Thursday Thirteen

1. What is your first association about Serbia? From my experience while I was traveling through Europe or attending in some international summer schools abroad majority (especially non Europeans, especially North Americans) don’t have a clue where Serbia is, moreover lots of them miss even the continent! Other minority who knows about Serbia knows about civilian war, collapse of Yugoslavia, war criminals etc. And only few knows Serbia thanks to some good things, mainly thanks to sport.

2. I just reminded myself when I was in Madrid two years ago, I asked police officer in Palacio Real to take picture of his hat (they have hilarious hats) but it wasn’t possible. He asked me where I’m from and when I replied Serbia he instantly asked me “Are you fan of Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) or Partizan?” I was in shock literally! (those are two sport clubs with great rivalry between them). I said Red Star and then he asked me “Who are your favourites basketball players?” When I replied he said “Oh? But many of them played in Partizan!” Yes but all of them played for Serbia. Point is that policeman knew much better Serbian basketball scene than me (as he said he “adores Serbian basketball”) which impressed me. And this will be this week’s TT topic. Serbian Sport!

novak3. It might be huge topic and that’s why I’d like to write only about Serbian Tennis Miracle!

Namely, last weekend was a Serbian Weekend in Tennis: Novak Djokovic won Roger’s Cup, Canada Open (wining #3, #2, and #1 (Rodick, Nadal & Federer) respectively, first time after Boris Becker 1994 in Stockholm; And first player who defeated both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same tournament). Ana Ivanovic knew that Novak Djokovic had already beaten Roger Federer before she took the court for the final at the East West Bank Classic, Los Angeles:
“I was motivated to do the same thing,” she said and she did exactly that.

4. Start of this Serbian tennis boom was at last French Open – Rolland Garros where Serbia has four players in semis: Djokovic was in man single semis, Jelena Jankovic in woman single semis and in other semis and later in the final we had Ana Ivanovic; in man doubles and in mixed semis and later in final we had Nenad Zimonjic. 5. Later on Wimbledon Novak and Ana played in semis and Jelena won title in mixed doubles.

ana

6. For such a small country like Serbia with quite modest tennis history this is enormous success. Moreover now we have two women in top 4, man on third place and one in fifth place in doubles in the world!
But it wasn’t that easy to achieve all this.

7. Ana Ivanovic started in swimming pool, but no, not as a swimmer. “It’s a club where they had Olympic swimming pool, and then it was very expensive to keep it warm during the winter, and there was not many people using it. So they emptied the swimming pool, and they put carpet inside, and they placed — (laughing) it’s true. They placed two tennis courts and that’s where I grew up practicing.” said Ivanovic.

8. And then there was 1999, year thanks to which many in the world actually have heard about Serbia: NATO aggression:
It was really tough. I thought it would be impossible to continue, because we didn’t know how long it was going to go on. We were practicing in between air raid sirens, often in the early mornings to avoid the worst of the bombing.

jelenaAnd also, after that, we had troubles to travel, because we had problems to get visa to another country. And we didn’t have flights from Serbia. We had to go from Hungary, so we’d take a bus for six, seven hours just to catch a flight. So it was very tough, and I thought it would be really impossible to succeed.

 

9. God knows how many heavy bombs, depleted uranium and cluster bombs were dropped on our lovely little country back then. We usually joke that we became radioactive in 1999 and now have become immune to that but the Europeans haven’t, therefore they fear us and don’t want us around. LOLana, novak & jelena

10. Jelena said that precisely those heavy years have strength them and made them more focused. “We didn’t have the best stuff, but we got to see the best, we appreciated it,” Jankovic said of the hardships they faced. “We learned to work the hard way. Nothing is going to fall from the sky. You have to earn it.”

11. On the press conference someone asked Jelena: There seemed to be some kind of Serbian magic at work. Jelena giggled her way through the reply:

A Serbian power or something, that wherever you go you see just Serbians (laughing). Wherever you go, it’s just Serbians all over the place, winning all these matches. It’s just incredible. I’m just proud of that…

12. So it’s definitively time for new picture about Serbia and indeed sportsmen are our greatest ambassadors. So watch out on these great folks; they … I wanted to say “are coming” but obviously they are already here!

(13. The last photos are from welcoming these three in Belgrade after French Open. They’ve made us so proud and happy)

ana, novak & jelena

ana, novak & jelena

P.S. #1
Yes I know both Novak and Ana have just lost their matches in single in Cincinnati and Toronto but you can’t win all the time. (yet?)

P.S. #2
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