Serving for life

“This definitely exceeded the expectations,” Novak Djokovic said as he sat down for a Q&A with fans at Uniqlo’s Fifth Avenue flagship store.

And how. You couldn’t even turn around for the crush of paparazzi and fans who pressed forward to a throbbing soundtrack, spun by a DJ. It was a reminder that while football, baseball and basketball reign supreme in this country, tennis is truly a global sport with an international fan base. Much of that “glorious mosaic” – to borrow a phrase from former New York City Mayor David Dinkins – was on display Aug. 19 at the store, whose vibrant, breathable active-wear Djokovic reps.

Djokovic, who begins his quest for another US Open title Aug. 26, was on hand to unveil the sleek red and black look Uniqlo has created for him to wear at the Open, to answer some of the hundreds of questions submitted in advance and to pose with select members of the throng, some of whom had been waiting since the afternoon for the evening event.

Among those were Maria C. and Maria S. Rivera, a mother and daughter who drove in from New Jersey to see young Maria S.’ hero. As they waited, they clutched copies of WAG’s August “S’wellness” issue, which features Djokovic on the cover.

What does Maria S. like about him?

“His eyes,” she said. “And he’s very humble.”

“There’s a class about him,” mom Maria C. said, “and he’s very funny.”

Photography does not do him justice. It’s hard to say what would. Painting perhaps, a Leonardo or a Michelangelo. Picture eyes the color of emeralds, a clear olive complexion, high cheekbones, a long straight nose, a dazzling smile and lots of glossy fine hair the color of the night. His is a lithe ballet dancer’s build – long, lean limbs and muscles. He showed them and a well-sculpted butt off to good effect as he pranced around briefly in Uniqlo’s famously flexible warm-ups.

The man who answered the rather predictable fan questions – what’s your favorite movie (“The Notebook”), song (“Get Lucky”) – however, was no Djoker, instead demonstrating a quiet, thoughtful, romantic, questing nature that proved highly adaptable to the motley throng. At one point, Djokovic picked up a little girl who would otherwise have gotten lost in the photo op. The mother was so moved, she burst into tears.

Perhaps the most revelatory thing he said – apart from sharing that Bugs Bunny would be his ideal opponent – was his answer to the question: What inspires you?

“Love,” he said, “love for my friends, love for life. I draw inspiration from the people around me.”

For more on Novak Djokovic, Uniqlo and the US Open, visit wagmag.com, usopen.org, uniqlo.com.

– Georgette Gouveia

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