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Djokovic gets hero's welcome
February 03, 2008 10:58 IST
Serbia's Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic was given a raucous welcome by around 15,000 fans in central Belgrade on Saturday following his win in the Australian Open last Sunday.
Djokovic, who had gone to his Monte Carlo residence after capturing his first Grand Slam title last Sunday, hurled his racket into the crowd from the city hall balcony and described the reception as "unreal".
"I am at a loss for words to describe how I feel and I am so grateful you all came to celebrate my victory with me," he said.
"As a child, I stood where you are standing now to admire our great athletes who had won silverware for our country in the past and now here I am. It's a very special feeling."
Djokovic beat Frenchman Joe-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 to become the first Serb to win a Grand Slam and his success sparked massive celebrations in Serbia.
The country had come to a standstill during the final while bars and restaurants crammed with fans staged parties after Djokovic's triumph.
"The pancake shop my family owns at the Mount Kopaonik skiing resort in south Serbia was so packed they couldn't fit in everybody," said Djokovic.
He added: "I took up skiing before I started playing tennis and if I had chosen another sport, it would have alpine skiing because I have so much passion for it."
Fans in Belgrade on Saturday sported Serbian flags and held banners, one of which said "See you here after Roland Garros," offering a sign that many of them expect Djokovic to keep producing results.
The 20-year-old world number three, who played in the semi-final in last year's French Open, said he is looking forward to fresh challenges.
"The Australian Open success has motivated me to work even harder, improve further as a player and I hope to win many more trophies in the future.
"I have had a good break and I am now looking forward to the rest of the season in which I hope to move up the rankings if possible.
"But the first major challenge I am looking forward to is our Davis Cup world group tie at holders Russia [Images] next week.
"They are the favourites but we have a very strong group of players who are young, have a great team spirit and an appetite for success."