Young pros look up to their veteran counterparts—but a fortunate few have received wisdom directly from them. These pairings may be opponents while at work, but outside of tournament play, they are friends, mentors and inspirations.

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Olga Danilovic’s enthusiasm is contagious, no matter the topic. Her big brown eyes expand and contract with each passing sentence; her active hands further emphasize the point of discussion. So infectious is her animation that it begs the use of the caps lock key. On her competitive nature: “I’m so into whatever I’m doing. When I play cards, I want to be the best. When I clean the room, I am going to be the best. It’s going to be a competition for me, and I want to win.”

On TikTok dancing during quarantine: “I was so into it. It took me three hours to learn one. My mom called me, and I was like, ‘I can’t talk. I’ll call you later,’ and she’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I'm learning to dance!’” On her first tennis experience at age 6: “I swear, the first time I picked up a racquet I thought, ‘This is it for me.’ I got it so fast. After a month or so I was rallying already. From there it’s just a love story.”

In addition to admiring Djokovic, Danilovic took inspiration from basketball icon Michael Jordan after watching the documentary The Last Dance.

In addition to admiring Djokovic, Danilovic took inspiration from basketball icon Michael Jordan after watching the documentary The Last Dance. 

Just imagine Danilovic’s excitement, then, when childhood idol Novak Djokovic invited her to participate in last summer’s short-lived Adria Tour, where she had the chance to play mixed doubles with the world No. 1. A few months later, Djokovic asked her to consider training at his new academy in their shared hometown of Belgrade, Serbia, during the 2020 off-season. It was an easy decision for Danilovic.

“He’s No. 1 for me in every part of being a tennis player,” she says (enthusiastically, of course). “When you talk to him you think, ‘OK, now I’m going to beat everyone after talking to him.’ His energy and dedication and his passion to play and work is something that pushes you to be better.” Djokovic spent significant time observing and coaching Danilovic during her time at the Novak Tennis Center, and he has stayed in touch with her since the start of the season.

He even watched her from the stands during his title run at the Australian Open, where Danilovic qualified for her first Grand Slam main draw, and proceeded to upset 16th seed Petra Martic in the first round. She fell to Shelby Rogers one match later, but as the American noted afterward: “[Danilovic] definitely won the cheering squad award today.”