World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is enjoying a sensational season in 2020, having compiled a perfect 21-0 win-loss record so far. But Djokovic is not the only Balkan sportsperson to have caught fire this year; young Slovenian Luka Doncic has done just as well in the NBA, and he also happens to be a friend of the 17-time Slam champion.
Just like Novak Djokovic, Dallas Mavericks' forward Luka Doncic has cemented himself as a superstar of his sport at a very early age. The 21-year-old basketball player has become one of the most popular non-American sportspersons in the US, and has gained the respect of many of his contemporaries.
Novak Djokovic recently spoke a few words about the Slovenian in an interview with Sport Klub. The Serb feels Luka Doncic is already one of the best basketball players in the world, and that balance would be the key in his career going forward.
I watch every game of Luka Doncic: Novak Djokovic
A few days ago, Doncic elevated his game in the NBA playoffs against Los Angeles Clippers to another level. He finished Game 4 with 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists on a bad left ankle, capping off his performance with a step-back 3 at the buzzer to deliver a two-point win in overtime.
Novak Djokovic talked about that performance in particular, while also revealing he has had direct contact with Doncic for several years.
"I think all the best about Luka as a basketball player and as a person, I have had direct contact with him for several years and we saw each other in Madrid while he played for Real," Djokovic said. "I am very happy with his successes and I support him from the bottom of my heart - I follow him, I watch every game, I saw that in the fifth he had problems with his left ankle (in Game 4 of NBA playoffs)."
Novak Djokovic was also a successful 21-year-old during the early days of his career. He had topped Roger Federer to win the 2008 Australian Open at that age, and just like Doncic, risen to the top in almost no time.
Novak Djokovic entered his prime two years after that breakthrough in Melbourne, and has turned many records to dust since then. Luka Doncic is expected by many to emulate the Serb's success, and Novak Djokovic believes he is already on his way.
"It is incredible that at the age of 21 he already has so much success," Djokovic said. "They announced a great career for him, and I think he exceeded all those announcements and expectations. He still has a lot of time ahead of him, and so far he has done everything fantastically - he believes in himself and he is a true leader, even though he is so young. He has a champion's mentality."
When we are young, sometimes we want everything to happen to us immediately: Novak Djokovic
Having turned 21 earlier this year, Luka Doncic is the first player in NBA history to score 43 or more points, grab 17 or more rebounds and dish out 13 or more assists in a playoff game.
Anyone who has followed the young prodigy knows he has all the makings of a champion. But Novak Djokovic believes the most important thing for Doncic to do right now is be patient and find the right 'balance' - something that Djokovic himself has managed to do remarkably well.
"The only thing I could pass on to him in a friendly way and share with him is to be aware that he has a long career ahead of him," Djokovic said. "When we are young, sometimes we want everything to happen to us immediately, but some things take time. He needs to find a balance in order to last a long time and make us all happy with his successes."Published 28 Aug 2020, 14:10 IST