A Long Rant – Against Novak’s Need to Feel Loved

Roger Federer transfixes audiences with the exhibition of his racket skills with the ball . Rafael Nadal earns their respect by resorting to ‘shock and awe’ tactics. Roger is an artist, Rafa  a warrior. At one time ,the master had lulled the tennis world into sweet slumber by playing his sonatas and symphonies . Alone ,he shone like the Sun, and plundered almost every treasure that was on offer. Beauty had then swallowed up entertainment, contests had been reduced to mere etiquette.  That loot during those monopolistic years was accepted as homages by  worshippers- a necessary sacrifice towards watching Mr Tennis  in action . Outcomes had become predictable .Such monotony cries out for change.

 

The prayers for a worthy challenger to appear were answered in the arrival of  an iconoclast . But so pure was his own persuit , such single-minded his resolve, that he never came across as a usurper. Absolute monarchy of tennis  seamlessly segued into a Duopoly. After that, God had to break sweat to earn his tribute . Divinity was made to look utterly human ,fallible. The challenger denied him prize after prize, and reduced the master to a bundle of nerves . ‘ Fedal’ established a balance between competing styles, and in due time.came to be  accepted as the natural order of things.

 

The duopoly contained duality within itself . An ecosystem encompassing duality has no pores or interstices left for any other idea . Djokovic threatened and then disturbed this cosy equilibrium. Most Tennis fanatics by then had  pledged loyalties to either Nar (human, that is Rafa),or Narayana (God,that is Roger). The Big Three has since been grudgingly accepted but is always seen as a crowd.

 

He arrived on the horizon as a fun-loving, self-mocking youngster who did possess obvious talent, but grappled with his fitness . The promise was obvious, but it being the the era of Federer and Nadal, despite his early Australian Open success, he was seen as comic relief, a breaker of monotony along with Andy Murray ,Davydenko and Del Potro,a  top five material and potential winner of not more than a couple more Grand Slams . His impersonations of fellow players rubbed Fedal the wrong way. His mid-match collapses were deemed mysterious and  inexcusable. He was not even a proper footnote till 2011, which was the year when everything changed with his victory at Melbourne, SW 19 and New York.

 

When Novak won his first Grand Slam, Fedal’s tally stood at 13 and 5 respectively. By the end of 2010, Roger had 16, and Rafa 9. Novak has clearly been an intruder in the party . Since 2011, Djokovic has managed to win 15 Grand Slams and has been World Number One for 260 weeks. During this time ,Roger has won two Australian Opens and two Wimbdledons , and Rafa 7 French Opens plus two US Opens. The ongoing decade has belonged to Novak , who has won 15 out of last 35 Slams. Yet a lot is made of how the audience doesn’t like him, or never support him, as much as he would like ,or as they do back Fedal.

 

One can very well appreciate why this party-popper is not loved . Some purists prefer single-handed backhands of Roger and Stan ,whereas the highly effective double-handed backhand of Novak doesn’t get lauded . His serves are neither the fastest, nor impenetrable, nor are they copybook perfect . They are just ‘effective’ and more accurate than most players’ . His volleys and drop shots do not display Roger’s feather touch , nor are his strong backhands as ferocious as Del Potro’s flats or Roger’s whips. On top of this , he grunts unapologetically , and has  sometimes even been  accused of  faking injuries or opting for convenient timeouts .

 

Novak is a supreme athlete whose playing style is a complete package. He has managed to outshine Fedal in the ongoing decade and has a better head-to-head record against both the champions. He is quite nimble on his feet, and it is nightmarish to send any ball past him. His accuracy is frustrating for his opponents and his determination unrelenting. On the court, he might not come across as a warrior throwing all he can into the ‘ last battle’ , or as an artist creating some masterpiece, but he digs in quite deep, and is considered somewhat of an ‘escape artist’ who snatches wins from jaws of defeat . He out-thinks and outlasts his opponents , and outpaces them when it matters. This is the secret of the success of Novak Djokovic. It is not the crowd that crowns champions, rather their own minds and bodies who raise them heads and shoulders above the rest of the flock.

 

Yet it somehow riles Novak that he is not as loved as Fedal . Nick Kyrgios recently lampooned his desperation to be treated on the same footing as them. Nick quite rightly pointed towards his ‘cringe-worthy’  and avoidable post-victory celebrations in which the latter appears to hurl his heart or love towards his fans . Even during and after the Wimbledon final on Sunday, he made known his displeasure over partisan support in favour of Roger. “When they scream Roger,I hear Novak ! ”. Why does the great champion need to beg for support ? It is obvious that this seeming lack of popularity with the crowds has not come in the way of his achievements. So why not just show the suckers their place, as Kyrgios often does !

 

Novak must understands that he is an East European Slav (a Serbo-Croat) who would always be viewed as an outsider in the fussy Anglo-Saxon world of tennis. That he prevented the march of the great champions towards unscalable heights  irks their diehard  supporters. Fanatics would always suggest that their own icon played better or that Novak somehow got lucky. He knows this well and hence this quest for crowd support is rather mocking in a way in that it serves a reminder to the world that he wins despite much of their backing. Rather than hanker after pitiable love, or drummed up support, he should rather focus on surpassing Roger’s tally of 20 Grand Slams, and 310 weeks as World Number One. That would send a fitting message to tennis aficionados the world over ,who are also not obliged to cheer for Novak in turn.

 

33 Comments Add yours

  1. KK says:

    Brilliantly written!!!!

    And the guy fights…if not for 2017 injury… he would have been at least 18 GS by now….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thean-huat Ong says:

      …. spot on! ….

      Like

  2. KK says:

    Brilliantly written!!!!

    Let the guy be not liked like other 2…. it’s working for him…and if maintains this level for next 3 yrs…. he is touching 20….

    And the guy fights…if not for 2017 injury… he would have been at least 18 GS by now….

    Like

  3. Goatlips says:

    Well, he certainly overcame the unfairly partisan crowd, finally getting them to sit down and shut up, after us seeing them stand up in the crowd and obscuring the television camera view after every and any point Federer won.
    Winning a Wimbledon final versus Federer is difficult enough without the fans being against you, yet Djokovic somehow stayed strong enough to win – although Federer played better, to be honest, but maybe that was due to him playing ‘at home’ with the fans behind him.
    …Don’t even compare Kyrgios with Djokovic – he’s one of the biggest wastes of talent in sports’ history and one of the most mentally weak.
    Djokovic is several classes above Kyrgios, both on and off the tennis court.
    Sentimentally, it was a shame Federer couldn’t win Wimbledon again at 37, but Djokovic had already shown the world that he’s the greatest tennis player in history during the 2011 & 2015 seasons, and he needs to surpass Federer’s 20 Grand Slam wins total to end any arguments.
    He now has 16 major wins, in the most difficult era, and winning head-to-head records over all his rivals.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. JK says:

    Thank you for writing this! I am one of Djokovic’s fans and while I haven’t had the chance to watch his game (and any game for that matter) other than on tv, I know that like me, there are MANY Djokovic followers out there that have always supported him and prayed for him. Djokovic (and all the tennis world) needs to remember that his fans extend beyond the seats of any court he plays on. I admire him for his amazing tennis skills, and his ability to shut down all doubters around him. Yes, people cheered on Federer in that last Wimbledon final, and yes, the stats showed he played better than Djokovic, but nobody can ever deny that after all that’s said and done, the WIN is what counts. Congrats, Novak! We are so proud of you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. crrob says:

    Not sure how many more majors Nole will win but he is a true warrior and a pleasure to watch. He reminds me of Tom Brady, an absolute winner on all levels.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kevin brady says:

    Wtf he is a Eastern European? How racist can the author of this thread be. It’s like saying Michael Jordan isn’t liked because he’s black.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kevin mark says:

    He’s an Eastern European? How racist can the author be. This is Anglo supremacy right here. It’s like saying Michael Jordan isn’t liked because he’s black no. Had you ever considered the fact that nadal facial feature looks exactly Mexican despite his supposedly Spaniard roots? And had you taken a look at Federer’s mom who looks like a Muslim?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ajinkya Karpe says:

      I think the author here is trying to show the bias in the tennis world which is very true. Lendl in the past, even Navratilova never got the love they deserved, it is not his own view that he is putting here. Imagine Novak being from UK or USA, he would never receive such disrespect on the tennis courts. Eastern European athletes are sadly treated in an unfair manner and there are enough evidences to prove that. That is the very reason why Novak is most loved in China and India where no such bias exists with regards to east/west European players.

      Like

    2. Juanto says:

      Kevin, you might consider deleting your comments above. They do not come across well and you look bad for having made them. It appears as though you misunderstood the authors words.

      Like

  8. JoeKapa says:

    What the author say’s about him not being like because he is Eastern European, is SPOT ON, and it has happened to champion in the past.

    Lendl, Navritalova, Seles were lambasted and portrayed as villains by the tennis establishment and the sports media. They all dominated the sport against more WASPy/Western European rivals. One’s career ended by a crazed fan, after she started to dominate Graf.

    The author here is not being racist at all. He is pointing out the blatant racism against Eastern European’s who DOMINATED and threatened the tennis hegemony.

    You can point out other Eastern Europeans, like Ivanisevic for instance. But they NEVER dominated and were never seen as a threat. Sure a couple of slams here and there…..but dominance no. If they had dominated, they would have copped the same wrath.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Anna says:

    What a deep psychoanalysis, but it doesn’t mean it’s accurate. When someone is trying to focus on their job whatsoever that is they can be annoyed by loud screams and at times inappropriate behavior, while they are trying to do precise moves. That doesn’t mean that he’s desperate for their love. At the end of the day tennis is a sport as any other, not a love affair. If devotion in sport is going toward obsession and rudeness at times that deserves more of psychoamalysis. Fed fans are always pushing talk about class but in their obsession with him thry often lack one. Booing at times for no reason and clapping when another player falls down is something you should be analyzed as you might think you have a good feel for it. I can only hope Earth will continue to turn around the son, and bees will still survive Feds retirement one day. I think there will be some class left too, there was one out there even before Fed and his fans started to exist.
    Your writing is not about facys and neutral, it is full of obvious dislike for another player. Sounds as if you tried to get into Djokovic past med history, so let me feel you in, I heard he has asthma and celiac disease, in addition to your obvious attempt to label him as some kind of emotionally disturbed person. And the worst of all is using words of that Australian player who is not a good example of a mature adult neither he has significant achievements in tennis.
    Reg retiring, Djokovic was doing that ao long ago that don’t see necessity of bringing it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In the last para, you imply that fans consider the Serb an intruder. That’s absolutely disgusting to say the least. Fans like Roger and Rafa for what they are and not for where they are from. Why see racism in that? Let’s take a hypothetical scenario. What if Novak was 37 and Roger was 32? What you think would have happened at SW19 on Sunday?? There you go!!! Roger will remain the GOAT forever!!! and when Novak turns 37 and perhaps has broken, by then, probably all the records, l seriously doubt that the crowd would be chanting “Go Novak!!!”

    Like

    1. abpunch says:

      i suppose you dont realise the innate , invisible rascism in insisting that fed wud remain GOAT no matter what !

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sayonara.kitty says:

    Nick K needs to spend more time worrying about his own game rather than criticizing Djokovic’s… nick doesn’t have the maturity level to be a champion.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Svarog says:

    Great article as usual. I agree on most of the things you stated but one thing really comes to mind and it’s about Eastern European prejudice most of tennis fans subconsciously inherent. It’s more than obvious that most of the Federer fans will never appreciate Djokovic as neutrals. I’ve seen hundreds (maybe even thousands) of comments stating how he will never be GOAT no matter how many slams he gets under his belt. Sadly, this Federer idolatry is something we will have to live with.
    P.S.
    Ivanisevic is a Croat and Djokovic is a Serb. You should probably fix that before the hordes of angry Croats and Serbs come here to argue. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. abpunch says:

      @svarog, Nole is half Serb (dad) and half Croat (mom)….which is why he is at home both within Serbian as well as Croatian camps ( remember his pics with the Croatian soccer stars during previous World Cup)

      Like

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  14. Skrebnits says:

    I think it’s the petulant, racket smashing behaviour and trying too hard to be funny/liked that make him less popular with fans. He doesn’t seem to be as likeable as a person basically. And since when was Nadal an Anglo Saxon? Yet he’s extremely popular. Novak might one day emerge as the best ever but that won’t make him the most popular as he doesn’t seem to have a very nice personality compared with the other two.

    Like

  15. I don’t really think Novak is unpopular – he seems to be as popular as Sampras or Edberg, and more than Lendl. The idea that he’s unpopular seems to just stem from him being not as loved as Federer, who is probably the most popular player of all time. So it shouldn’t be an issue. As for Fedal, their rivalry took on a lot of emotional energy from the tears, the hugs, the giggles! Novak has had a great sporting contest wtih both of them but it’s pretty much confined to the court – lacking that human element it doesn’t quite get people engaged in the same way.

    The whole GOAT thing is a vastly overrated hype that has done nothing but set fans against each other. Of course Fed fans will always think he’s the best as will Novak and Nadal fans of their guys. Nothing wrong with that and shouldn’t stop us appreciating these guys while we’re lucky enough to have them – wait till we have nothing but the useless bunch underneath them.

    So I hope neither Novak or his fans get too wound up about this – he’s not hated, is hugely admired, immensely rich – he’s fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. kangarabbit says:

    ‘So why not just show the suckers their place, as Kyrgios often does !’ How you can even compare Novak to that waste of skin NK is beyond me, let alone holding him up as an example. What an insult.

    Like

  17. Bobby says:

    Well written artical but just one correction. Novak is not Serbo croat, Novak is SERB/SERBIAN!

    Like

    1. abpunch says:

      well his mom’s side is croat i suppose

      Like

      1. Bobby says:

        His mother is Serbian.

        Like

      2. abpunch says:

        Bobby ,u might be knowing better…but from what i have read on internet, her mom’s maiden name was Zagar which is a Croat-Slovene surname…her parents came from eastern croatia and settled in Belgrade.

        Like

  18. Bobby says:

    I get your point but just saying that her nationality is Sebian.

    Like

  19. Bobby says:

    Serbian*

    Like

  20. brainwashedgreek says:

    Obviously you nailed it in the end. But don’t get fooled, Nole of course understands that he does not belong to the western circles (nor does he want to, no sane self-respecting Slav would) , but this (unlimited – unconditional western hatred) does not prevent him being a good person, a real Serbian. (btw he is Serb not Croat-Serb).

    Like

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