It's not every day that Novak Djokovic pops up in another player’s news conference but that is exactly what happened when the world No.1 momentarily swapped his tennis racket for a notebook and pen to take on the role of reporter at the All England Club on Saturday.
The target in his sight was none other than four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova - a lady who has given numerous news conferences over the years - and is vastly experienced in dealing with unusual questions directed at her, even if they are delivered by a rookie journalist.
As on the tennis court, Novak’s timing was impeccable. The 2004 Wimbledon champion had just informed us how the tournament was still as special to her now as it was when she first appeared here 10 years ago, adding that she loved the unpredictable British weather.
“I love everything about it...I love the rain, so maybe that’s why I don’t mind breaks,” she said. “I expect to be going off court a few times. [It] comes with the territory of being here unless you’re playing on stadium court, of course.”
On cue, Djokovic chipped in: “Nice hair, Maria. Beautiful hair today.” The good-humoured 26-year-old took the moment in her stride, questioning Djokovic on his legendary impersonations and used the opportunity to give him a light-hearted ticking off.
“By the way, I don’t do any of those things anymore,” she said. “I don’t stick my ass out anymore, ok? I don’t do this with my hair anymore. You haven’t watched me play recently.” “I watch you play,” he protested. “Then you need a new me,” she smiled.
Even after he had departed the interview room, the presence of the 2013 Australian Open title holder lingered. Questioned on their apparent close relationship, Sharapova said: “I’ve just known Novak for a really long time, for many years, and we’ve shot many Head commercials together. I’ve just spent a lot more time with him than any other player.”
However, she pointed out he held certain flaws in his skills as a mimic. “He exaggerates. Just slightly,” she laughed. “Minor details.”
Has she ever impersonated him? “No, I’m not good at those things. I never said I was an actress.”
But she is a tennis player - a pretty handy one at that - and for now her game is where her attention lies. Following her defeat in the French Open final at the hands of Serena Williams, the world No.3 flew straight to London – forgoing a warm-up tournament in favour of a couple of days rest, followed by practice.
“The reason I don’t play a warm-up event is because of so many tournaments back to back. It’s always just nice to get back working, to playing, working on a few things here and there. Sometimes when you get in a groove of playing so many matches you lose that work ethic a bit.
“It’s also nice. [I’ve] been in busy cities the last few weeks, so it’s nice to be in a quiet area listening to the birds singing instead of the taxis honking. That’s a really nice change.”
Sharapova faces 20-year-old Kristina Mladenovic of France in the first round on Monday. The women have never played each other before but the No.3 seed, who lost in the fourth round here last year, is not resting on her laurels.
“I’ve seen her play a bit. I think she has a good game for grass. She seems to be doing very well this year. The first matches are always extremely difficult, so I expect an extremely difficult match.”
Whatever the outcome, Sharapova will be obliged to carry out further media interviews. Will Mr Djokovic be present? Watch this space.
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