Editor’s Note: ATPTour.com is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players and tournaments during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published on 4 July 2016.
Novak Djokovic knows the Roger Cup Centre Court inside and out. The Serbian returned to those familiar confines in 2016, but in a different context.
“It was a unique opportunity to share an experience with [NHL players] in their environment,” said Djokovic, who traded his tennis racquet for a hockey stick in joining the annual exhibition ball hockey game alongside professional hockey players Connor McDavid, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and other NHL stars. ATP Tour players competing at the event were Denis Kudla, John Millman, Andrey Kuznetsov and the young Canadian trio of Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger Aliassime and Benjamin Sigouin. “At the same time, it was not an ice rink, so it allowed me and the other tennis players to move around freely. It was the first time that I played hockey, ice rink or not.”
The organisers did not take it easy on the World No. 1, putting him on the spot by making him immediately take a penalty shot, which the goaltender saved. A second attempt beat the netminder, but hit the crossbar and narrowly stayed outside of the goal.
“I enjoyed it, you don’t get these opportunities too often, so I tried to make the best out of it,” said Djokovic, who just missed converting on two other scoring chances during the game, which finished in a tie.
Djokovic went on to lift his fourth ATP Masters 1000 Canada trophy, winning all 10 sets he played.