The Serbian Davis Cup team tried this week to explain the importance of world No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic in their country.
"You cannot even imagine how big it is," Viktor Troicki said.
"He's like Elvis Presley," Nenad Zimonjic said.
"And Michael Jordan - together," Troicki added.
"Combined with LeBron (James)," Ilija Bozoljac chimed in.
"And Tiger Woods," captain Bogdan Obradovic said.
"He's just a great person, a great personality," Troicki said. "He might be the future president of Serbia."
Djokovic, who will lead Serbia against the U.S. in a Davis Cup quarterfinal beginning Friday at Taco Bell Arena, is a national hero for a country battered by war and political turmoil during his childhood. NATO bombed the region for more than two months in 1999, when he was 11, and Serbia broke off from Yugoslavia in 2003.
Djokovic has become one of the best players in history - and turned tennis into the most popular sport in Serbia, where team sports used to reign, players say. Serbian tennis stars travel on diplomatic passports because of their role in changing the image of their nation.
He has won several honors for his humanitarian work.
He displays an endearing personality. Type Djokovic's name into YouTube and you'll find him impersonating other tennis stars and dueling with Maria Sharapova in light-hearted Head commercials.
And he even waded deep into political waters in 2008 when he videotaped a message after winning the Australian Open supporting Serbia's resistance to independence for Kosovo. The speech was shown to 150,000 protesters in Belgrade, Serbia.
"He's a big personality," said U.S. captain Jim Courier, a four-time Grand Slam champion. "He has a lot of charm. He's very smart - he's a high-IQ guy. He gets it. He understands his responsibility."
That shows in Djokovic's commitment to Davis Cup.
He made his debut in 2004, when Serbia was mired in the qualifying groups. He pushed the country into the 16-team World Group - the top level - for the first time in 2008.
And he won two matches as Serbia beat France in the 2010 final in Belgrade - launching a massive celebration.
"We still try to revive those memories that we had," said Djokovic, who moved to Munich for nearly two years at age 12 to train at a tennis academy and turned pro at 16. "The Davis Cup title came in the right time, in 2010, when there was a big expansion of tennis throughout Serbia. There were 20,000 people celebrating that win with us.
"I've won Wimbledon in my career, I managed to come to No. 1 in the world. But sharing such a big trophy with your teammates and your country, playing and winning for your country, I think is not comparable to anything that you can experience."
That victory propelled Djokovic on a historic run that he's still riding.
He finished ranked No. 3 for four straight years, from 2007 to 2010, but couldn't break the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal stranglehold at the top. His only major title had come at the 2008 Australian Open.
The Davis Cup title - along with an improved focus and new gluten-free diet - changed him.
He opened 2011 with 41 consecutive wins, posted a 70-6 record, won every Grand Slam except the French Open, claimed a record five of the elite ATP Masters 1000 series titles and jumped to No. 1 for the first time.
"It was the mental thing in the end, understanding of life around tennis, making a few adjustments, but mostly self-belief and confidence in the right moments against the top players in the major tournaments," Djokovic said. "I was very consistent with my results but I wasn't managing to make that extra step when I played Federer, Nadal - those two guys. They were very dominant, and I wasn't managing to break that dominance because I didn't believe enough mentally that I can do that, that I can overcome that.
Djokovic won the Australian Open again last year and, after briefly losing it to Federer, regained the No. 1 ranking. And he won in Australia this year, too - giving him wins in five of the past nine Grand Slam events.
Even with losses in the semifinals and fourth round of his last two tournaments, Djokovic owns 41 percent more ranking points than new No. 2 Andy Murray.
The question no longer is whether he's the world's best, but where he ranks in history.
"He's probably the best defensive player the game has ever seen," Courier said. "He's certainly the most flexible male player the game has ever seen, from my eyes, at least in the modern era, which allows him to get to shots and stretch to get to shots that no one could get to previously."
The difference the last three years, Courier said, is Djokovic's professionalism.
"He's really addressed any weaknesses - and there weren't many that he started with," Courier said. "First and foremost was his fitness because he had some problems with hot, humid conditions. He went gluten-free. That seemed to change the way his body was able to deal with extreme situations."
The top two Americans - No. 20 Sam Querrey and No. 23 John Isner - will try to solve Djokovic this weekend. Isner goes first, on Friday, with Querrey taking his shot Sunday. Querrey is 1-5 against Djokovic, losing 6-0, 7-6 last month in Indian Wells, Calif. Isner is 1-2, winning in three sets last year in Indian Wells.
"We're going to take the court believing that we can beat him again, but we're certainly going to have to play very, very well to have a chance," Isner said. "If we don't play well, it might not look so good."