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Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams reminisce Nelson Mandela’s speech on 20th anniversary of Laureus World Sports Awards

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LONDON: Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic and American player Serena Williams on Monday reminisced about the speech delivered by former South Africa President Nelson Mandela at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards two decades ago.

 

 
On this day 20 years ago, Mandela had delivered one of the most powerful speeches in sporting history.
“Sport has the power to change the world,” Mandela had said.

Mandela continued: “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

Novak Djokovic with mom

Five-time Laureus Award winner, Williams, who met Mandela at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards, said listening to Mandela’s address was a ‘really great experience’.

“Being there in the crowd when Nelson Mandela was addressing us, was a really great experience. The words he said about sport, it doesn’t matter what colour you are, you can still be the best. What struck me most about Mr Mandela was the fact that he knew everything about me, and I’m thinking ‘no, I know everything about you! We just had an incredible conversation about things we wanted to do in the world, and it was a real changing point in my life,” Williams said in a statement.

Novak Djokovic & Jelena

Djokovic, a four-time Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, said: “Nelson Mandela is one of those people that always brought the light. His strength to come out and fight for what is right is something that motivates and obviously inspires myself and every person on this planet.”

On the other hand, tennis legend Boris Becker said to shake hands with Mandela was a “very special moment” for him.
“At the Laureus World Sports Awards 2000 in Monaco and a holiday in South Africa in 2007, I had the honour to meet Nelson Mandela. To shake hands with him was for me a very special moment. For us Laureus Academy Members it is an honour that a personality as he stood behind the idea of Laureus and supported us as Patron,” Becker, who is a Laureus Academy Member, said.

Laureus, in a statement, said that amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, need for the programmes Laureus supports is stronger than ever. Earlier this month, along with partners, Laureus Sport for Good launched the Sport for Good Response Fund to support organisations using sport to change the lives of young people around the world.

Laureus Academy Member and Chairman of Laureus Sport for Good Edwin Moses, said: “We are living in uncertain and unprecedented times, and while we had hoped to be celebrating the growth of Laureus Sport for Good over the past two decades, we have instead shifted our focus.

Novak ad Federer

Through the Sport for Good Response Fund, we are continuing to support our programmes during this crisis, making sure they are ready to use respond to the challenges in their communities once it is safe to do so.”

“I’m sure if the great Nelson Mandela was here today, he would be proud of what we have achieved so far. I also know that he would encourage us to continue to work hard, continue giving back and using sport to change even more lives in future. And that’s exactly what we aim to do,” Moses added.

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Djokovic Earns Tricky Opening Win In Vienna

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In his first appearance at the Erste Bank Open since his 2007 title run, Novak Djokovic passed an early test to defeat countryman Filip Krajinovic 7-6(6), 6-3 on Tuesday.

Djokovic dropped serve twice in the first set and was forced to save set point at 5/6, before coming back to earn his place in the second round. The World No. 1, who struck 39 winners against Krajinovic, has now won 38 of his 40 matches this year.

“I was lucky in the first set… We are good friends, we train a lot [together] and it is never easy to play someone that you are very close to,” said Djokovic in an on-court interview. “He is a very nice guy and I have known him since he was very young. I followed him, I tried to be there as a friend, as a mentor. We go back a long way.

”We practised a few times [together] before coming to Vienna. The draw was tough for us to face each other, but there is always extra pressure and importance to a match when you play someone that you know very well.”

Djokovic added 45 FedEx ATP Rankings points to his tally with his second ATP Head2Head victory in three matches against Krajinovic. The Serbian is attempting to tie Pete Sampras’ record of six year-end World No. 1 finishes this year.

Djokovic was competing for the first time since his runner-up finish at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal). The 33-year-old will next face Borna Coric for a place in the quarter-finals.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion owns a 3-0 ATP Head2Head record against Coric. The pair most recently met in the 2018 Rolex Shanghai Masters final, which Djokovic won 6-3, 6-4. Coric earned his place in the second round with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Taylor Fritz on Monday.

In a first set that featured four service breaks, Djokovic and Krajinovic entertained the crowd in Vienna with their all-court skills and attacking tennis. Krajinovic took the initiative and hit his targets to earn set point at 6/5 in the tie-break, but Djokovic held firm with consistency from the baseline to extract crucial errors and earn a one-set lead.

Djokovic raised his game in the second set and earned an early break to take control of the match. The 2007 champion returned with depth and attacked with his forehand to close the match in just under two hours.

“[In the] first set, I think he was the better player. He was serving for the first set and I was lucky. He missed a smash at 6/6 in the tie-break,” said Djokovic. “A few points here and there can change the momentum of the match. In the second set, I stepped it up, I played better and I am just pleased with the way I finished the match.”

Grigor Dimitrov advanced to the second round in Vienna for the second straight year with a 7-6(6), 6-3 victory against Karen Khachanov. The Bulgarian converted three of four break points against the two-time Vienna quarter-finalist to improve to 17-10 in 2020.

“Karen is such an excellent player, such a heavy hitter,” said Dimitrov in an on-court interview. “In conditions like that, the court favours him quite a bit but I was able to just play a very solid game and take the right decisions at the right time.”

Hubert Hurkacz broke serve on four occasions to beat Attila Balazs of Hungary 6-3, 7-5. The 23-year-old will face Dusan Lajovic or Lorenzo Sonego for a place in the quarter-finals.

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