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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

Fan Favorite: Novak is #1 in China

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

Novak Djokovic is the King of China. He recorded his 73rd win of the year after beating Tsonga in the Shanghai Masters, one week after winning the China Open in Beijing. His popularity stems from his dominance in China over the last 7 years. Chinese fans love winners, and Novak can’t stop winning. However, there’s much more to Novak’s eternal fame in the Middle Kingdom than his 6 China Open titles and 3 in Shanghai.

Tennis is growing in China. Li Na was the catalyst, something that the WTA has leveraged by running 7 events this year in region. But China tennis is now in a transition period without a local role model and someone for young stars to look up to. Novak’s form has coincided with this period and he has now taken on this mantra to become an inspiration for the young male tennis players and an icon amongst his female fans. This also applies to the digital landscape, especially for men’s tennis. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are both without an online presence in China, while Novak has over 4.5 million followers on Weibo, China’s Twitter, roughly the same as his Twitter fan base. His social following is a testament to his popularity, which has put him in the top 5 most followed Western sports stars online in China.

Novak is well known for his linguistic abilities, having mastered Serbian, English, German, Italian and French. Yet he’s also taken time to learn Mandarin, something that he’s regularly demonstrated in interviews and responding to Chinese fans in video Q&As.  At this year’s China events, Novak also wrote Chinese characters on the camera lens including 爱 (love),赞 (like),笑 (smile),德 (Novak),福 (happy),喜 (like). His depth of understanding also spreads to the Chinese culture and current events. On his personal Weibo account, Novak often celebrates local holidays and festivals with his Chinese fans, and following the Tianjin port explosion, Novak sent his thoughts to anyone affected by the incident.

Brands love Novak. He’s currently activating several global partnerships, each with their own goals and focus on China. During the China tour, Novak spent time with the ANZ Junior tennis participants, launched an event with Uniqlo and attended separate events with both Jacob’s Creek and Peugeot. These events meant that Novak spent more face-to-face time with his fans, growing  his reputation in this region. He’s one a few global sports stars that is actively activating in China, with many others missing out due to a lack of understanding or too much focus elsewhere.

When he’s not at these events or playing tennis, Novak often interacts with his own fans on social media. His Weibo account over the tour was saturated with China content, including retweeting fans, commenting on their posts, and even launching contests for them to win signed prizes. This personal touch is something that no other tennis is star is doing online in China, and further enhances his #1 status.

Novak has returned to Europe after another successful China tour. The two trophies are a tangible reminder of his time in China, however his time off-the-court has built an everlasting relationship with the Chinese fans, and one that saw him win the hearts of China.

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