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'Iron Man' Novak serves up marvel and mystery in equal measure

Updated: 2023-06-02 09:41
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Novak Djokovic advanced 7-6 (2), 6-0, 6-3 on Wednesday. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS — So what exactly was that metal-looking object about the size of a bottle cap that was taped to Novak Djokovic's chest at the French Open?

He was asked about it. He didn't give a straight answer.

During the changeover between the end of the first set and the start of the second during the 22-time Grand Slam champion's 7-6 (2), 6-0, 6-3 victory over Marton Fucsovics at Roland Garros on Wednesday night, Djokovic removed his orange polo shirt and swapped it for another.

Nothing out of the ordinary there, especially after a set that lasted around one and a half hours.

Here's what was unusual: TV cameras on Court Philippe Chatrier zoomed in on an item that was placed right in the middle of Djokovic's chest. Commentators on Tennis Channel's broadcast joked about it having something to do with the Marvel Comics character Iron Man, portrayed on the big screen by Robert Downey Jr.

Maybe someone told Djokovic about that observation.

Because that was the faux explanation the 36-year-old father of two offered when a reporter wanted him to explain precisely what that thing really was.

"When I was a kid I liked Iron Man a lot, so I try to impersonate Iron Man," Djokovic said with a smile.

And then he went a step further.

"My team delivers an incredibly efficient nanotechnology to help me deliver my best on the court, so that's the biggest secret of my career," Djokovic said sarcastically. "If it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't be sitting here."


Perhaps a sequel to this saga will come on Friday. That's when Djokovic will continue his pursuit of a third title at the French Open — and what would be a men's-record 23rd major championship overall, breaking a tie with rival Rafael Nadal — when he faces No 29 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.

'My man Jokic'

Djokovic might be busy trying to win the French Open but he definitely will be keeping tabs on how his friend and countryman Nikola Jokic fares in the NBA Finals with the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets will host Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat on Thursday night (Friday morning, Beijing time). Denver has never previously been to the league's championship round.

"I've got to support my man Joker," Djokovic said on Wednesday night after reaching the third round. "I hope they win their first ring."

Djokovic, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, and Jokic, a two-time NBA MVP, are both from Serbia, a country with a population of about 7 million.

"We are super proud of him," Djokovic said.

"Coming from a small country and small city in our country, very humble beginnings for him, and he still stayed very modest, very humble. Very simple guy. Family guy," Djokovic said.

"He loves his horses ... and I find that very funny, but at the same time, I respect it a lot."


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