Retired Russian tennis icon Maria Sharapova has revealed how 17-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic bagged a “fanboy” dinner date during their early playing days.

Sharapova and Djokovic held a lively lockdown chat on Instagram on Tuesday night, during which the Russian five-time Grand Slam champ discussed how the Serbian’s intense competitive streak had been evident from an early stage in his career.

Recalling a doubles exhibition event at La Quinta in Indian Wells, Sharapova said Djokovic had even used it to net a dinner date – with the Russian picking up the bill. 

“We played this little exhibition… and you said if you’d win, I’d have to pay for dinner,” said Sharapova, 33. 

“I was like, ‘OK whatever, who is this kid?’

“You won and you’re like, ‘We have dinner, tonight. We’re going to the Japanese place’. And I was like, ‘Are you serious? You and me are going to dinner? Tonight?’” Sharapova laughed.

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“So we did! We ended up going to dinner.

“It was so funny, you pulled out what I think was this old Kodak camera and you asked the waiter to take a photo of us. I was like, ‘This feels like I auctioned myself off for dinner!’

“I think you were fanboying, you had a big fanboy moment.”

A laughing Djokovic confirmed the story, saying: “That’s actually what happened, Maria is telling the truth.” 

Sharapova famously burst onto the senior tennis scene when she won Wimbledon in 2004 aged just 17, and would go on to win a career Grand Slam. 

Djokovic was a slightly slower starter in comparison, winning the first of his mammoth Grand Slam haul at the Australian Open in 2008 at the age of 20.

Djokovic and Sharapova shared evident mutual respect throughout their playing days, and the Serb was among the first to pay tribute to Sharapova when she retired earlier this year, hailing her as “a legend of the sport.”

As with his fellow tennis pros, world number one Djokovic has largely been kicking his heels during the Covid-19 pandemic with the ATP tour formally suspended until at least the middle of June. Wimbledon has been officially canceled, while the US Open and rescheduled French Open also remain in doubt. 

Djokovic is seeing out the pandemic in Marbella, Spain, but came under fire this week after he was pictured practicing on a clay court in apparent breach of lockdown restrictions.

The club which owns the court has since stated they were responsible for a lack of clarity over the rules and mistakenly gave the tennis star the greenlight to play.

Controversy has also extended to Djokovic’s anti-vaccine beliefs, after he said he would be against taking a jab in order to be able to resume playing on the tour again.