Novak Djokovic: Why the world number one is such a polarizing player


Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is a 20-time Grand Slam champion

Novak Djokovic often has to cover his ear to encourage a crowd to cheer him on.

He has won a record 20 men’s Grand Slam titles and is the world number one with amazing athletics, but he is also one of the most polarizing figures in his sport.

The 34-year-old Serb is currently sitting in a government detention hotel in Australia, waiting for his latest controversy to unfold. after revoking his visa in Melbourne when he arrived to defend his Australian Open title.

A court will decide on Monday whether to expel him, but whether to win or lose the appeal, this week’s events have made him an even more divisive player.

How did a child who took refuge during the NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999 becoming a player who has struggled to warm the hearts of so many?

“You can’t make people love you”

When Djokovic faced Roger Federer in the 2019 Wimbledon final, an epic match was marred by the Serbian’s booing.

His failures were applauded and he was ridiculed in a partisan atmosphere more likely to be in football stadiums than on the central court.

Djokovic saved match points and won a classic final, with experts urging fans to show more respect for a great player.

It’s hard to know exactly why they didn’t: yes, the hugely popular Federer has a fan base like no other, but Djokovic is also one of the greats of the sport.

“You can’t make people love you and that’s been a bit of a situation,” former coach Boris Becker told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast.

“He’s a good young athlete with the right attitude and character, he just has a different view of life. He has a different view of how he eats, how he drinks, how he sleeps. That’s where you can’t criticize him. Maybe that’s the That’s why it’s so successful, but it’s not for everyone, I understand. “

Does your way of celebrating people go off? He makes an extravagant gesture at the four corners of the track in gratitude: is that nice when you’ve been booing?

Or is it past behavior on the track? Players have repeatedly accused him of exaggerating injuries, including at the Australian Open last year, when Taylor Fritz said the Serb would have withdrawn from his match if his abdominal problem was “very , very serious “.

In 2008, Andy Roddick mocked Djokovic, suggesting that among the many diseases that bother Serbs at the US Open could be bird flu, anthrax and SARS.

Or are they your flashbacks to the track? The most infamous of them ended with a 2020 U.S. Open preseason when he accidentally hit a ball against a line judge.

His displeasure with the referees and the children of the ball over the years has also contrasted with the calmer behavior of his closest rivals, Federer and Nadal, and the word “arrogant” is never far from the lips of his critics.

It can be a mix of all of this, but it’s also worth considering what’s happened off the track.

“Good intentions” or “selfish”?

Djokovic received a lot of criticism at the beginning of the pandemic when he was among several players who tested positive for Covid-19 at his Adria Tour event, where the players did not have to distance themselves socially and were embraced on the net.

Although the blockade rules in Croatia had been relaxed at the time, there was still no vaccine. Britain’s Dan Evans said it was “a bad example to set” and Australian Nick Kyrgios described it as a “shy decision” to play.

Djokovic later apologized, saying it had been “too early” to hold the event, but that the measure had been driven by “a pure heart” and “good intentions”.

He once again caused frustration a year ago when he asked Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley to relax the quarantine rules, including suggestions on how to reduce isolation periods and move quarantined players home. private with tennis courts.

Again, Djokovic noted “good intentions” and said his letter had been “misinterpreted as selfish, difficult and ungrateful.”

A spiritual and passionate Serb who wants to be liked

Good intentions are the beginning of its Novak Djokovic Foundation, which builds nursery schools and supports teacher training in Serbia to offer “children from impoverished areas the opportunity to learn and play in a safe, creative and cozy, ”and is inspired by his war-torn childhood.

His country is the center of his motivation, as he has put his team playing alongside the Grand Slams as his most important sporting goals, and he also loves to hand out rackets to young fans among the crowd.

Djokovic fans – and you only have to be in a qualifier for the Davis Cup in Serbia to know that there are many and are very vocal – celebrate the fact that he has achieved great success at a time when two others have also played. great: Federer and Nadal.

Djokovic, a highly spiritual person who practices yoga and meditation and follows a plant-based diet, once gave birth to a five-day hike in the mountains with his wife that resulted in consecutive Grand Slam titles.

Called “The Joker” early in his career when he used to make humorous imitations of his fellow players, he is also desperate to be liked.

Djokovic has never had the level of support enjoyed by the great Swiss Federer and the Spanish Nadal, especially at the Grand Slams, and especially at the US Open, where he has sometimes been hostile.

Although he has often been wiped out by boos, he could not hide his tears at last year’s U.S. Open final when he said that even though he had lost the game he was “the happiest man of the world “for the love he felt among the crowd.

Serbian journalist Sasa Ozmo told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast that there had been “unfair treatment” of Djokovic over the years and that he “often made mistakes that gave ammunition to critics”.

“But sometimes the things you’ve done that are very positive aren’t mentioned often enough,” he said.

‘Novax’ Djokovic

What love he may have won in New York has evaporated this week in Australia, when many locals were outraged that Djokovic, who has said opposes vaccination against Covid-19, had received medical exemption from two independent medical panels organized by Tennis Australia and the state of Victoria.

Australians have had to endure some of the world’s strictest restrictions – many still cannot travel between states and internationally – and saw the situation as a special treatment.

Djokovic was detained at Melbourne Airport for several hours before border officials announced that he had failed to comply with the entry rules related to the exemption, and his participation in the Australian Open is in the hands of a court.

The debate “Wow, won’t he be in Australia?” he had dominated the preseason and while many have questioned his opposition to vaccination, the way he announced he was going has certainly been detrimental.

Posting on social media to say he had been granted a medical exemptionexternal link without giving reasons he has left fans, locals, politicians and colleagues eager to respond.

If he wins the deportation appeal on Monday and can bid for a record 10 Australian Open and 21st Men’s Grand Slam title, he will likely be booed by local fans who have dubbed him ‘Novax’, and applauded by those who greet. signs of support outside the hotel where he is detained.

And if he loses his appeal, he is likely to turn a deaf ear to his next event.

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