Feb. 28 had a few firsts, especially poignant for it being the last day of the month. There, spotted by Dylan Lodl ’20 working out at La Jolla Cove, was none other than Novak Djokovic, the men’s ATP (hence the world’s) No. 1 player. Fresh off winning the Australian Open for the seventh time, with lifetime winnings of almost $130 million and an 846-176 record, he had hit the beach blocks from Bishop’s. And when the word got out from Dylan, the boys’ tennis team embarked on a field trip. Why not get a few pointers from the guy ranked first? What follows is Matthew and Mathias’ diary of the day:
Mu: “I still can’t believe what happened that day. It was too surreal. Prior to seeing him, I heard rumors that he might be in San Diego training for Indian Wells (the BNP Paribas Open, ATP Masters 1000 Tournament) but that he was actually at La Jolla Cove just sounded too good to be true. I was in the middle of a Smash Brothers game in the Senior Rec Room during lunch when Dylan texted our tennis chat a selfie of Novak and him, smiling on the sand. When I saw that, I immediately dropped my controller and called Dylan. After confirming that Novak was at La Jolla Cove, Will Olson ‘19 and I sprinted to my car and headed over there. Michael Abagyan ‘21, Tejas Gupta ‘21, Theo Sun ’20, Justin Tang ’20 and Mathias got there around the same time as we did. The team searched the area near the car that Dylan suggested was Djokovic’s. Sure enough, Novak was at a small beach area near the Children’s Pool doing physical training.
Having watched so many of his matches on television and YouTube growing up, I immediately recognized everyone from his team and also his brother who joined him in the training session. We made our way down to the beach and watched him for about 15 minutes until he finished his session. I took a deep breath. I walked up to him nervously and asked, “Sorry for hovering around but we are huge fans of yours. Do you mind taking a photo with us?” He looked at me and responded, “Yeah, for sure, man.” I gave my phone to his physical trainer and he took the photo. He then turned to us for advice, asking, “Hey, do you guys know any good food around here?” Knowing that he has one of the strictest diets on tour, we asked if he was looking for vegetarian or vegan. He said he was looking for vegan food and Justin suggested that he should try Trilogy.
I tried making small talk with him, asking if it was his first time in La Jolla and how long he is going to train here. Understandably, after a while, we could tell he wasn’t going to stay long to talk to strangers. We wished him good luck in Indian Wells and we excitedly headed back to school to get ready for our match against St. Augustine.
Looking back, I could say that this was one of the coolest and luckiest moments of my life. Djokovic has always been my idol and someone I have tried to model my game after, ever since I started playing tennis. Being able to see the world’s number one right outside of Bishop’s just felt like a dream. On top of that, to be able to talk to him and have him ask us questions like any other tourist was something I would never forget. To say the least, Bishop’s Varsity Tennis was by far the luckiest high school team in San Diego that day.”
Antonorsi: “Well, to start off, the meeting with Novak was very interesting as he was on the beach enjoying the scenery and working out. We first asked if we could take a photo, but his coach turned us down and said “later.” So, we went out of his sight and waited until he was leaving. As he departed, we Bishop’s netters quickly assembled together, and his coach (either Marian Vajda, Gebhard Phil-Gritsch or his brother, not entirely sure which) took the photo of all of us. At first, Novak didn’t seem too excited about taking the photo as it seemed like he might be on vacation or in a special workout. Fortunately, he was friendly enough and made conversation with us by asking what good restaurants were in the area. We tried to give him a good recommendation; however, since he is vegetarian, we were kind of stumped until Justin chimed in with Trilogy. This was a fun and adventurous way to begin the afternoon and light preparation for our match against St. Augustine’s, which we won. The Djokovic Effect!”
So, there you have it, two unique perspectives on the Djokovic encounter. This was another legendary day in the rich tradition of Bishop’s tennis. Amounting to serendipity at its finest, it was the kind of experience that puts smiles on faces and memories in scrapbooks.