Dusan Lajovic is set to kick off his season at the ATP Cup, joining World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic when Team Serbia takes the court as the defending champion.
But even though he’s far from Serbia, Lajovic is feeling right at home. In fact, he has brought the whole neighbourhood with him: All four players reside in the same condominium complex in Belgrade. “Only one is ‘the impostor,’’’ Lajovic joked. “[Our captain] Viktor [Troicki] lives in the centre of the city. We’ll try to welcome him and do our best to make him feel like he’s a part of the neighborhood.”
Lajovic, who is currently No. 26 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, won four of his six singles matches to help Serbia clinch the title last year, including standout victories over Top 20 Russian Karen Khachanov and #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime. ATPTour.com caught up with Lajovic before this year’s event.
Why are you excited about representing Serbia again in the ATP Cup?
Personally, I think it was one of the greatest events that I participated in, and especially winning a title was an incredible experience with so many emotions. So many people from Serbia were there supporting us from the first day in Brisbane until the last day in Sydney at the final. And honestly, it felt like we were playing at home in the middle of our country. The people supporting us were really nice, and they kept on supporting us at events after the ATP Cup.
I think the new energy that it brought and the new format was also one of the things that was so interesting. On the other hand, being part of the team, who are my friends off the court, was another thing that really brought the emotion and togetherness in competing in an event that is not just individual.
Representing your country is an honour that you only have once or twice in a year. The whole concept of being in a team, it’s a very rare opportunity for us. You’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for your team. And in this case, you’re playing for the people who are also your friends, and that makes it even more special.
What is your favourite memory from last year’s tournament?
I don’t think there is only one memory. The matches that I played really well, the fights on court that were really tense, playing in this kind of environment in front of a crowd that was following every point very closely and trying to engage every time they could… This was the memory that I took from the overall experience. It was just going through every match and every tie that impacted me the most.
What does Team Serbia look like this year?
Team Serbia is me, Novak, Filip and Nikola with our captain Viktor. Actually from the five of us, four of us live in the same condominium in Belgrade. Only one is ‘the impostor’: Viktor who lives in the centre of the city. We’ll try to welcome him and do our best to make him feel like he’s a part of the neighborhood as well…
I’m only joking. We’ve just been friends for so long that it feels like home. It doesn’t matter that we’re on the other side of the world, just being with people that are close to you is a good feeling. You feel more relaxed and comfortable and safe.
Do you have any stories of you and your teammates from last year?
I will just say that last year during the ATP Cup, we played this card game Uno a lot. And it was as tense as it is on the court. The chairs were flying, the cards were flying off the balcony… It was really fun, and I hope this year we can have the same experience when we get together again.
If you could take one stroke from any one of your countrymen, what would it be and why?
Just one stroke? I would probably take eight out of 10 strokes from Novak at this point and then I don’t need anything else… Let’s say Novak’s return. I know it’s not one stroke, but I’d take his return and then let’s start from there.
[VISIT ATP CUP]
Which player is most likely to not show up to a Team Serbia dinner on time?
Which player is most likely to be the team’s hype man?
I would say Viktor.
What are three things you love most about Serbia?
The food, the people and the nature.
Tell us one stereotype about your country or countrymen that’s true and one that’s a common misconception.
That you have Serbians everywhere you go. This is true, it’s completely true. Any country I go to, any tournament that I play, there are Serbians there. And my coach, who is Spanish, is like, “How come there are Serbians everywhere we go?” I mean, in Argentina, in Australia… we go to Brazil and there are Serbians there. Anywhere in Asia, there are Serbians. And we are a pretty small country!
The misconception… I think if you see any Serbians in American movies they are always some evil characters or shady backgrounds. We make good villains, but Serbian people are not all like that!
Tell us about one signature food from your country.
My favourite Serbian food… it’s tough to translate it in English. It’s called “sarma” (Serbian stuffed cabbage). It’s minced meat with rice, rolled into a cabbage which is cooked for a long time. It’s really delicious and we eat it for holidays.