Serbian players, fans set new Davis Cup celebration standards
Passers-by in downtown Belgrade unfamiliar with Serbia’s appetite for sports success would have been forgiven for thinking that the Balkan country won the soccer World Cup on Sunday evening and not the Davis Cup, an annual tennis competition featuring 16 teams in its top tier.
Several thousand jubilant fans, sporting national flags and team shirts, brought traffic to a halt in the city centre moments after Serbia beat France 3-2 in a pulsating three-day final to win the event in front of 17,000 supporters in the Belgrade Arena.
Fans, officials and even the French team could hardly believe their eyes as the Serbian players, led by world number three Novak Djokovic, shaved their heads on the court moments after Viktor Troicki won the final singles rubber for the home team and was mobbed by his captain and team mates.
Serbia’s tennis federation president Slobodan Zivojinovic, the former Yugoslavia’s best player in the 1980s, was the first to feel the razor as the team kept the promise they made after an equally dramatic semi-final win over the Czech Republic.
While fans set off fireworks that lit the sky in the Serbian capital, the players continued their party in a popular night club where they demonstrated some non-tennis talents.
Dancing to the tunes of a brass band with some expertise, it must be said, Djokovic and company then took over the microphone and entertained the visitors as they sang local folk songs.
It sometimes seems Serbia’s ability to produce top-level athletes is inversely proportional to its thorny path towards the European Union, the effects of political strife coupled with economic mismanagement in the 1990s still biting the country of 7.5 million.
Hence a nation striving for success and a brighter future looks up to the likes of Djokovic and the national basketball team — the 2010 World Championship semi-finalists — as its best products.
Troicki, a new hero in the hearts and eyes of Serbia’s tennis fans, with his name reverberating around the arena after his flawless performance put Serbia on the map of Davis Cup winners, made it clear what the success meant to him.
“I had to try hard to keep my emotions bottled before the match because I remembered how often I dreamed of that moment as a child,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling and we are still not quite aware of what we have achieved. It will take a few days to sink in because I am at a loss for words now.”
While they might find it difficult to invent extravagant ways of celebrating sports success, Serbian fans will hope their athletes can deliver more of the same.
PHOTO: Serbia’s Viktor Troicki celebrates his team’s victory of the Davis Cup in Belgrade December 5, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Milutinovic