As the No. 1 player on the ATP Tour, Novak Djokovic has no shortage of fans at any event he visits. But after an encounter with a Japanese fan at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo, the 75-time tour-level titlist may be able to call off the search for his greatest fan.
“I have met many people travelling, but I don’t know if I have met anyone more passionate and enthusiastic than this guy on the tennis court,” said Djokovic on Instagram.
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Introducing Iori Yoshida, the Japanese fan who moved to Serbia for four years after watching his idol rise to the top of the ATP Rankings in 2011. After being given permission to move across the world by his father, who saw the passion his son had for Djokovic’s game, Yoshida learned to play tennis and speak the language during his time in Serbia. But it was in his home country of Japan that he finally met the 16-time Grand Slam champion.
After spotting Yoshida’s videos on YouTube, Djokovic got in contact with him during his debut appearance in Tokyo. The World No. 1 invited Yoshida to one of his matches and took to the court with him afterwards. Keen to capture the moment, Djokovic shared a video of their meeting for his 6.3 million followers on Instagram.
“It was a truly remarkable experience, one that really fills my heart with joy and happiness. Seeing the passion he shared while we were together was fascinating,” said Djokovic.
It wasn’t just Yoshida’s passion that impressed Djokovic. The 32-year-old also praised Yoshida for his impressive Serbian language skills and humour.
“He speaks Serbian so well and is a very funny guy,” said Djokovic. “[He] made me laugh so hard. I had a blast and these are exactly the situations that remind me how grateful I need to be every day to have the position to positively impact many lives. [It is] a true blessing.”
Djokovic will next face 2017 champion David Goffin for a spot in the championship match. Time will tell if he is able to find his greatest level, but he may have already found his greatest fan.