Novak Djokovic

Week 35 (17 - 23 May 2014)

Type the words "Novak Djokovic impressions" into YouTube and you will find hundreds of short clips of the six-time Grand Slam tennis champion impersonating his rivals' style of play. His pastiches of the likes of Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova are funny rather than mocking and have helped maintain Djokovic's "normal person" profile – much needed to balance out his superhuman tennis of recent years.

But over the past week the light-hearted Serbian has chosen to use his media standing for the more serious matter of raising awareness about the devastating floods that have hit his home country, along with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

The floods arrived in the Western Balkans a week ago whilst Djokovic was competing in the Rome Masters, which he won on Sunday with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Nadal. But there was only one thing on Djokovic's mind as he negotiated the final rounds: the people who had died or had their homes and livelihoods swept away by the worst flooding in the area for 120 years.

In his post-victory interview on the court in Rome, Djokovic drew a heart in the clay and dedicated it to his country "which is suffering a lot right now. My heart is with them."

He followed this up by donating his Rome Masters winnings, worth $444,000, to the relief effort.

On Twitter he was also active, communicating details about the situation and the recovery effort, thanking international donors and asking people to donate money themselves via his charity: the Novak Foundation.

His actions earned him transnational media requests and he explained to the BBC the primary motivation behind his speaking out:

"I thought looking at the international media there hasn't been too much awareness and talk about the flood in Serbia.

"I'm not pointing a finger or claiming a network or any international media (is to blame), I was just trying to use my position and contribute in such a way for my country in difficult times. To attract more attention and get more broadcast of the news in Serbia – that was the whole idea and purpose of my actions in the last two days."

Djokovic's media campaign has not focused solely on Serbia; he has been equally quick to show solidarity for Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia and has helped promote regional solidarity between the former Yugoslavia states.

His comments on Twitter such as "my heart is breaking when I see that so many people were evacuated and endangered in Bosnia! More than 950,000!!! Hold on brothers ... help will come from the world" have led to Bosnia-Herzegovina national football team coach Safet Susic saying Djokovic had won "the support of the whole of Bosnia". In turn, Djokovic said he will support Bosnia-Herzegovina at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Djokovic may have driven his campaign to raise awareness through Twitter but he provided real action in donating his Masters winnings and was a ready spokesman for the international media when they did increase their coverage of the floods. He has built bridges with Serbia's neighbours and let his people know that they are not being forgotten by the world at an incredibly difficult time. Like the Ukrainian athletes who carried on competing during Sochi 2014, despite the troubles back home, he has given stricken people hope.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons