New York: Reigning world tennis champion Novak Djokovic became a goodwill ambassador for the UN Fund for Children on Wednesday, joining a roster of athletes and celebrities to hold the post.
The 28-year-old Serbian, who grew up during the Balkans war, has already been working to help vulnerable children through his role as UNICEF Serbia ambassador and his own Novak Djokovic Foundation.
"I am honored to have become a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, and to continue to help defend and uphold children`s rights and provide access to early childhood care and development for every girl and every boy," he said in a statement.
Djokovic, born in Belgrade in 1987 before the Balkans war broke out, spent his childhood in Serbia. He has said on several occasions that tennis was a "blessing."
"The early years of life are crucial," he said.
"When well nurtured and cared for in their earliest years, children are more likely to survive, to grow in a healthy way, to have fewer illnesses, to develop thinking, language, emotional and social skills and become productive and successful citizens of society," he said.
Yoka Brandt, UNICEF deputy executive director, said Djokovic was a "true champion" for children around the world.
"He has shown that a powerful voice and powerful actions can make a difference for children, especially when they are very young," she said.
Djokovic, who holds 54 titles including nine Grand Slams, joins other famous goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, including David Beckham, Katy Perry, Roger Moore, Shakira and Serena Williams.
In his role as a UNICEF Serbia ambassador, Djokovic visited preschools and kindergartens in his homeland to highlight the importance of investing in early learning.
His support and his own foundation have helped create more flexible, high-quality and inclusive pre-school education for some of Serbia`s most vulnerable children, UNICEF said.