Novak Djokovic is in Tokyo for his 500th ATP event. Before embarking on the historic milestone, Djokovic took to a competition that Japan loves the most. It was a sport where one of the fittest athletes ever, a lean Djokovic was the most unfit for that moment. He was out for a match as an absolute mismatch for the sport.
The Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships top seed took full advantage of Japan’s culture today (Monday) when he visited Ryogoku Edo-Noren, a facility with restaurants that features a dohyo, a sumo wrestling ring.
Djokovic not only got an opportunity to watch retired professional sumo wrestlers during their ‘keiko’ (morning practice), but he also stepped up on the dohyo to learn some of the moves himself, ATP has reported on its official website with some interesting images and a video.
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“It’s a great experience. I’ve never had this experience before. It’s one of the most popular sports in Japan,” Djokovic said. “Speaking with my father yesterday on the phone I was telling him that I’m going to have an opportunity to meet sumo wrestlers. He and I were remembering many years ago at home (when0 we used to watch Akebono (Tarō, who reached Yokozuna status), who was someone that we supported a lot.”
Djokovic was in awe of the sumo wrestlers, even playfully seeing if he can make one of them budge. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. They also taught the World No. 1 seiko and suri-ashi among other sumo moves.
“I felt that I am out of shape [for sumo] a little bit. I think with a few more kilos, I’ll be ready to compete,” Djokovic joked. “Probably three times as much as I have right now would be the right measurement for me to compete.”
The 75-time tour-level titlist paid great respect to the professionals, taking in their technique and power on the dohyo. But that wasn’t all that impressed Djokovic.
“It’s quite impressive to see also how flexible they are. I believe at the beginning they were demonstrating their flexibility,” Djokovic said. “I didn’t think that they were that flexible considering it’s a heavyweight sport, but I see that they are paying a lot of attention to the mobility of their joints and the flexibility, which is of course what allows them to move around as agile as possible at their weight.”
Djokovic is all set for his 500th ATP tournament. He will partner countryman Filip Krajinovic in the doubles against Croat Mate Pavic and Brazilian Bruno Soares. In the singles draw, the World No. 1’s first opponent is #NextGenATP Australian Alexei Popyrin.
“I’m not going to have that kind of encounter with my opponents on the court,” Djokovic said. “We are going to be separated with a net and racquets, but it is a one-on-one sport, so there is something there.”