The Serbian invasion of the international tennis world is led by Novak Djokovic – Nole to Serbs – a 20-year-old heartthrob who made good on a promise to bring home Serbia's first men's Grand Slam trophy when he won the Australian Open last month. Though Mr. Djokovic was ill during first round Davis Cup matches (Feb. 9-11) – not able to play one round of singles play and pulling out mid-match in another – he and Mr. Zimonjic won their doubles match against Russians Mikhail Youzhny and Dmitry Tursunov. But Russia won in overall, nixing Serb hopes of advancing to the cup quarter-finals.
Locals say the only explanation for the current crop of Serbian tennis superstars is the 1999 bombing by NATO forces: the uranium, they joke, must have caused some sort of mutation. Because in addition to Nole, there's fellow 20-year-old Ana Ivanovic, the second-ranked woman in the world, and 22-year-old Jelena Jankovic, ranked fourth. The veteran Zimonjic won this year's Australian Open mixed doubles contest (with Chinese partner Sun Tiantian), while the 6 foot, 4 inch Mr. Troicki – currently 116th in the world and the newest member of Serbia's Davis Cup team – is hoping to soon break into the top 100.
At home, Nole, Ana, Jelena, and Nenad – known here by their first names – are rock stars, their faces are plastered on car dealership windows and newspaper front pages. Teenage girls swoon over Nole, while Ana and Jelena – who has her own fashion line – are popular pinup girls.