Djokovic Meets Australia's Mascot, The Koala
Novak Djokovic admires the simplicity, the restorative aspects of the koala lifestyle. The irresistible animals rarely stray from their eucalyptus trees in eastern Australia and sleep for up to 18 hours a day.
Djokovic, however, the No. 2 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings, doesn't think it'd be such a good idea for him or Team Serbia to act more like koalas at the ATP Cup.
“I don't think the koala lifestyle would help us tennis players a lot, even though at times we could definitely learn something from them,” Djokovic said on Wednesday while standing next to a couple of cuddly koalas at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. “Sometimes the simple things are the best things, just relaxing and being present, kind of recuperating and being outdoors, being in the nature.”
Serbia's No. 1 grew up exploring his country's mountains, and that's where Djokovic learned to appreciate wildlife.
“I love animals, spending times close to them but respecting their space, which I think is very important because we sometimes as people try to act as the most dominant species, which we consider ourselves to be. But I truly believe we all should live in harmony and respect, and there is a higher order of nature that we should all be aware of,” Djokovic said. “I'm very close to a koala at the moment. I see that they're sleeping and resting so I don't want to disturb them too much, but it's definitely a very unique experience.”
The Serbian made the visit with mixed emotions. Koalas have been among those affected by the recent bushfires that have devastated parts of Australia and killed at least 18, according to the BBC. The federal government estimated last week that up to 30 per cent of koalas in Australia's New South Wales mid-north coast may have died. There also have been reports of people rescuing and giving water to endangered koalas.
"It was really sad to hear how many people and animals are affected by these fires, historical fires," Djokovic said. "Mixed emotions but I'm glad in a way that we can talk about it in public and raise awareness, send our support and all our hearts to the people and animals affected."
Djokovic and Team Serbia aiming the spotlight on koalas was also appreciated by local officials.
“We just think it's a fantastic time to be bringing people together. It's such a tough time for some of our neighbours down south. It's fantastic to see Team Serbia here, and to know that we're going to have fantastic games of tennis to make people happy," said Vicki Howard, councillor for Central Ward and Chair of Field Services.
Djokovic and his ATP Cup teammates Dusan Lajovic, Nikola Milojevic, Nikola Cacic and Viktor Troicki may not be ready to sleep for more than two-thirds of the day. But they have been adapting the koala lifestyle at times – enjoying each other's company off the court and relaxing away from the tennis. They've been employing their usual routines, those of hard-working tennis players, however, most of the time Down Under.
Serbia plays its first match on Saturday against South Africa. “We stay together and play different sports. We spend quality time and it's fun, because the concept of ATP Cup is a team concept, team format, and so it does give us an opportunity to represent our country and be a part of the team, which is not something that we do experience throughout the year very often,” Djokovic said.
"It does feed you with energy, with motivation and all of the guys on the team are friends of mine in private life as well. So it's a lot of intensity on the court, great practices, but also a lot of fun and relaxation off the court."