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Have a Nice Day, Nole! 05/09/2007 - 2:10 PM

[Once again, our main man in Europe, Miguel Seabra, has stepped up to bring you this update on Novak Djokovic's present, torrid run. Miguel is a very busy guy during Estoril; he's the Portuguese Bud Collins, but he found time to file this terrific firsthand report for us. I'm always touched by Mikey's obvious esteem for the Tribe, we're lucky, folks! And special thanks to photographer Jose Luis Fernandes (portrait) Mario Gouveia (action) for these images -  PB]

I was nurturing high expectations for this year’s edition of the Estoril Open, because the entry lists of the Portuguese combined event came out with 16 players age 20 and below. As a reporter, I always felt compelled to catch a young prospect early. I like to see his or her essence as a developing player and character, and it's interesting to see the degree of rapport a player has with the press and tennis officials before the perils of fame and fortune kick in.Djoker2

That’s why I’ve always enjoyed covering the various satellite and Challenger-type events. I got to know Grand Slam winners - including Richard Krajicek, Gustavo Kuerten and Juan Carlos Ferrero - while they were still "raw," and playing sub-main tour events here in Portugal.

Of course, the Estoril Open is at a higher level, and it has all the ATP and WTA Tour idiosyncrasies. But it's still a much cozier and more intimate tournament than bigger combined events like Miami or the Slams. Anyway, I was (almost) spoiled this year by the number of youngsters in Estoril: Novak "Nole" Djokovic beat Richard Gasquet in an Estoril final featuring the youngest pair of men, ever, and 17 year-old Victoria Azarenka had two match-points before going down to wily German veteran Greta Arn in a third set tiebreaker.

I knew already young ‘Vika’ from Belarus through her Portuguese coach, Antonio Van Grichen, and Gasquet had been here in 2004, when he lost to Rafael Nadal in a second round match that was, perhaps presciently, labeled "a glimpse of the future". Of course, I was curious about young guns like Sam Querrey and the celebrated ‘round-robin killer’ Evgeny Korolev, but I was mostly interested in Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray’s performances - on and off the court.

I had previously talked with both Novak and Andy – but in very different environments at Masters and Grand Slam events. In Estoril, on my turf, I might be able to catch those little peculiarities that would help me better figure out their personalities for a feature I would be writing for my magazine, ProTENIS.

Unfortunately, Murray's back wasn't fully healed, and the withdrawal by Murray prevented the tournament from having five Top 10 players for the first time in it's history. It also prevented me from writing that Young Blood piece I was planning, but in the end I was happy: I got to know Djokovic pretty well and the tournament had a great addition to a pretty distinguished gallery of champions.

I must confess that, until the Australian Open this year, I didn’t think the world of Djokovic. I viewed him as an inconsiderate iconoclast: too much talking, not enough results against top players. I was completely wrong. The kid has been dealing darn well with the spotlight and he was simply the star of the Estoril Open from Day One, showing great respect and manners.

Novak arrived in Portugal the Saturday before the main draw. And the first thing he asked me for was tickets to the big game the following day between Lisbon soccer giants Benfica and Sporting – a crucial match that could decide which team would follow runaway leader FC Porto into the Champions League next season. I told him that, at the time of the match the next day, he was supposed to attend the official players' dinner and party – and I was surprised by his reaction: “Well, if it’s mandatory I should go to the dinner then.”

Being Number 5 in the world and a rising star crazy about soccer, Djokovic could do pretty much whatever he wanted, so his responsible reaction was surprising. Anyway, I still called João Lagos (the tournament director, a long-time Djokovic fan who shares your own Peter Bodo's enthusiasm for Djokovic's game). I told him about my conversation with Novak. Lagos got right on the phone with Benfica's president and a little while later one of the club's directors called me, with some exciting news.

I went out to find Novak, who was practicing with his coach Marian Vajda, a stocky but smooth Slovak who got to the Estoril semifinals back in 1991. I was struck by how happy Djokovic appeared during his practice session; in fact, it was probably the most joyful practice session I can remember ever watching. The workout finished in gales of laughter when, in the last point of a mini-tennis match, Novak deftly faked out Vajda so badly that the coach fell on his back and ended up caked in red clay.

When they were done, I told Novak the good news: “Novak, the stadium is sold out, tomorrow night. Sorry. But . . .we’ve got four invitations to the presidential box.”

The guy was ecstatic. The following day, we sat together in the first row of the exclusive box, alongside the usual assortment of ministers and diplomats and other VIPs. The match ended up a 1-1 tie, much to the dismay of Benfica supporters. The next morning, Benfica sent a present for Novak: an official team shirt with his name and favorite number (4) on the back. I went over to the players lounge and, with Marian Vajda and Novak's trainer, Ronen Bega, hung the red shirt on a nearby coat hook. When Novak joined us, he glanced it. A few moments later, he realized what it was, and that it was for him. He reacted like a kid on Christmas day.

I told Novak he could wear the shirt on court, before or after the match – since it was from his own sponsor, Adidas, it wouldn’t be a problem for him, and his picture would be everywhere. A couple of hours later, I saw him heading to the stadium with Igor Andreev. The red Benfica jersey was nowhere to be seen. But right before walking on court, he stopped, took the shirt out of his bag, and put it on.  The crowd in the stadium was sparse (he was first on, and it was lunch time) and they greeted him with a chorus of boos! I felt terrible, I should have realized the sociological realities at play: Benfica is the popular club, but tennis attracts a posh crowd, and they're largely Sporting supporters.

Novak took it in stride, though, and he broke Igor Andreev right at the beginning of the match. We couldn't forsee it, but from that break on until he clinched championship point, Novak performed like a veteran warrior. The conditions became - and stayed - extremely difficult. The wind was terrible, and it kept changing and swirling in different, unpredictable directions (click here for our video coverage of the tournament).

Igor Andreev, the last man on the planet to beat Rafa Nadal on clay, is getting back to form after a lengthy injury and, with his big, high-bouncing, "Made in Spain" topspin forehand (Andreev left Moscow while in his teens), he soon started dictating play; Nole hung tough, but expressed frustration over not being able to play more aggressively. He was a break down in the third and the match was decided by a couple of points in the tiebreak: leading 3-2, Andreev double-faulted and then Novak finished off a long, intense exchange with a drop volley. He grabbed the momentum right there and went on to win the match and celebrated as if he'd won the whole tournament.

And then… he put on the Benfica jersey again and waved. He was booed a bit more than cheered, and on his way out he gestured to his ear and looked at me, a bit puzzled – but Vajda told him not to worry, that he did OK -it's just that it was a Sporting crowd. One person who did appreciate Novak's support was the Benfica striker, Italy's Fabrizio Miccoli. He was there, and he signed the shirt in a photo-op that was all over the papers the following day.

Novak addressed the shirt incident at the press conference with a lot of maturity and diplomacy. He is great in pressers; he talks clearly and frankly and interacts with the reporters as well as he does with the public. The kid’s got charisma, no doubt about that. And a lot of people were happy to see him survive the stern test.

Novak's second rounder against Spain’s Santiago Ventura was a mere formality and then things got complicated again in the quarters against Spanish shotmaker Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The Djoker won the first set, then took a mental break in the second; he tried to regroup in the beginning of the third, but it wasn’t easy with the wind blowing again – after a couple of demanding points, the combination of anxiety and eagerness got the best of him. Novak started having problems breathing.

With Gracia-Lopez leading, 2-1, Novak called for the trainer, who subsequently worked a little on Novak's back, too. The timing of that interruption was such that Garcia-Lopez later said, rather cryptically, that  “Novak is a very intelligent player.” But the real difference is that, from 5-all onward, Novak simply was the tougher, more determined player.

In the semifinals, Tommy Robredo was 5-3 ahead and ultimately served for the first set, but Djokovic battled his way out of trouble yet again; the wind got to Robredo, and Djokovic won the first and then  ran away with the second set.

The final was a bit of a roller coaster ride in front of a sellout crowd, with the sun shining high. But the wind was a disruptive factor again. The first set was a tight affair, with two breaks each, and Novak called for the trainer twice - he even got some eye drops because of the clay dust. And right there, at crunch time, everybody could see why Gasquet is Number 15 and Djokovic is 5: the Frenchman has flair, but he blew six set-points from 5-4 on due to some poor decisions, while his Serbian opponent made the most of his first set point, closing it out, 9-7.

Novak got broken in the first game of the second, then threw the racquet so hard you could hear it crack. He didn’t get a warning, but from then, even the most diehard Djokovic fan had to admit that he appeared to tank. The way he let go that second set was dangerous, because he was clearly letting Richard back into the match, but he showed the confidence and Wilanders to get the momentum back exactly when he most needed it. Novak flicked the "on" switch again at the start of the third set, and raced to a 6-1 win.

Once again, I saw the good-humored, talkative kid whom I'd encountered at that first practice session of the tournament. Novak stripped and sent a racquet and his yellow shirt to the crowd. Then grabbed a red shirt from his bag – the crowd thought it was a Benfica jersey again, so a few started whistling. . .but Novak showed them it was Serbia’s national team soccer shirt, with the embroidery proclaiming ‘Made in Serbia’ and ‘Nole’. He got the trophy from Benfica legend Eusebio and then rushed like a kid to his bag to get the Benfica shirt. He asked Eusebio for an autograph in front of a packed stadium.

At the end of the trophy presentation I walked out to conduct the on-court interview. Novak acknowledged Eusebio and thanked everybody else, charming the crowd. My second question in the center court interview was: “None other than former great John McEnroe was quoted recently as saying that you are the best one of the new generation – that you are ‘da man’. What do you think about that? And are you really da man?”

He was quick on his feet: “Obviously, everybody can see that I’m not a woman!”

The stadium erupted in laughter. He went on to say he was honored to hear that, etc. etc.  I had thought before the tournament that he lacked a proper respect toward the game and his peers, but he showed nothing but class throughout.

After his official ATP mass press conference we finally had time to sit quietly over lunch and discuss several issues. Here are some of the things Novak said:

On tanking the second set:

Under those conditions, I need to be so much more focused. The people that understand me the most are the players who play at this level; I was really frustrated because I’ve played all matches in this tournament under difficult windy conditions, I needed a kind of a mental break and it’s another lesson I need to learn – it shouldn’t happen in the future. It’s a professional sport, at this level you can’t just give the opportunity to players like Gasquet because they’re going to use it and then it’s tough to come back. I was lucky to play better in the first game of the third set. I was kind of saving energy; you have to variate and compromise with everything.

On dominating’ Nadal at Roland Garros in 2006:

I say what I feel. I try to be as nice as possible, but I felt in that match against Nadal I was the one giving away the points and making the points. Of course he’s the best player in the surface, but what I was trying to explain the people is that I am an aggressive type of player and felt he wasn’t questioned in the match and I was giving him the points. People got me wrong.

On the "He's going down!" comment Djokovic made before playing Federer in Australia 2007:

I didn’t say ‘He is going down’. What I said was that I’m going to try to win, I’m not going on court with a white flag. That’s what I said, and I say what I think. I said it in a good way, but they thought I was arrogant, cocky, blah blah blah... well, you have to accept it is a part of our professional life: the press is the one that can rise you to the stars and then kill you in the same moment.

[Ed. note: I was there, and he said it. I kind of liked it, for the Wilanders it showed. I think The Mighty Fed can handle it. . . PB]

About medical time-outs in matches:

Take the statistics: in five matches I retired, I was leading in four; the only one I was losing was that one against Nadal. Federer said everybody was pissed at me after that Davis Cup match last year in Geneva because I took a time out, but I was leading 2-0 in the fifth set. But they said whenever I’m losing I ask for a medical time-out. When I ask a medical time-out I’m not trying to confuse my opponent, I’m just trying to recover, to get ready. But people get me wrong.

On the effort to recruit McEnroe to help him:

I try to improve my game, especially on the serve and the volley, getting more aggressive to use my opportunities and Mark Woodforde helped me out a lot at Indian Wells and Miami. Of course John McEnroe had great volleys, great feeling, good serve – he’s saying good things about me and it’s another positive thought and another step towards a future cooperation. I’m trying to get a big team so I can improve my game and get my game together in order to make it perfect. You have to invest in yourself: if you don’t take the risks you don’t get the rewards.

On his favorite strategic move:

It’s a secret... but, as a young kid and throughout my career, I always liked the backhand down the line because it is a shot that changes something in the rally. I can do it, but I should do it more often.

On what sets him apart from the others:

I’m different from other players because I’m always trying to learn something new and trying to improve. Most other players don’t do that, they stick to their games. Roger Federer is one that is trying to improve all the time. I’m always trying to get together those small things that I still miss.

Of course, I also had a chat with Marian Vajda, who told me:

The Estoril Open was probably his most difficult title, considering the tough playing conditions. What I like the most about Novak is his winning attitude, he’s one of the best fighters on the tour and he likes to play matches, to compete. And he has very good skills. We’re working on the approach and the net game, and still working on the serve, but we try to improve on a daily basis, step by step. He has a very powerful game, he can increase the level of the speed of the ball and change the pace in a match and not a lot of players can do that. His movement was always very good, but now he is more powerful in his upper body. And he is intelligent, likes to work and learns fast.

Then I asked about the rumors that McEnroe might join the Djokovic team. Vajda said, "Novak’s father would like John to help him with the net game, and I think it’s great. I’m OK with it”.

In my conversation with Nole, it really struck me when he said: “I try to do everything with a smile and positive energy."Djokovic3

I knew that Novak uses a yellow Smiley-face string dampener, so I pulled out a copy of my magazine, in which I used a Smiley-face icon as a substitute for the letter "O" in the headline, The Djoker. He loved it; I told him since he always has the Smiley on his strings he should make it his trademark logo and capitalize on it because strong icons make names stronger – Bjorn Borg had the Bj logo, Seve Ballesteros has the silhouette of him winning at St. Andrews as a logo, the Rolling Stones have that iconic tongue...

I bid my goodbyes to Novak and his team and headed back to the press office. My mental image of him was that of the Smiley-face icon. I realized I was smiling, too, and the only thing that made me stop was  remembering that I had meant to ask him for an autographed shirt (one of his own Adidas tennis numbers) to donate to you all at TennisWorld, following a drawing or contest of some kind. Let me see if I can still make it happen!

--- Miguel Seabra


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Posted by ptenisnet 05/09/2007 at 02:28 PM

I 've got to say, that first picture is freaky scary. Looks like Charles Dance from Last Action Hero?

"If god was a tennis player, he'd be me"


On a serious note, much of his sound byte "mistakes" can be explained away as youthful misguidedness/ebullience. Like Pete said, it's cool that he said that Federer was going down.

Posted by FoT 05/09/2007 at 02:42 PM

ptenisnet... it might have been "cool that he said that Federer was going down"...but it would have been better if he had owned up to saying it!

Posted by ptenisnet 05/09/2007 at 02:52 PM

sure FoT. It doesn't seem like a big deal though does it?
In the grand scheme of things?

Posted by Sanja 05/09/2007 at 03:07 PM

Thanks Miguel. Great Piece.

He certainly has toned down the comments. I wonder if he came to this decision on his own or had a PR lesson. He seems to have gone from raw to polished in the blink of an eye. Quite interesting, that.

Vamos Djoko!

Posted by Fleaman 05/09/2007 at 03:10 PM

Great article, thanks.
Is there still talk of Djokovic becoming a British citizen? If I recall correctly this got mentioned a couple of times last year, but I would assume these plans are off the table now. Or am I totally confusing him with someone else?

Posted by Or 05/09/2007 at 03:14 PM

I can't help but like him, a lot. I didn't at first, I thought he was all talk. But now he's getting the results and I enjoy watching him play. I'd still totally root for Roger when those two come up against each other, but I definitly like his spirit, he's interesting, cocky, has wit.

Posted by ptenisnet 05/09/2007 at 03:19 PM

Fleaman
He himself said at one point that he would like to play DC for GBR, but I dont think there was anything official going on.

Posted by westcoast 05/09/2007 at 03:23 PM

Awesome article! I love what Miguel said about watching the upcoming talent in the Futures/Challengers Circuit- see what players are like before the hit the spotlight.

Agassi used to be a punk, cocky, and all those things. Talk big before playing the older Connors and McEnroe when he first hit the tour in his flamboyant clothes. I feel the same thing with Djoko. The scary thing is he is picking up mannerisms and respect much quicker than Agassi did. He could turn out to be one of the biggest ambassadors for our sport. Roger used to throw his racquet on the court before he was winning so much- maybe the same for Djoko.

Posted by Todd and in Charge 05/09/2007 at 03:48 PM

Miguel, great report. But please, he needs to drop the smiley-face. I'm all for iconic statements, but what's next -- a Ziggy headband?

Posted by Aco 05/09/2007 at 04:01 PM

Nole has never said that he would like to play for GB. It's just his mother who discuss with the british federation, for Nole and also the rest of the family (Nole has 2 brothers who trains tennis too). But when journalists ask him if he will play for GB, Nole say no. And as you can see during the 3 titles he win this year, the kid is very proud to be Serbian and to play for Serbia.

So GB can search another talent to steal, while they see that murray is just a looser.

Posted by Lisa 05/09/2007 at 04:40 PM

He takes medical time outs to "recover"??? I thought the purpose was to get medical treatments, not to give your body a breather.

Posted by Miguel Seabra 05/09/2007 at 04:48 PM

Hi guys

So, what do you think -- can Nole go on to beat Baghdatis and then 'take Nadal down'?

He is an ultracompetitive kid; in the Players Lounge he was always playing PlayStation (soccer or tennis), pool or table soccer with the other players. Always djoking and in a good mood. But playing to win!

He has also a good sense of humour and laughs at himself (whe we went along a mirrored wall, he said «I look like Brad Pitt... after a car crash»).

I also advise you to take a look at the pictures and video footage from backstage action over at www.estorilopen.net.

Behind the scenes videos can be found here (https://www.estorilopen.net/2/en/players/video/default.asp) with footage from the players party, Igor Andreev and Maria Kirilenko sailing together (how romantic...), Fernando Gonzalez with a professional cycling team, Davydenko pretty relaxed at the Lisbon Oceanarium (he's really cool in that video) and also some other clips.

Enjoy

Posted by .com 05/09/2007 at 04:51 PM

With Gracia-Lopez leading, 2-1, Novak called for the trainer, who subsequently worked a little on Novak's back, too. The timing of that interruption was such that Garcia-Lopez later said, rather cryptically, that “Novak is a very intelligent player.”

Umm, so Novak continues doing that. Very intelligent, indeed, but not very gentlemanly...

Posted by cyandream 05/09/2007 at 04:51 PM

Thanks Miguel, I really enjoyed your post a lot. I've been on the Nole bandwagon before it even had wheels.

Posted by Pete 05/09/2007 at 05:01 PM

Great line, Cy!

Posted by Juan José 05/09/2007 at 05:11 PM


Miguel: Yep, I think he can. Tomorrow should be great, if both are plugged on and have some gas in the tank. But I think the main show will be Nadal-Youzhny. Those are always nice.

Posted by Ruth 05/09/2007 at 05:19 PM

I was going to suggest that, since Miguel was writing a positive piece on Novak, he should stop calling him Djoker because he acquired that name at TW when most of us thought, as Fed pointed out, that his behavior during matches etc was a ridiculous joke.

However, he can keep the name because, after reading about his actions in the second set of the match Miguel described -- taking the medical time out to "recover" and having the trainer work on his "back" (I suppose that was the clever ruse for the recovery time), I fear that not much has changed since his infamous match at the USO against Monfils. In that match, he claimed to have injuries on various limbs, but admitted after that Monfils was "very strong" and that he (Novak)was just trying to get himself together. Aren't there rules against that kind of thing?

BTW I thought that I'd read that surgery had taken care of the breathing problems, so I really was not expecting him to continue with these "intellligent" (as his opponent called them) devices and excuses to interrupt the momentum of his opponents via unwarranted medical breaks.

Posted by Rosangel 05/09/2007 at 05:41 PM

Miguel: wonderful piece, thanks. I really enjoyed reading it. I now have a huge smile on my face. Am particularly taken with your discussion about the Benfica shirt and the rest of the football stuff - I had seen reports that he was booed because of the shirt - now I know why.

I LOVE that he said "he's going down'! of Federer! It was quite likely done tongue-in-cheek, and I thought it was hilarious. From reading this and other pieces about Djokovic, I get the idea that he is a very humorous character. But more seriously, feel it's just fine for a player to pump himself up before amn important match - however it works for him. He's quite right in what he has said since - why go on court believing you can't win?

THat 'tanked' set in the final was a bit of a shocker, though. I was one of those who thought that was the way to view it.

I also have to say, having watched his interview after last year's FO match/withdrawal with Rafa, that I agree that he was somewhat misunderstood. He may not have picked his words well, but to some extent that could have been naivete about how his words would be spun.

Do you have a view about whether he can beat Rafa on clay, Miguel? He was talking up his chances in Monte Carlo....before he went out. But of course, again the press seized on it. And again - what's the point in not believing in yourself? The more players that do that, the better for tennis as a whole.

Posted by FoT 05/09/2007 at 05:44 PM

Of all the "young guns" - Nadal included.... I guess I like Djokovic better than the others. Don't know why! I didn't want to like him...but he's growing on me. Maybe because he's 'maturing' before our eyes?

Also, I think there is a great chance to see great matches between the 'young guns' in the future because they all are around the same age and they don't 'fear' each other. I think that's one of the reasons we get good matches between Nadal/Djokovic; Nadal/Murray, Murray/Djokovic, etc. The ones lagging behind are Gasquet, Baghdatis, and Monfils. Berdych is on the fence to me right now... but unless some 'new' young guns come on the scene, I see those guys listed above fighting it out for the titles when Roger leaves the game. (that is... IF they all can get in better shape! The only one truly in great shape is Nadal and even he has been bothered by little injuries here and there).

I just don't want to see them take over yet because I still want Roger to win everything!!!! lol!

Posted by evie 05/09/2007 at 05:49 PM

I think Baghdatis is playing well now and has a 60% chance with Novak.

Posted by highpockets 05/09/2007 at 05:52 PM

I like Tweety Bird Djokovich too ... he's got spunk and he's improving all the time ... I say watch out to both Nadal and Federer.

Posted by GSte 05/09/2007 at 05:56 PM

Thanks Miguel! I do think Djokovic has been largely misunderstood by the press and some tennis fans.

Posted by Miguel Seabra 05/09/2007 at 06:28 PM

Of course, all those boos and whistling to Novak's wearing the Benfica shirt were in a joking mode. Actually, Benfica is said to have more supporters in Portugal than FC Porto and Sporting together!

Actually, he asked me if there would be a problem with other club's supporters. I told him, some guys will whistle but it'll be in a joking way.

And I won't forget this scene. I was looking from afar when he was heading to the stadium for his first match with Igor Andreev; he was with two security guards and then stopped, forcing both security guards to stop as well; then he put his bag on the floor and took the shirt out; one of the guards, probably a fanatic supporter of some other team, put both hands on his heads and turned around in disbelief, probably thinking «I can't believe I'm protecting a Benfica supporter!». And I laughed at the scenario.

Actually, Novak already is a great Benfiquista: he celebrated Miccoli's goal at the stadium as if it were his club since when he was born! He jumped, screamed and even turned at me to celebrate...

At the time, Fernando Gonzalez was somewhere else in the stadium, invited by chilean Sporting player Rodrigo Tello.

Regarding Nole's time-outs: from where I sit, what I see is that he wants so much to win and becomes so anxious he really has trouble breathing.

About Nole vs Rafa: if he serves well, of course I think he has a chance. And he has a pretty good two-handed backhand (his left hand works a lot in that backhand!) to deal with high bouncing Rafa forehands to that side, besides having great touch for drop-shots (he should hit them to Rafa's forehand side, because Nadal is pretty good negotiating dropshots to his backhand) that can take the spaniard out of his comfort zone...

Posted by Juan José 05/09/2007 at 06:39 PM


For anyone interested in watching that final game against Gasquet as well as the entire trophy presentation, you can go download it here:

https://nole.beocity.net/video/2007/estoril/djokovic_vs_gasquet_F_novak-djokovic.com.wmv

The part about asking Eusebio for an autograph is priceless. And of course, you can see Miguel doing the on-court interviews as well.

Posted by Fleaman 05/09/2007 at 06:43 PM

ptenisnet/Aco: Thanks for the Djoko/UK update. So Serbia might have a 3-brothers DC team soon, while the Brits will have to keep waiting!

Posted by Kenneth 05/09/2007 at 06:57 PM

His communication may indeed have had him misunderstood, but it's actions that are more indicative. I'm a fan of the Djokster in spite of his questionable on-court antics, or maybe because of them. I'm a fan of McEnroe for the same reasons. I don't care anything of the 'gentlemanly' nature of tennis, and in fact I think it could use a bigger dose of combative competitiveness. A fair win over someone who uses gamesmanship like a bar of soap feels better than a regular win, IMHO. But only a win.

As for him defeating Nadal on the surface that Nadal owns, well that's akin to asking if the Djokster is going to defeat Federer on grass. If you can answer yes to either, please drop off your tennis credentials to the recycling center.

Posted by Kenneth 05/09/2007 at 06:59 PM

Miguel,

Awesome piece, so detailed and informative. Really, really appreciate the effort.

Posted by Ray Stonada 05/09/2007 at 07:07 PM

Thanks again Miguel. That was a nice and personal report you gave us, and it goes some way to explaining Djoko better to those of us who found his comments last year a little half-baked.

By the way, I'm noticing that you can secure invites to presidential suites and you do the oncourt interviews at Estoril too? Wow, you are such a grandee of tennis - and I always thought you were only 40 or so. In any case, you da man.

As for Djoko versus Rafa, if it comes to pass, I'd say Nadal 80% - at their current respective levels, to my eyes, Rafa wins four out out five.

Posted by Miguel Seabra 05/09/2007 at 07:59 PM

Thanks, guys. I'm still trying to sort out the shirt thing. Benito, if you're reading this in Rome get us that shirt and pass it on to Steve Tignor!

Ray, I'm 'only' 39. Why, do I look older?!

And Juan José, many many thanks for that link and you know you're welcome over here. It was really funny to see the trophy presentation from another perspective -- and that Eusebio autograph bit really is priceless!

Just look at the way Novak conducts himself, the things he says and how clearly he says it. The only other precocious communicator at his level in the Estoril Open winner's circle was Andrei Medvedev, who is still the youngest champion at 18.

Posted by Peter 05/09/2007 at 08:02 PM

Novak is a likeable guy and he has grown so much in the past year. He has matured a lot in his comments as well. I like him, not only because he comes from Serbia, my homecountry, but for many other reasons such as that he is a hardworking kid, ambitious, and confident. Why is all of the sudden so bad to be confident when you are only 19??? He has proven that he can play against the best and win, he is # 5 in the world!!!! He has won 5 tournaments, including Master in Miami. I hope his problem with breathing will go away somehow. he has had 2 surgeries at least until now to correct the problem, but he has not been able to overcome it completely.
As for the comments about Fed going down, he sis say that he will not come out to lay with a white flag,but reporters put more drama into it and made it look like an offensive comment to Fed.
I am glad Nole is honest always. Good luck Nole! We are proud of you as much as you are proud of Serbia.

Posted by Ray Stonada 05/09/2007 at 08:04 PM

Nah, Miguel, I just meant you are so young to be the Portugese Bud Collins already, chief.

Posted by Serpiko_BG 05/09/2007 at 09:19 PM

Nole is getting better and better, I follow the kid since two-three years ago and after watched him in DC vs. Belgium in Belgrade when he was 17 I understood that he will be one of the best.
I am impressed with his mental strenght and winning attitude, Miguel is totally right. He has got the right approach and I think very very soon he will be in TOP 3 players of the World. He just need to perform well on the next three clay tournaments and he will be ahead of Rodick and Kolya Davidenko from Russia.
As for football.. Well, his team is Red Star Belgrade (www.fcredstar.net) and than after Benfica comes (sorry Miguel).. I really had to stress on this!
Miguel, I read on some web site in Serbian that he had really good support vs. Soderling. Is it true? And by the way, what do you think about his chances vs. Marcos?
Thanks for a fantastic article!

Posted by Zola 05/09/2007 at 09:46 PM

FoT:
***Of all the "young guns" - Nadal included.... I guess I like Djokovic better than the others. Don't know why! ***

I think because he has beaten Rafa and you think he is the only one with a shot at Rafa other than Federer. It all comes back to Fed! LOL!

Posted by Zola 05/09/2007 at 09:48 PM

Everyone,
JMac stars in a CSI-NY episode tonight. I don't know what time it is on. but it is tonight!

Posted by Lisa 05/09/2007 at 10:16 PM

I love the vast conspiracy among the reporters to *make* Nole appear arrogant and put words into his mouth. tsk, tsk--naughty reporters, naughty, naughty.

Posted by Slice-n-dice 05/09/2007 at 11:00 PM

Very well done, Miguel! I envy you being able to get so close to the players and ask them the tough questions. I appreciate that you did not back opff from asking Novak about his Federer comment, even after you had warmed up to him as a person. It's that kind of journalistic courage that tennis needs more of.

Posted by jelena 05/09/2007 at 11:07 PM

great article...however by reading some of these comments i can tell ppl are annoyed with nole taking medical time-out. i think u all need to relax a lil bit, he might've missused these time-outs before, but give him a break. every time he takes one now, ppl are on his back. isnt he entitled to any medical breaks anymore? you are all judging him when he takes one, have u thought that maybe it is a medical time-out and not just a 'break'

give him a break, if the ATP are not concerned about it, why are you? he is clearly not doing anything wrong!!!

Posted by Beckham 05/09/2007 at 11:23 PM

It's just like the boy who cried wolf too many times...Nole has had some questionable medical time outs...so any new medical timeouts would/should be scrutinized...I guess he's maturing and he's growing on me...it helps his case that Fed says they talked and it's now a non issue. :)

Vamos Nole except when its against Fed then it's Allez Roger Allez :)

Posted by Suresh 05/10/2007 at 12:07 AM

Miguel..great post !

Any chance you will translate that article on Federer into English...looking forward to that :)

Posted by westcoast 05/10/2007 at 12:51 AM

Miguel- where else can I find your writing?

Posted by VE 05/10/2007 at 01:13 AM

Miguel, great post as always.

I'm becoming a Djoker fan, appreciate the extra insight.

Posted by Juan José 05/10/2007 at 01:50 AM


Well, thanks Miguel. Maybe someday I'll convince the PST to go enjoy the windy tennis in Estoril with me. This was the first year I've watched on TV, and it looks like a really nice place. Should be much fun.

This was a really nice piece, by the way. And you can score tickets to the biggest derby in Portugal? To the presidential box? That's impressive.

I would also like to tell you that Guillermo Salatino was enraged at the programming of the center-court: they couldn't understand why Robredo-Calleri and Mathieu-Mónaco were sent to the Centralito. From my part, I'm grateful the Djoko always played in the center court. Nice gesture towards the new generation.

Posted by naOOtilus 05/10/2007 at 04:34 AM

well... if ahybody watched that Nole's match of yesterday against Soderling could clearly see what the fair player he is... couple of times changing umpire's call on his own damage.... that's the great spirit of sport! and on the opposite... the only one questionable call went to Nole... his opponent yelled at umpire like he's talking to his dog... shame... but anyway... we'll see what Nole is going to do today against Baghdatis... i wish him all the luck of the world 'cause the knowledge is something that he already has...
greetings from Serbia :)

Posted by Miguel Seabra 05/10/2007 at 10:31 AM

Thanks again, TWers

Suresh: which Sampras article do you mean?

Westcoast: since I assume you can't read portuguese, TW archives have several entries I wrote. You can take a look at them in various categories, starting with the category 'Senior Game'; and also in 'ATP Championships 06' (that is, Masters Cup Shanghai 06) and probably in some other categories. I wrote around 20 entries, but some of them I don't know where they are: 'Being El Maratski', 'An Angler and the Angles', 'China Dolls' and also the last one I wrote last year from the Estoril Open, plus 'Back By Popular Demand' I wrote last year from Wimbledon...

Juan José: I'm going to call my pal Guillermo Salatino and explain him the Estoril Open is a combined event, meaning the women were also schedule on Center Court, meaning everybody couldn't play over there. But the Centralito is one of the 5 most beautiful courts in the world (my opinion, but also Bud Collins', Richard Evans', Philipe Bouin's... and they've been around longer than me) and over there it was not as windy as in Center Court!

Posted by Victor 05/10/2007 at 11:24 AM

Hey Miguel, very nice article on Djoko! The Estoril open seems to get better and better with every year, I think there was a much stronger field this year than last especially on the men's side.
If in the future any of the TWers goes the tourney you can be sure that Mr Seabra will try his best to make it worth your while. I know it was a great experience when I was around last year.
Let's hope Djoko's surge up the rankings is quick, he definitely has what it takes to be top3 very soon.

On the timeout issue, I think people are misinterpreting what he means by 'recovering'. Obviously if the guy can't breathe he needs to recover by using a medical timeout. I don't think he means he takes them to recover from sheer tiredness.

Posted by Juan José 05/10/2007 at 11:46 AM


Miguel, I don't think Salata doesn't like the Centralito: there was no TV feed from it, so they were stuck with anything that happened in the central court. He also complained about the feed, which went on and off.

And when you talk to him, warm him up to the Djoko. I have the slight feeling he doesn't like him that much.

Should be said, Salatino and Luza are terrific as company to watch a match. What a great couple.


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