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The Roar

Rik J

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Joined April 2014

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Veteran of ten thousand pub sports debates. Tennis nerd. Big Baller.

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I tend to think of it more as Medvedev winning. He was absolutely inspired. Regardless of the gravity of the occasion, Novak could have beaten just about any other player that day, spotty form and all. And no, that’s not surprising. If you look back over our conversation regarding the Olympics, I’d tipped Daniil as the most likely candidate to beat Novak then.

In terms of his slow starts, I’d say the unique scheduling probably contributed to that. When Steffi won the Golden Slam back in ’88 the Olympics came after the US Open. In Novak’s case they came two weeks after Wimbledon, which due to Covid came two weeks after Roland Garros. He was therefore entering tournaments underdone. He lost three times on clay before Roland Garros alone, it was weird to see people piling so much importance into his two losses at the Olympics.

The GOAT debate isn’t going to go away, especially if Novak is the first to reach 21 slams. Everyone has their favourites and will try to twist the variables in their favour. Others just don’t like Novak and will try to twist the variables against him. But my objective was never to write a post hailing Novak’s credentials in the GOAT debate, it was to compel people to just consider him Fed and Rafa’s equal as a tennis great (which many people are still loath to do).

If it’s due to smashing racquets, fine. But in most cases it isn’t. It can’t be, because all the people not wanting Novak to win were more than happy to cheer for Daniil despite his hot temper and tendency to smash equipment to smithereens.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Hey, I thought you said we were gonna reconnect after the US Open!

To be honest, I didn’t think you were giving the next gen enough of a chance when you made your previous comments about Novak’s campaign for the grand slam.

Before the Olympics I was tipping Medvedev as most likely to stop Novak, especially best of three.

Yep, as I stated in my post, these behaviours are not desirable, but they are human. It’s interesting that the Rafa and Fed faithful were so delighted with Zverev beating Novak that they either forgave or totally overlooked Sascha for slamming his racquet down in frustration, hitting a ball out of the park (who knows who it could have landed on for heaven’s sake) and yelling out in frustration. It makes one wonder how much these things really do bother people, or how much it’s just a convenient excuse presented on a silver platter.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Okay… just kinda seemed like you didn’t want him being better then those two specifically lol.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Hey, thanks! I appreciate you recommending it to others!

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Sounds good! Although, just for the record, you would begrudge Novak for overtaking Roger and Rafa in the slam race?

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

@MM Those are some interesting insights, thank you! He does try to speak up for lower ranked players and this was the source of his now infamous “list of demands” from the Aussie Open.

Their intentions were good in organising the Adria tour, especially as a charity event. And there were several notable players there, not just Novak. But given the difficulties the pandemic has placed upon people’s lives all over the globe, I fully understand the anger and frustration.

But as I’ve mentioned to others, that was very recent. While some are justifiably angry, for others it’s just a convenient excuse. It doesn’t fully explain why he’s dealt with the crowd treatment you cited for so many years.

I’ll never forget championship point at the 2015 US Open, when he won the championship and, rather than celebrating, spun towards the hecklers in the crowd with the ice eye.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

@Tony Fair enough! Likewise, Rafa was notorious for extremely long breaks between points until the inception of the serve clock.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

I did set out to argue a point of view. There’s no ambiguity whatsoever in the title of my article. I stand by the content, and I think the view is valid, as backed up by examples and quotes. Likewise, you seem to have your own barrow to push.

You’re right, it is easy to rebut the vast majority of reasons people dream up to scrutinise Novak. But I mainly did that because you provided a list. As for the people who cite a combination of behaviours as their reasons for disliking him, I addressed that directly towards the end of my article.

“The truth is, to a certain demographic out there, it doesn’t matter what Djokovic does. They will project their hate onto it no matter what.”

Case in point: you’ve cited his “throwing the hearts” celebration. I must admit, you caught me out there. I’d never have dreamt to include his post match attempt to thank the spectators as a reason people dislike him. Agassi used to blow kisses and bow to every part of the crowd.

And, although I don’t place OP of this thread into the same camp, it’s odd that he cited Novak’s diet as a possible reason. It’s baffling that anyone would take umbrage to what he chooses to eat when he’s miles away from the nearest TV camera.

I’m not trying to spin an angle in suggesting that people dislike Novak for his success against Fed and Rafa. It’s well known and the reporter’s question proves it. He may have been looking for a headline but he didn’t pull that question out of thin air.

Finally, I must ask: how would it have rounded out my argument to include his impressions? I don’t see how that would have provided any more context to the content of the article. I could have prefaced a sentence with it: “Despite Novak’s funny impressions, Australians had fallen utterly in love with the charismatic young Frenchman”… Or “Federer was the king of tennis, Rafa the king of clay, and Djokovic was known for his funny impressions” (in a bit more detail of course).
It does not mitigate any of the ensuing points I made.

Especially as Novak is still personable and funny in interviews when he’s not getting asked abrasive questions. his exchanges with Italian journalist Ubaldo Scanagatta, for example. You probably remember the famous “not too bad” interview at the 2019 Australian Open. Arguably even funnier was last year when they resurrected the joke…
“No you have to say ‘not too bad’ it’s not me”
“No I want you to say it… ‘not too…”
“Not too bad!”

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Hi, thanks for reading!
It’s hard to make an exhaustive list of every single problem that everyone has had with Novak, and I didn’t set out to do so. I tried to pick a few of the main ones and point out that he’s not the only one doing these things, and provide examples accordingly.
Having said that, most of the things you brought up, I mentioned in some way (other than the anti vac stance, which is hard to discuss as it brings people’s personal choices into play).
The Adria tour I mentioned directly. Post win celebrations I think I covered with the “bestial scream towards his box” and overall on-court antics, which I acknowledged mightn’t be desirable. The alleged abuse of the MTO I discussed at length. I cited the Thiem match but it was open-ended. It’s essentially the same discussion anyway and will amount to little more than speculation.
The striking of the ball at the linesperson really wasn’t worth discussing in my opinion. I’ve touched on this in another response but, since you mentioned it I’ll bring out the example again: Shapovalov had a much worse instance of this in 2017. Thankfully, people don’t hold it against him. I’m actually comfortable in saying that the people who dislike Djokovic were delighted when he defaulted from the US Open because he gave it to them on a silver platter.
I haven’t re-written his early career. I remember the impersonations well and it contributed to his “Djoker” nickname… Ironically he stopped with those because some of those being imitated didn’t appreciate it. Must be a tough tight rope to walk when you stop doing something out of consideration for your fellow players, only to find out it’s disappointed the fans. I also touched on it when I said people didn’t have particularly strong feelings for him until he started handing frequent losses to Roger and Rafa. This brings me to something else I’ve already mentioned in another response.
In his quarterfinal press conferences at Wimbledon just weeks ago he was literally asked, first question up, what it’s been like to be the “bad guy” chasing down Roger and Rafa. Not only was this an outrageous question, but unlike an MTO or the linesperson incident, this one had nothing to do with what had happened on the court. It was pulled, at random, from people’s feelings regarding his success against Fed and Rafa.
For all the reasons people can jot down for disliking Djokovic, this one is so prevalent that it’s made its way into the media room at Wimbledon.
I’d say the most glaring omission (as to the behaviours that might have cost him some fans) was his tendency to retire from matches in the early days. But as you mentioned, in spite of this he was fairly popular at the time and truthfully, I think that one is well and truly water under the bridge.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Thanks for reading!

Hm, I didn’t know that about Isner, but I’m not surprised, his fellow professionals generally speak highly of him! High praise too!

Yep, Nole definitely has plenty of fans, something his haters don’t seem to understand!

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Thanks, and glad you enjoyed reading it!

Novak seems to take it all in stride, but must surely be fed up with being pigeonholed as a villain simply for winning tennis matches. One journalist even asked him what it was like to be the “something of a bad guy, chasing after Roger and Rafa” at Wimbledon this year. His response was calm and composed, but I can’t recall anyone asking Feder or Nadal questions of that ilk.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Thanks mate, appreciate it!

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Thanks! With lockdowns extending I’m finding more time to write, I hope to add more!

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Lol, are you implying that Djokovic intentionally targeted the linesperson, deliberately jeopardising his US Open campaign? And that he made a no-look bullseye shot? To quote John McEnroe, “you cannot be serious”! Careless? Stupid? Sure. But malicious? No, not a chance.

My intention was not to imply that Djokovic does no wrong, but that he’s human, makes mistakes and the way people judge him is not consistent with how other players are judged, usually because people don’t find him to be “likeable”, as you said. Andre Agassi targeted a linesperson not once, but twice against Pat Rafter in the Wimbledon semis back in ’01, and that has never had any impact on his status as one of the most beloved players of all time.

Denis Shapovalov had a similar, but much more egregious blunder in the Davis Cup in 2017, when he whacked a ball out of frustration that caught the chair umpire in the eye. While it was unfortunate and quite careless, people recognised it for what it was, an accident, and Shapo thankfully hasn’t had to worry about it following him around.

Clear sexism? If it’s the prize parity quote, it’s pretty similar to what Nadal said.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Whoa, thanks! I’m glad you appreciated it!

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

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I’m here to address your concerns, Max. Let’s talk!

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Nope, referred to the Adria tournament as “downright idiotic”. I could have gone into more detail but I thought that was pretty concise.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Many thanks!

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Thanks mate! Glad you enjoyed it!
Ah the “super fan” argument, a fantastic way to ridicule and discredit someone who wants to engage in proper debate. Ironically the ones who say this are usually super fans themselves, of someone or another!
Often, there’s no point engaging with people who want to shut you down like that. Their attacks on Novak’s character are usually just a last resort, since it’s become less and less feasible over the years to say he’s not a great player.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Many thanks!

Before the Wimbledon final I called that the crowd would be heavily pro-Berrettini, you probably did too. It was genuinely interesting to see a predominantly English crowd being so passionately Forza Italia just hours ahead of their European Cup final!

This is just normal for Novak. I’m a great fan of all of the big 3, but it was fun to watch Djokovic vs Rafa live in Sydney last year. The Serbian fans turned up in a massive way to support their man and Rafa seemed genuinely rattled by it. The fact that Nole has been doing it for so long and still breaking records is incredible.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Absolutely. The Adria tour was a complete disaster, and given the toll the pandemic has taken on the world, people have every right to be upset, annoyed, angry etc… I don’t think all the hate sent his way is due to the Adria tour, or even most of it. This is just from my observations as a tennis fan and internet user. The Adria tour was very recent, whereas Nole’s been playing against the crowd for his whole career, to the point where he’s had to address it in press conferences (Wimbledon 2019 for example).

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Thanks!
Yeah, that’s understandable… I was always the same when Federer emerged (regarding cheering against a dominant player) but as it became clear he was chasing history and closing in on Sampras’ record, I got swept up in the history of it along with everyone else! It’s strange that nowhere near as many people seem to be on board with Novak’s quest for history in the same way.
And absolutely agree about Federer’s game, aesthetically it’s beautiful. His particular brand of tennis is my favourite to watch, particularly on grass!
And yes, it’s time to pay credit where it’s due! There are still far too many people who feel the need to mitigate any praise of Djokovic with “he’s arrogant”, “he’s not a nice guy” or “…but he’ll never have the respect that Roger and Rafa have”. It’s time to give it a rest. He screwed up good and proper with his exhibition series (and he knows it), but really that’s about it.

Quiet please: It's time for the Novak knocking to stop

Great read!
As a long-time fan of Djokovic, I find that the main reason people love to hate him is, as you stated at the beginning of your article, that he’s closing in on Rafa and Federer. Fans of the Fedals tend to be quite dogmatic in their support and consider anyone who goes out and gets in their face, or worse, defeats them, “arrogant”. They said it about Wawrinka and Murray too, but, neither of them are a threat to either Federer or Nadal’s records. The dislike for Djokovic has been rife since long before he held the Adria tournament. Even when he won his first slam in Melbourne back in 2008, people cheered louder for his charismatic opponent, Jo Wilfried Tsonga.
I for one don’t think Rafa and Roger’s fans need to worry as much as they do; the likes of Medvedev and Thiem have proven they can beat Djokovic in recent seasons. While he’s already overtaken Rafa in most meaningful categories outside of clay, his path to 20 slams isn’t as “clear” as many of them make out.
I am gutted we had to lose the Sydney International to make way for the ATP Cup, but glad to have been a live attendee for chapter 55 in the Djokovic/Nadal rivalry. For once, Djokovic was an overwhelming crowd favourite, and Nadal didn’t seem to appreciate it too much. It’s quite impressive the winning Nole has been able to do while so rarely having the crowd on his side.

Novak Djokovic: His own worst enemy

Glad you enjoyed it, mate!

I can highly recommend Agassi autobio, a great read, especially if you remember a lot of the matches!

He also has high praise for Pat Rafter in the book, to quote him roughly, he says something to the effect of “a hard guy to beat and even harder to dislike”. It’s also interesting reading his insights in regards to working with Darren Cahill, and his attitudes towards Aussie culture. Spoiler: he loves it down here.

Rafter vs Agassi: The forgotten trilogy

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