Djokovic in awe of 'stunning' Jokic

 - Chris Oddo

From one Joker to the other, Serbian backs compatriot's Nuggets all the way in NBA

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Serbian sports fans are seeing double this June. Double Joker, that is.

While Novak Djokovic is in Paris, angling to become the men’s all-time Grand Slam title leader, another Joker is taking the sports world by storm. That would be Nikola Jokic, two-time NBA MVP, who is bidding to win his first NBA title with the Denver Nuggets. 

The Nuggets, who open their best-of-seven NBA Finals series with the Miami Heat on Thursday night, are Djokovic’s pick.

The Heat’s Jimmy Butler is a friend of the sport, but the 22-time major champion wants to see his compatriot, who hails from Sombor, Serbia, raise the NBA’s iconic Larry O’Brien Championship trophy.

“I really like Jimmy Butler, I think he's a great guy,” Djokovic said. “I admire him a lot. I'm a big basketball fan. I know he's been coming to watch some of the tennis tournaments in the States.” 

“But, you know, I've got to support my man, Joker. I hope they win their first ring.”

A massive basketball enthusiast, Djokovic is extremely impressed by what his 28-year-old countryman has been able to achieve in the sport. 

“We are super proud of him,” the Belgrade native said. “He's an incredibly intelligent basketball player. It's so impressive to hear LeBron and the greats of the game, Shaq, Magic Johnson, talking about him and praising him. It's huge.

“The NBA is the biggest and most important basketball league in the world. To be able to be the best player in that league for three years in a row is just stunning.”

This year’s NBA Finals will be closely watched by players at Roland-Garros. Butler has become good friends with Coco Gauff, Alexander Zverev, and Carlos Alcaraz. Nicknamed “Jimmy Buckets” the six-time NBA all-star is also bidding for his first NBA title. 

This week in Paris, Gauff told reporters that Butler DM'd her and offered tickets to the NBA finals – before the Heat had even qualified for the playoffs. 

“He pretty much said we were going to the finals before we even qualified for the playoffs, and I just really like that mentality of him,” Gauff said.

Coco Gauff, Roland-Garros 2023, second round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Gauff has been particularly inspired by the Miami Heat, noting how this current team "has a lot of grit", even more than the Miami squad that featured LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

"There was a lot of grit then, but I think there's even more I feel like watching this team, the way they compete as a team, and then obviously we have the leader of the team, Jimmy Butler, and his mentality. That's something that I learn from," Gauff said on Thursday, following her straight-sets win over Julia Grabher.

The 19-year-old phenom said the Heat's Eastern Conference final victory over the Boston Celtics, which saw Miami blow a 3-0 lead in the series before triumphing in Game 7, helped her during her opening round win against Rebeka Masarova, who was up a set on Gauff before the American teen turned the match around.

"I was like, if they're not freaking out at Game 7, I shouldn't freak out after losing the first set, and that's literally what I told myself on the changeover," revealed Gauff.

"I think that's what I love about sports and being an athlete. We can all learn from everyone no matter what."