorrow, I know I’ll be sitting somewhere in the world – whether in a hot and sweaty bar in Thailand, on a laptop in my apartment in Brooklyn, in an Irish pub in Spain, or courtside at a Grand Slam – and waiting with bated breath to see what happens next.


On Top Of The World

March 22, 2011

Yesterday, Novak Djokovic proved he’s on top of the world – and, without a doubt to most – the best tennis player in the world right now. He did what we love to see, taking out Federer and Nadal in the same tournament, and extended his winning streak to 18-0 in the season – that’s 20 if you add in some fun times on a packed arena in his home town, Belgrade last year. He’ll get on the wikipedia page for tennis match streaks when he hits 26 – so, Miami, anyone?

Today he showed his domination by going – where else? – but the top of the world. Rather, the top of some pretty meadows and hills, but dammit, it took guts. And only with the confidence you’d have being Novak Djokovic right now would you actually attempt such a thing.

Though, looking at the cables attached, I’m thinking it’d be a similar experience to hangliding or paragliding. Which, as someone who has skydived one awesome time, doesn’t seem to be *that* big a deal. Yup, that’s me asserting my street cred for you, right now.

This is why my sport is so much better than yours. In case I haven’t made that point about nineteen million times over the last year and a bit of blogging.

Oh tennis.


Matte or Dewy?

March 18, 2011

This video is wonderful for many reasons, including the view of Indian Wells, a tournament that is growing on me to the extent I’m considering planning a nice little tennis holiday next year this time. It’s also got a Hi from Kei, and if you look ruhlly ruhlly closely at 3.08, a pretty lady in a ponytail who may or may not be Ana Ivanovic warming up.

How much would you give to be the makeup artist so artfully patting gel in Delpo’s spikey ‘do…. Or spongeing Tomas with what we can only assume would be foundation of the dewy type. I’d recommend a liquid-to-powder formula, personally.


Court 13 Exclusive: This Is How We Party, Serbian-style

February 8, 2011

The last drop of vodka has been drunk, the last headache pill has been popped, and we’ve finally given up begging for a hangover cure and just ridden the wave. Novak’s win was just a short week ago, but the parties in Belgrade are still going strong, if a notable presence missing from Rotterdam is anything to go by.

Wanna see how they party? We know how it began, we know how it continued.. but we sure as hell don’t know how it ends.

Now lucky we are the snapparazzi with a crappy point and shoot, because we’re about to show you what we do know:

It started with this:

Forget a man in a crazy Serbian wrestling, or perhaps rowing? Costume. The Yavise Nole was happening and happening loud. Serbians to the back, Serbians to the front, and a helluva heap of Serbians to the side. FYI, Yavise Nole means something along the lines of “say hello, Nole”. Why he would say Hello when about to serve for a championship is beyond me.
Which he then proceeded to do.

And then thanked his lovely team, who we had such a great time papping all evening:

One of whom was happy to celebrate accordingly with the singing Serbians… his name is Uncle Djo.

By which time the party had begun.

Hardcore tennis fans may recall a sunny Sunday in Belgrade a few short months ago, where a country made sporting history, and promptly proceeded to make Youtube history with a series of golden celebratory videos that warmed the cockles of any Serbian fan. Viktor Troicki jumping on a car and dancing to trumpets? Why, thank you kindly.

This blatant display of gorgeous bromantic patriotism had us at ajde, and the Davis Cup envy only grew after Nole raised the championship trophy and thanked his country. Lucky we had the chance to be in Davis Cup video round 2, when the Serbians followed Nole to the broadcast compound in Garden Square.

Nole’s as good a party whore as the rest of us, so clearly he couldn’t be left out for long. Between interviews, the champion was standing on the platform, shaking his fist and singing along, cheering for his countrymen who were so beautifully proud of their sporting hero.

So much so that down came the shoes, those gorgeous red and blue and white Serbian symbols of awesome, thrown down to the two biggest cheerleaders of the group.

Don’t worry, we scored ourselves a photo and a feel.


PAPPED

January 31, 2011

There’s one thing to have lovely seats, and get to watch fabulous tennis up front, and dance around with the Serbian army.

But the beauty of a slam final is all the other people who stand up and take an interest, because it’s a Slam, and it’s a final. And those people, who dot the audience, are sometimes of the famous persuasion.

So we decided to pap them.

I have now buried all journalistic integrity and will share with you accordingly the fruits of my surreptitious iPhone use combined with deftness and dexterity with my point and shoot. Excuse the fuzziness.

Celeb spotter extraordinaire, LP spotted Eric Bana in the crowd. Having a lovely chatskie with Vince Colosimo.

Before all that happened, of course, this lady arrived.

Molly was there too… but I was actually papping the Serbians at the time.

Alicia looked lovely.

And shared secrets with the lovely Renae Stubbs, also in the same row.

 

Who else? Oh yeah, just a player box filled with the most awesome Serbs you’ve ever met.

And Ana.

Yeah. That’s called papped.


What Ajde Looks Like

January 31, 2011

Buzzed is the only way to describe the feeling of a Grand Slam final and its aftermath. You spend all week, roaming the outer courts, watching two random people from countries you can’t point out on a map, with last names you can’t pronounce, hitting a piece of yellow fuzz with a wooden implement strung with netting, and somehow it’s all significant. When that same scene gets played out in an arena watched by thousands of people, with millions of others watching on TV, commenting via social networks and writing about it in newspapers, all of a sudden it’s elevated to the next level. That tiny match you watched on an outer court, with only a few stray family members, a coach, and some off-duty ballkids watching? That was all part of it, all spinning that huge intricate web that somehow led to this time, this place. Now.

That’s how we headed into RLA tonight, feeling like the antics of Rally for Relief and the incessant court-hopping of Rounds One and Two were more than just a few weeks ago, but knowing they all somehow knitted themselves together to get us here, to watch these two champions take each other on.

Suddenly it all made sense – let’s be honest, the Hiisense debacle that insisted on slaughtering every Serbian that came in its path? It was a sacrifice, an offering to the tennis lords who dared deem Serbia worthy of a grand slam. The cool breezes, the rainy patches, the lack of the typical Australian heat? It was a nice reprieve for two men who spent their leadup to this tournament gearing up for precisely that type of weather, and then sailed through the final day, when the mercury hit over 40 (that’s over 100 for you northern folk). Suddenly it all came together, and we found ourselves in Rod Laver Arena, watching Novak Djokovic take the Championship over Andy Murray in three gorgeously played sets of brilliant tennis.

Not that, of course, that’s all we did. Being the girls that we are, far more comfortable on the outer courts than we are in Centre Court, we found it disconcertingly awesome and straight out of our tennis fantasies to find ourselves on the outside of Team Djokovic’s box, in an area dotted with celebrities, while our two favourites battled it out. So we did lots of papping along with educating our neighbours (Jake Garner: Correctiontheballwasgood; Neighbour: What did he say? Me: Correction.. The ball was good… I watch too much tennis, don’t I?) and then we cried when Nole won.

True story.

Pictures, you want? Okay, here’s what Ajde Looks like.

We arrived, and Jake was there. Jake was standing in his blazer, waiting around.

Then Jake stood in his blazer, waiting around, with a child. The child was a Tennis Australia prodigy. I think. I wasn’t really listening. There was awesomeness to be absorbed.

Then Jake stood in his blazer, waiting around, with Muzza at his side. They were waiting for Nole, who was doing this:

Yeah, I know my pics are grainy and you can get prettier ones from Getty and whatnot. But this is my story and I’m sticking to it. Wanna read on?

We were really busy trying to get a glimpse of this lady here. Ain’t she pretty? And ooh she had such lovely bling on.

Nole was playing too. Even with the neverending ball toss.

He played bee-yoo-tifully. Like, the best tennis I’ve ever seen. Which doesn’t speak much for my quality tennis journalism, but let me say this. He was on fire, from the top of his recently-grown-back-spikey-shaven-head to his Sergio-Tachini-clad-Nole-emblazoned-tushy to his super-duper-extra-traction-Serbia-coloured-Adidas shoes.

He was on fire.

Not that Andy wasn’t either. All rumours of a choke are hereby dismissed by yours truly, because i was close enough I would’ve smelled the bile. This was no choke – this was awesome meets awesomer, and Andy was out-awesomed.

The Ajde Army may have helped:

Particularly this handsome young man:

Or maybe this fine lady:

Though Muzza wasn’t completely alone in his corner. Aside from having a fabulous Mum, he had such gentlemen as these, one of whom consistently had to remind him: “It’s your Slam, Andy, this is your tournament!” Um, okay.

Aside from Team Serbia singing from one group to another throughout every change of ends, there was lots of papping to be seen, with Eric Bana and Vince Colosimo having chats down the bottom, Molly Meldrum watching riveted from the top, Dave Hughes looking antsy to our right, and Alicia Molik and Renae Stubbs holding animated conversations mid-point to our left. That doesn’t include the riveting people watching enabled by an excited Serbian army located immediately next to Novak’s box, begging Ana for autographs, shaking hands with Djoko family members, and somewhere, somehow, involving an Orthodox Priest. Not quite sure how he scored the invite.

And then this happened, and we all lived happily ever after.


No Title Is Sufficient: NOLE

January 31, 2011

We’ve done our fair share of Grand Slam Gallivanting, particularly over the last two weeks.

From qualies to the finals, we’ve watched matches everywhere from the back courts to the show courts, from qualifying singles to wheelchair to juniors to mixed doubles. Everything has been an adventure, everything has been awesome. We’ve discovered new players and rekindled our love with old favourites; we’ve become enamoured with familiar faces and turned away from some who have just gotten that little bit too irritating. But old habits die hard, and with Nole, we’ve always known: It Must Be Love.

If someone could create tennis heaven for me, this evening was close to it. Let’s start with, say, a really hot Melbourne day – the kind where the term “stinking hot” was coined precisely for the purpose of describing the phenomenon. The beauty of such days, however, is in the evenings – instead of freezing away as the wind and the seagulls throw shadows over Rod Laver Arena, the warm air wraps around you like a blanket and you sit in the lush green grass and revel in all that is Melbourne.

That was tonight.

It was warm and it was sunny and the courts were sparkling blue and the people piling up in Garden Square and the sound of the thwack of the ball making me excited and the universe was beautiful. Then it got even more wonderful, when we made our way into Rod Laver Arena to discover the best seats in the house – were ours. I’m talking, eight rows from the front, slightly to the right of Nole’s box, surrounded by celebrities, best seats in the house.

It gets better.

Two of my favourite players in the universe, did you say? Sure, I’ll watch them play, say, a Grand Slam final. At my favourite tennis tournament in the universe? Why, how kind of you. And in the best seats in the house. Muchos Gracias.

We papped the celebrities, we watched amazing tennis, we tweeted and laughed and whispered throughout. We congratulated the Serbian box and cheered with the Serbian army. We danced through Garden Square and chanted throughout Nole’s post-match press interviews. It was like living in a YouTube video, and the high is not yet over.

Muchos, muchos pics to come. Excuse my terrible patience at uploading and awful photographic skills and hang in there.


Where It All Started

January 29, 2011

The US Open was appropriate in its finish. We had Rafole Doubles starting us off in Toronto, and it finished accordingly.

The Oz Open has gone one better, as it is wont to do.

Remember this?

Q. Now is it hard to balance the friendship and the professional rivalry or do you achieve that?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I sent him a message yesterday after his semifinal saying like, Perth final, because we practiced in Perth a couple times this year. We had fun. We played football there. He won, unfortunately.

It’s fun. It’s been a fun couple of weeks. I think we, as well, reconnected a little bit with the friendship in the last 12 months.

Well, we have to forget about all that when we step on the court. It’s all business. I’m sure he’s going to be very eager to win a first Grand Slam title.

 

See you tomorrow night, lads. Bring on the bromance.


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