Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Karen Khachanov of Russia during their final match of the Paris Masters tennis tournament at the Bercy Arena in Paris, on November 4, 2018. Image Credit: AP

London: He is back as the current world No. 1 of men’s tennis, but that doesn’t deter Novak Djokovic from dabbling in other sport as well. A true sportsman that he is, the 31-year-old Serbian has had his share of being involved in an array of sport from basketball, golf, cycling, swimming and even table tennis.

Destined to end the year at a high for the sixth time in his career, Djokovic is hoping he can fit in his love for football, or more particularly to follow his beloved Red Star Belgrade’s penultimate Group C match of the UEFA Champions League against Napoli SC in Italy at the end of the month.

A long-time Red Star Belgrade supporter, Djokovic was all praise for his team following their stunning 2-0 win last week against last year’s runners-up Liverpool FC. The three points didn’t make too much of a difference in the Group C standings as the Serbian side remains at the bottom with four points. Napoli SC is tied at the top with Liverpool with six points each, while PSG is third with five points followed by Red Star Belgrade.

The Serbian team still has to play Napoli on November 28 and then host PSG on December 11 to see which two teams advance to the knockout stages.

The season-ending Nitto ATP Finals end on November 18 and the world number one is hoping he won’t be on holiday when his club plays in Italy.

“I am only hoping to be there for them [Red Star] in their next two games. Maybe we will be on vacation immediately after this [Nitto ATP Finals]. It’s a bit too early to decide and be there as right now it is all about this tournament,” Djokovic told media before he opens against American John Isner at midnight [UAE time] on Monday.

He is known for his love and interest in trying out various sports: being a regular basketball player and during some of his training schedules, he prefers to dabble in a bit of two-a-side football. During one of his recent trips he visited Ski Dubai and tried his hand out on the indoor ski slope. Djokovic is also known to play ice hockey, table tennis, golf, boxing, baseball, rowing, bowling, cycling and swimming — taking his total to 13 different disciplines.

Djokovic, a five-time year-end No. 1, leads Group Guga Kuerten alongside Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and Isner. The Serbian has a 49-11 match record for 2018, including a tremendous 31-2 mark since the start of Wimbledon. This is the 11th time that Djokovic is playing in the year-ender following his debut in 2007.

So far, he has won five titles starting with 2008 (beat Nikolai Davydenko), 2012 (beat Federer), 2013 (beat Nadal) and the last two back-to-back in 2014 and 2015 against Federer.

Djokovic is a huge Red Star fan. Earlier during the US Open, he stayed awake late into the night following his club’s qualification to the main draw of the Uefa Champions League.

On September 18, Djokovic visited the Red Star locker room before their opening goalless draw against Napoli. He watched the game wearing the No. 10 home jersey gifted to him by coach Vladan Milojevic during his visit.

Red Star Belgrade’s campaign in the Uefa Champions League began well as Djokovic watched his team hold Napoli at home in mid-September. However, they were handed out a tennis-like 6-1 thrashing by PSG in Paris in their next game before getting drubbed 4-0 at Anfield by Liverpool.

“It’s been good so far,” Djokovic admitted.

Djokovic begins his campaign for a sixth year-end crown when he takes on American John Isner in the last singles match on Monday.