Novak Djokovic has been honoured by Serbian scientists who’ve named a new species of super-strong and flexible beetle after a tennis legend imbued with the same qualities.
And the seemingly indestructible 35-year-old Djokovic showed just why he’s the entomologists’ favourite in Kazakhstan on Friday as he still managed to beat Karen Khachanov to reach the Astana Open semi-final while playing well below from his best.
The insect, discovered in the western part of the country a few years ago in an underground pit, has been named ‘Duvalius Dokovici’ in honour of the 21-time grand slam champ.
According to Serbian media, that’s because the beetle is particularly strong, fast, flexible, durable and has an ability to survive in a difficult environment.
Researcher Nikola Vesovic told the Tanjug news agency that the new species was a specialised underground Coleoptera beetle, a predator which had lost its eyes while living deep underground.
“I proposed to name the new species after Djokovic,” Vesovic said.
“He is the man who did much for this country. We feel urged to pay him back in the way we can.”
Not that Serbia’s superhero is finished with his tennis heroics as he demonstrated with a 6-4 6-3 quarter-final victory over Khachanov in Astana which has moved him closer to his 90th ATP tournament triumph – and his second in just a week.
Although playing nowhere near as well as he had in his opening two wins in Astana, Djokovic had too much for his perennial Russian victim, earning a seventh straight match win in a run which also saw him lift the Tel Aviv Open last weekend.
“Still, it was enough,” Djokovic shrugged.
“I managed to produce some good tennis when it was the most needed.
“I always expect highs from myself, and hopefully I can elevate still the level of my game for tomorrow – because it’s going to be needed!”
That’s because he faces a potentially thrilling semi-final with Daniil Medvedev, his fellow former world No.1 with whom the Serb has developed a keen rivalry after winning six of their 10 contests, including the last one in the 2021 Paris Masters final.
Medvedev outplayed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1 6-1 while the other semi-final pits third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 (10-8) 6-3, against fifth seeded Andrey Rublev, a 6-1 6-2 victor over Adrian Mannarino.