From Turkish volleyballers to German judokas, the Olympic village in Tokyo has been in thrall to the Serbian world No 1
After Novak Djokovic took his first small step towards a gold medal on Saturday, his defeated first-round opponent, the world No 140 Hugo Dellien of Bolivia, could not stop himself from speaking his heart as they embraced at the net: “It’s a dream for me,” he said to Djokovic. “I want to remember my whole life that I played with you.” Dellien asked Djokovic for his T-shirt and they later posed for a photo.
Only occasionally on the regular tour does Djokovic come up against an opponent starstruck enough to ask for photos or a souvenir of their encounter after being blitzed off the court. But in Tokyo, where everyone seems to want a piece of the best player in the world, Dellien simply blends in with the crowd. Since Djokovic’s arrival here, it is unlikely there has been a more popular athlete in the Olympic village.