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Serbia: Belgrade euphoric as 100,000 fans welcome Djokovic home

last update: July 05, 10:27

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Belgrade, 5 July (AKI) – Belgrade went wild late on Monday as more than 100,000 fans welcomed home Serbian tennis star and national hero Novak Djokovic after he trounced Rafael Nadal in Sunday's Wimbledon final and replaced him as the world's top tennis player.

Thousands of people lined up the streets as 24-year-old Djokovic, accompanied by his family and members of his professional team, drove from the airport in an open-top bus to the centre of the city, bringing traffic to a standstill and triggering ovations from citizens.

A crowd estimated at over 100,000 was waiting for Djokovic at Nikola Pasic square in front of the parliament building, waving Serbian flags and pictures of Djokovic.

“Nole, we love you”, the crowd chanted, referring to Djokovic’s nickname.

”Nole the king”, “Nole you are our pride,” the fans chanted as Djokovic stepped on a stage holding a replica of the Wimbledon trophy he wrested from defending champion Nadal in his dazzling win on Sunday.

Older Belgraders recalled that the city hadn't seen such numbers of people turn out on the city's streets since the days of late Yugoslav president Tito in the last century.

During Tito's rule, citizens were ordered to line up on the streets to welcome the strongman home from his numerous “peace trips” abroad, but Monday's turnout was the biggest spontaneous event.

“You have made this the greatest day in my life and I will never forget it,” Djokovic told the crowd.

His Wimbledon victory was his third Grand Slam win after the Australian Open this year and in 2008. Djokovic's semi-final win at Wimbledon last Friday against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga assured him the number one slot in the world men's tennis rankings, replacing Nadal.

He thanked his parents and professional team for his success and brought even his grandparents to the stage.

He asked his youngest brother Djordje, 15, also a talented tennis player, whether he could repeat Novak’s success and the boy replied to wild cheers of the crowd: “Give me another nine years and I will bring you the trophy.”

“I’m the proudest mother in the world,” said Djokovic’s mother Dijana. “We are the best family and the best people in the world,” said his father Srdjan.

The celebration ended with fireworks as Djokovic and his girlfriend Jelena sang and danced to the tunes of their favourite orchestra “Tap 011”.

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