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World number 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic looks for his ball after playing off the first tee during the All Star match ahead of the Ryder Cup in Rome. Image Credit: AP

Rome: World No 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic is a six-time winner of the Rome Masters but on Wednesday he swapped his racket for a set of golf clubs to appear in the All Star Match in the build-up to the 44th Ryder Cup.

The Serbian, who claimed a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title by winning the US Open this month, was playing alongside world No 1 golfer with disabilities Kipp Popert as part of Colin Montgomerie’s team, which also featured Gareth Bale.

“It’s such an honour, a golden opportunity for a once in a lifetime experience,” the nervous-looking 36-year-old said on the first tee surrounded by an enormous grandstand.

Unique experience

“Thanks to all the fans for coming and putting a bit of extra pressure on us on the first tee. It’s a unique experience.”

With hundreds of fans in the stands and many more lining the fairway, Djokovic initially walked out to address his ball with a tennis racket, before switching to a driver.

After a couple of practice swings were greeted with cries of “oles”, he sent his ball down the first fairway, puffing out his cheeks with relief and thumping his heart.

Djokovic and England’s Popert were up against Spain’s F1 driver Carlos Sainz, who recently won the Singapore Grand Prix and Italian G4D golfer Tommaso Perrino.

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Djokovic reacts to his putt on the 18th green during the All Star Match in Rome. Image Credit: AP

They won 3-1 with Djokovic’s ‘shot of the day’ coming on the par-four 16th where he managed to drive the green from a slightly advanced tee — earning loud cheers from the galleries.

Change of scenery

“This is sporting greatness,” Djokovic jested as his ball stopped on the green. “I was going to play safe but the crowd made me do it. It was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit.”

There were some duff shots too, including one failed attempt to hack out of the rough, but the Serb, who had some tips from former Real Madrid forward Bale and keen golfer before the contest, clearly enjoyed the change of scenery.

Although he admitted playing golf in front of large crowds was more daunting than battling on a packed Centre Court.

“I’ve never played golf in front of this many people, so considering my level I think I’ve played quite well.”