When Deepika Padukone was described as Novak Djokovic’s ‘female companion’, said she must ‘work harder’ to be recognised

In 2016, Deepika Padukone made headlines after she was spotted out for dinner with tennis star Novak Djokovic in Los Angeles. And one of those headlines, controversially, identified her as Djokovic’s ‘female companion’ and ‘leggy brunette’.

Later that year, Deepika commented about the slight, and said that she wasn’t upset by it. “It just means I have to work harder,” she told NDTV. The controversy erupted after Indian press took the UK’s Daily Mail to task for failing to identify Deepika, while posting pictures of her outing with Djokovic.

Shortly after the gaffe was pointed out, the original report was reedited with a new, highly effusive introduction for Deepika. She was described as ‘one of the biggest Bollywood stars of her generation, and reported as ‘one of the highest-paid Indian stars of the moment’.

Later, in 2018, Deepika commented on meeting Djokovic, and told India Today, “I think it’s very exciting to meet people who are champions and are so talented at what they do. I have learnt so much.”

The actor is indeed one of the highest-paid in the country, with hits such as Padmaavat and Bajirao Mastani to her name. She forayed into Hollywood with a supporting role in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, starring Vin Diesel. She will co-produce and star in a ‘cross-cultural’ romantic comedy, which marks her second Hollywood outing.

Djokovic, meanwhile, is embroiled in an international incident after being barred from entering Australia without a COVID-19 vaccination. He had earlier said that he has been allowed to compete at the Australian Open without a mandatory vaccine, but was stopped at the airport, after which he was sent to a quarantine centre. His lawyers on Saturday said that he’d contracted the virus in December.

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