Novak Djokovic hands his racket to a stunned Ivanka Li

Credit: HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY

Novak Djokovic had spectators gushing as he handed his racket to a little girl in the crowd on Centre Court as he celebrated his Wimbledon triumph.

He had walked over to Ivanka Li, 7, in the front row after she and her father, Bo, an investor from North London, held up a hand-written placard wishing him luck.

After being tracked down by Telegraph Sport, the schoolgirl’s mother described how she missed the adorable scenes as she was out walking her dog while it was screened on the BBC.

However, Ivanka was "bursting with delight" when she eventually spoke to her mother, Chris, on the phone.

"She was just saying, ‘what has happened?’," Ms Li said. "She was asking, ‘is that a real racket?’ I had been taking my son and puppy for a walk in Hampton Court so I haven’t seen it yet. My son is five years old so he couldn’t go into Centre Court. I really wish we were all there for it."

Ivanka cannot hide her delight

Credit: HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY

Little Ivanka is a keen tennis player and had been runner-up in a junior tournament that morning. Ms Li hopes the gesture will prompt her to eventually emulate Emma Raducanu.

"She plays tennis and she works really hard," she added. "She’s improved quite a bit this last three months. It was the first time my daughter had been to a Wimbledon final. It was the first time she had seen him. I wish the racket brings luck to her so one day she could be at Wimbledon and maybe be like Emma. She absolutely loves tennis. She watches every single match with me."

The mother and daughter had decided to make a placard this morning. "I did the outline," she added. "She came up with all the words. For one of the last words, I said, ‘let’s put on "kissable"’. She didn’t like it – she wanted kind or king but I said, ‘just put something funny’. We just loved Novak. He’s hard working, he is everything. He is everything you could wish a tennis player could be. He’s so humble."

Ivanka with her message to Novak Djokovic

Credit: HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY

Ms Li said she went out with the dog because she "got nervous" about the game. "I was keeping myself updated with the score," she said. "I wish next year I can go in with my son."

There was minor disruption outside Centre Court, as Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy, led a protest against Covid restrictions and vaccinations. A crowd of around 100 activists gathered outside gate four, near the show court, but left midway through the third set.