By Alberto Amalfi | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Novak Djokovic is playing this Roland Garros with doubles vision—riveted on the bouncing ball in both the City of Light and Mile High City.
When Djokovic isn’t busy playing for his men’s record 23rd Grand Slam championship in Paris, he’s supporting fellow Serbian superstar Nikola Jokic aiming to lead the Denver Nuggets to the NBA title in the Final vs. the Miami Heat.
Despite his friendship with Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, the Djoker is backing the Joker for the NBA crown.
“Go Jokic, go Denver all the way,” Djokovic told the media at Roland Garros after defeating Marton Fucsovics 7-6(2), 6-0, 6-3 to reach the third round. “I really like Jimmy Butler, I think he’s a great guy. I admire him a lot. I’m a big basketball fan. I know he’s been coming to watch some of the tennis tournaments in States, Jimmy.
“But, you know, I’ve got to support my man Joker. So, yeah, I hope they win their first ring.”
The 36-year-old Djokovic and 28-year-old Jokic hail from different parts of Serbia, but share more than the same nickname. Both men have dominated their sports, both possess all-court games, have shrewd court sense and are shotmakers.
“Unbelievable. We are super proud of him,” Djokovic said of Jokic. “NBA League is the biggest and most important basketball league in the world. To be able to be the best player in that league for three years in a row is just stunning.”
Both Serbian stars share a love of nature. Djokovic often decompresses hiking in the mountains, while Jokic loves to ride horses. Djokovic said he respects Jokic for staying true to his Serbian roots.
“Coming from a small country and small city in our country, you know, very humble beginnings for him and he still stayed very modest, very humble, very simple guy, family guy,” Djokovic said of Jokic. “He loves his horses. You know, he’s only into horses, and I find that very funny, but at the same time, I respect it a lot, you know, because he’s sticking to his values, his beliefs, and what he cares about.
“He doesn’t mind what people think of him. Chapeau. You know, kudos to him. I’m a big fan of him. I hope he wins the finals.”
Two-time Roland Garros champion Djokovic isn’t the only contender invested in the NBA Finals.
Coco Gauff is a huge Miami Heat fan and friends with Jimmy Butler, sharing the story of how the Heat guard basically guaranteed Gauff his team would make the Finals before the playoffs began.
“This was before we were in the playoffs, the Heat were in the playoffs, he offered me tickets to see the last home game of the season,” Gauff said of Butler. “Then he DM’d me a couple weeks later, asking if I wanted more tickets to see the postseason. I said, I won’t be here. I’ll be in Madrid and then Rome and then France. And then he said, Okay, when we make the finals, let me know if your family wants some tickets.
“So this was before we were even in the playoffs. This is before we lost to the Hawks for the first play-in game. I just felt like I knew that — everybody is like we have a 3% chance of making the finals, but when he sent me that, I knew we were making the finals because he didn’t say “if we make the finals,” he said “when we make the finals.”
Photo credit: Sarah Reed/Getty