LONDON: Novak Djokovic (pix) insists he would happily miss a first appearance for Serbia in the World Cup final if it means he is back in the Wimbledon title match.
Djokovic is an avid fan of the Serbian national team, who kicked off their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in Russia on Sunday.
Celebrating wildly after his friend Aleksandar Kolarov bagged Serbia's winner with a superb free-kick, Djokovic watched the match from in a raucous players' lounge at Queen's Club in west London, where he is preparing for the start of the Wimbledon warm-up event next week.
But the 31-year-old was surprised when he was told he would likely miss out on watching Serbia if they make a surprise appearance in the World Cup final.
That is because the showpiece in Moscow is scheduled to kick off just hours after the Wimbledon men's final begins at the All England Club on July 15.
In truth, unfancied Serbia – who are competing at their first major tournament since 2010 – are far less likely to make the final than Djokovic, who is a three-time Wimbledon champion.
But pressed on the potential fixture clash, Djokovic laughed off talk of mixed feelings.
"From your mouth to god's ears as they say, hopefully, that can happen.
"I've been fortunate to win Wimbledon three times and play well there.
"If that happens I would obviously be very happy to miss the World Cup final!"
While Djokovic would swap World Cup glory for his own Wimbledon success, the proud Serb has been relishing his country's return to the big time in Russia.
"In the last 15 minutes I had to change a couple of shorts," he said of the nervous conclusion to Serbia's win over Costa Rica.
"We didn't qualify for last World Cup and the last two Euros, so we didn't get a chance to enjoy these matches for a long time.
"This was the best way to start the campaign. Everybody is watching in the players' lounge."
Djokovic has built up good relationships with several of the Serbia squad, often picking their brains about different ways to improve his training regime.
"I'm friends with Kolarov who scored an amazing goal today, and (Nemanja) Matic, these guys," he said.
"It's a different sport, but we share a lot of things in common as athletes. We support each other, but can also share insights into how we train.
"As individual athletes, we miss that feeling of being in a team. We only have that for the Davis Cup.
"When you are playing for your nation, spending time together, it is wonderful."
Kolarov and company still have two more tricky group stage fixtures against Switzerland and Brazil.
But Djokovic is already dreaming of Serbia advancing to the knockout stages in Russia.
"Serbia has been quite successful in basketball over the years, but football is the most popular sport in the world and in our country as well," he added.