Jelena Ristic (born June 17, 1986) is girlfriend of the current number-one ranked tennis player in the world, almost unbeatable Serbian player Novak Djokovic. Jelena was born in Belgrade, capital city of Serbia.
She was always a sport type of girl, training athletics and tennis from early age. After Drinka Pavlovic grade school, she went to Sport High School where she first met Novak Djokovic. Her mother Vera Ristic said that it was love at first sight and that tennis was the reason why those two grew so quickly close together. She was one year older than him and already one of the most beautiful girls in Belgrade.
Unlike Novak she didn’t pursue her career in sport, after high school she went to prestigious Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Her studies in foreign country and his ATP World Tour around the world didn’t stopped this couple to be constantly together.
She was with him on every important match he played in his career. Saying that behind every great man there is an even greater woman is not far behind in their case. Novak said that she is his biggest support in life, his driving force and that she makes him calm and stable. She was with him when he was no one, just the kid that was once playing tennis in an empty swimming pool all day because he was too scared to come on open court when Belgrade was bombarded by NATO forces in the military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, at the end of the Balkan Wars in the 90′s.
By the way, he trained in this empty swimming pool with Ana Ivanovic, also former world no. 1 female tennis player.
Novak and celiac disease
Jelena was with him when he was on the start of his career, raised in far worse conditions than most of his rivals, and on top of everything he was carrying rare celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine with symptoms of chronic diarrhea, failure to thrive and fatigue.
This disorder is caused by a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats. He wasn’t aware that he is carrying this disease till 2011. Despite that he was managing to slowly become one of the best tennis players in the world by ranking in the top 10 few years in a row.
ATP World Tour domination
But when doctors found out about his disease, his nutritionists changed his diet and he became an unstoppable machine that is dominating ATP World Tour like no one before. Before that, especially on the beginning of his career, he was player that was forced to resign matches in Australian Open because of heat and fatigue. He won Australian Open in 2012 over Rafael Nadal, who is known to be the most physically impressive player in the world, after six hours of marathon match with world class intensity.
Would he manage to overcome all of this obstacles without his biggest support in life, his driving force, somebody who makes him calm and stable, the love of his life? Probably not.
Although Jelena Ristic was spending most of her time on World Tour with Novak, she managed to finish her studies in Milan. Not only that she also managed to obtain Masters Degree with honors, but now she is going after PhD with the theme of management. Some rumors said that Novak promised to marry her after she gets her PhD.
There is a lot of fuss about them lately, and tabloids are desperately trying to find some dirty laundry, but there is nothing to be found.
They are just too normal. She is a quiet girl that doesn’t like to be too exposed, she agrees to make interviews very rarely and when she does, the only thing you can hear from her is how she loves him.
Novak Djokovic Foundation (NDF)
Jelena Ristic is director of Novak Djokovic Foundation. Their mission statement is following:
Enable children from disadvantaged communities to grow up, play and develop in stimulative, creative and safe settings, whilst learning to respect others and care for their environment.
NDF is founded in 2007 but recently they have intensified their activities and their work is more transparent to general public. This year they have started the project called “School of life” with purpose to reach the rural, often forgotten municipal communities in Serbia with aim to involve children in educational programs. Novak is UNICEF’s ambassador for Serbia to help raise the awareness of low enrollment rates in pre-school education in Serbia and UNICEF is playing integral part in this project.
They are fundraising in London and New York and so far they have raised $750 000 for this project. Some of the donors are Donna Karan and Tommy Hilfiger. When asked how come that such names are donating to Serbia, Jelena simply said that Novak’s name is opening all doors. They draw their motivation from the fact that each year less and less children is being born in Serbia and more than 50% of children are not going to preschool or kindergarten.
Jelena said that her ultimate goal is to give them wings to follow their dreams. Very noble and humanitarian indeed.