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Serbian Jimbo 04/30/2008 - 3:22 PM

I haven't had much occasion to write about Novak Djokovic lately, but a few people did solicit my opinion on the way he pulled out of his semifinal battle with Roger Federer, complaining of a sore throat and dizziness, while trailing by a set in Monte Carlo last week. Then, thanks to El Jon Wertheim, we all saw that clip of an irritated Roger Federer chiding Djokovic's parents for being a little too vocal in protesting what turned out to be an accurate call against their boy, Nole.

Don't you just love seeing The Mighty Fed in that rarest  of all modes, disgruntlement? El Jon suggested giving him bonus points for that spontaneous and entirely justified reaction, and I'd add a few more for that clay-kicking gesture. Next thing you know, TMF will be impersonating some major league baseball manager, belly-to-belly and eyeball-to-eyeball with an umpire, kicking dirt on the poor official's shoes, firing spittle as he argues his case with a vein popping out of his forehead.

As if. . .

Nole Anyway, so what is it with Novak? There's clearly a pattern emerging in his retirements against top rivals, as Kamakshi Tandon's analysis makes abundantly clear. It's both a futile and inviting issue to contemplate. My own attitude, which was partly behind my decision to ignore the (non-)story, is that I don't really give a dang what happens once the first ball is put into play; a guy retires with ailments or injuries that aren't obvious, he just gets the "L". No asterisk, no story, we move on.

In a way it's like a breaking-news doping story. I don't delve into what I can't know or substantiate, because all I can do then is exercise my prejudices toward one or the other party. But in doping cases there is hard evidence and that takes precedence over all other factors. I accept the science-based  ruling until such time as the ruling is overturned or changed by the powers that be  - and then I accept that.

What is noteworthy is that Djokovic was pretty well positioned to make a good run on clay at Monte Carlo, as evidenced by his earlier wins over Andy Murray and  surprise quarterfinalist Sam Querrey. He said early in the tournament, "I haven't won a major event on clay, so I always have highest possible intentions and goals any tournament I play. I think I have enough quality to beat the best players in the world - even on this surface. I had more time than last year to prepare, to rest and to work on some things, particular things for clay, and hopefully it's going to pay off in the tournaments."

Given that rosy analysis, combined with Djokovic's admission that his road to the semifinal was not very taxing or stressful, it's hard to imagine that his was a retirement of convenience. Head games?  Nah, not unless your talking about his own head. Just how does throwing in the towel because you feel dizzy and had a sore throat for a few days give you some kind of devious psychological advantage over a guy who just got sent home early from work, which consisted of beating up on you?

The most likely explanation is that Djokovic's immune system goes haywire; sirens go off and all sorts of red lights start flashing when he's in a particularly stressful situation, which is not to say that he's inventing or lying about his physical condition. It just tells you that some particle of discomfort, perhaps abetted by nerves, suddenly swells to the size of the Blarney Stone. And hey, the Blarney Stone does exist, and it's heavy.

It's impossible to know what's in Djokovic's head during matches in which his body persuades him that he'd better quit, but we have a pretty good idea of what does not go on: No aspect of his being is screaming, You've got to finish this match, suckah! We also know what's going on in there when he's kicking back in the press interview room, or otherwise out of combat. He's a very ambitious young guy, dying to prove his mettle for a host of reasons, including his desire to represent his native Serbia in the best possible light. It's pretty clear that Djokovic doesn't believe that Top Five status of the kind enjoyed by David Ferrer or Nikolay Davydenko is going to cut it for him, either personally or as an ambassador-at-large.

For some time now, Djokovic has been declaring his intention to catch and even surpass Federer and Rafael Nadal, with pronouncements seemingly unleavened by the customary prudence of newcomers. That approach has made many of us respect Djokovic's healthy disregard for the pecking order; others see his words tainted by arrogance, and lack of respect for the accomplishments and talents of his rivals.  Most of us fall into one of two camps: those who increasingly see Djokovic as an aggressive, imperious young dude who takes himself way too seriously (he's currently the pro most likely to end up talking about himself in the third person), and those who are willing to forgive him for having an excessive amount of what might be called youthful impetuosity, exacerbated at times by an insufficient command of nuanced language. What can you expect, the Grand Slam tongues are not his own.

Anybody who lived through the Jimmy Connors era can be forgiven for responding to Djokovic's "controversial" comments with a shrug and the observation, He reminds me of a well-mannered version of Jimbo. In fact, Djokovic may be an appropriately muted, European version of that American barbarian. But you always had the feeling that the only weight on Jimmy's shoulders (Oedipal ghosts are, of course, weightless) was that of his hair back in those Prince Valiant days. He had not a care in the world, other than how he was going to do this to Rod Laver, or that to John Newcombe and Bjorn Borg.

It strikes me that Djokovic is carrying more baggage and not just conscious of it, but hyper-conscious. He's dying to carry it ably, in order to make his family and countrymen proud in a way that would carry none of those vaguely depressing caveats, like, He did incredibly well. . .for a guy from Serbia.

Also, you'll remember that Connors was one of those individuals who demonstrated that pretty much anyone can describe himself as an "outsider", and reap benefits as well as the censures. Djokovic is similar, but his justifications even more powerful. Jimbo's status as an outsider rested on the fact that he grew up "on the wrong side of the tracks" (even though his mother, Gloria, was so in the thick of the tennis mainstream that she dated Chris Evert's father, Jimmy). Djokovic grew up off the tennis grid in Serbia, and he popped onto the tour when it was utterly dominated and locked up by Federer and Nadal. They are his versions of Connors's establishment bugaboos, Stan Smith and Ken Rosewall.

One critical similarity between Djokovic and Connors is that both have been accused of being lousy sports who did a fair amount of manipulation in their drive for success. For Connors, the accusations were based on his attempts to intimidate officials and opponents, and his "ducking" of the top players by refusing to play the main, WCT tour early in his career. The complaints against Djokovic are similar: he doesn't sufficiently "respect" Federer and Nadal; he "ducks" out of big matches against the best players by succumbing to mystery ailments. After all, there is no alternative tour, like there was back in Connors' heyday.

So Djokovic is loosely following in the footprints of Connors and any other player who can claim to have done things "My way." Like Connors, Djokovic has circled the (family) wagons and keeps his own counsel, although he has nothing like Connors's siege mentality. Djokovic also has a much better grasp of public relations and basic decorum than Jimbo ever did. This sense that you have to figure it out all by yourself, with such an enormous amount at stake, can become oppressive. It creates pressure, and pressure always seeks an outlet. If denied, the pressure shuts down the machine.

Djokovic doesn't have an insane number of points to defend during the clay-court swing; he lost in the third round at Monte Carlo last  year, but his win at Estoril is coming off the rolls. Then he's got two quarters (Rome and Hamburg) to duplicate, along with his Roland Garros semifinal. He's within striking distance of his rivals, and making good on some predictions that once struck many as borderline delusional. It's gut-check time for Djokovic, and that's enough to make anyone dizzy.

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Posted by Flyer 04/30/2008 at 07:31 PM

Nope - can't buy all the get out of jail free passes being given Djokovic (or any player) for pulling out of the match under the circumstances sited - a bit duzzy, sore throat - particularly when he showed enough energy to run, track down shots & make winners throughout the match.

He is a professional athelete - he gets paid much money to strut his stuff on the court.

Perhaps like millions of people he should get docked for nonperformance when he skips work or shortens his hours? Wonder what an interesting effect that would have on retirements.

He is old enough not to be given the youth card to play as a means to cover up any foolish decisions, unfounded arrogance, or disrespectful behavior - they are his own poor methods of handling the situation - like everyone else - he should take responsibility for his behavior - good, bad or indifferent.

The fans pay a lot of money to see a match, they take time out of their lives and it is because of them and them alone that the sport has any viability - unless you are truely injured or so ill you need to take to your bed - the fans deserve the respect of the professional athelete to bring their best and complete the game/match.

And yes - the opponent deserves the same respect - to be given the opportunity to finish the match and win it out right - not to get a win thru a questionable retirement.

No guts - no glory - and no respect from fan or peer.

Posted by mariej... vamos king of clay ! 04/30/2008 at 07:32 PM

mod squad ? who's that fake nole pretending to win RG ?

Posted by FootWorkFan 04/30/2008 at 07:33 PM

I like Djoko and his tennis a lot; that's part of why I was annoyed and disappointed over his retirement from MC. I think he's got some growing up to do, and I hope he does it soon. I'm ready to move on.
But I think Pete's being inconsistent here. I'm not clear why retiring from a big match, with a weak excuse, is "no story" today, but was "the most significant and flagrant act of poor sportsmanship I’ve witnessed in nearly 30 years of covering pro tennis today," when Justine Henin did it in 2006. (see Australian Open 2006 for the full post.) I can see that a Master's semifinal is a smaller stage than a Slam final, but are the principles so very different? I may as well emphasize, I am *not* calling for Pete to djump all over Djoko. I'm criticizing him for applying inconsistent standards to similar behaviors, as I see it.

Posted by Moderator 04/30/2008 at 07:35 PM

Sigh... skittles, it's been a long day already. Another "Novak Djokovic" stunt and the hammer comes down.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 04/30/2008 at 07:39 PM

Well, if by the time you child is playing in a Masters Series semi-final, you haven't yet learned that your job is to sit there in the stands and keep your mouth shut, the odds are you are never going to learn.

If my son was ever playing Roger Federer or a Roger Federer equivalent and I mouthed off about a line call, or anything else, enough to elicit a response, they would have to call the paramedics because I would die from embarassment right there in the stands.

Djokovic's parents behave as if they have never attended a tennis match in their lives, and I am sure all of the other players have noticed this. Perhaps they are, in a normal context, the nicest people you could meet. But the point is that anyone can be nice in a normal context. Your character, to some degree, for good or ill, is measured by how you respond to a stressful context. And, frankly, any match Novak Djokovic plays at this point in his career cannot, in any relative sense, be described as a "stressful context." Its only a friggen tennis match.

We occasionally get into discussions on this site about the differences in comportment between pros now and pros of decades ago, but the reality is that, just as there is no way to be "a little bit pregnant" there is no way to venture into this interesting arena of sports trash talking without it ending up badly.

Tennis is simply too personal of a sport to withstand this. Playing a tennis match requires, even at the professional level, a certain level of cooperation between the players. Of course, at the amateur level it requires total cooperation, to the extent that you are expected to make line calls which penalize yourself on a regular basis.

I am aware, obviously, that from time to time a "rivalry" develops which contains, as one of its components, a feeling that the two players involved may not exactly like each other.

I'll submit that this adds nothing to our sport. That's right, nothing. In a contact sport of any kind, actual anger between the participants is reflected in either an actual or perceived uptick in the intensity level, and increased intensity often equals increased performance.

As has been well and truly discussed recently here, though, tennis is fundamentally not an offensive sport. There is no level of "intensity" in tennis which results in unilateral harm coming to the opponent. No tennis match has ever been lost because one player was not angry enough at the other player to hit a serve ten MPH faster. It is simply not a technical part of the game, at any level.

Rather, tennis in any non-blowout is about the internal struggle to hold it together. Because of the scoring system, no match is truly won until it is over. There is always the possiblity for the player ahead to collapse.

While the occasional player comes along, say, maybe, Pancho Gonzales or Connors, who truly uses dislike of an opponent to reve themselves up, I submit again its an anomoly, not the norm, nor is there any benefit in making it the norm.

Djokovic carries himself in a way that leaves no doubt as to his own self opinion. He has, on national television, engaged in doing comedic impersonations of his colleagues. His parents show up in matching tee shirts and request that other fans who support an opponent vacate the immediate area.

Its basically not the way to go.

All of the ohter players on the tour are just as confident. Most of them manage to make it through a post match interview without the jokes, and without the bizzaro rooting section.

And, when you think about it, Novak Djokovic's various injuries probably result in him being in better shape than any of us on this board. If someone had offered him $20 Million dollars to beat me, or say Peter Bodo in a set as he walked off the court after retiring against Federer, he probably could have done it.

The reason most pros make it through an entire career without ever retiring is that it takes about as much effort to stay out there for a couple of more games or a 6-0 set as it does to walk to the locker room. Its probably harder, actually, to walk to the locker room becuase these days everyone carries equipment bags which must weigh 30 lbs.

The fact that so many playes retire these days basically is a huge reflection on how much it matters to respect the opponent.

Posted by ™shot 04/30/2008 at 07:42 PM

Serpiko, your boy was getting his butt kicked and he pulled the plug - l a m e.

Novak dishes out quite a few bagels and lopsided scores, but when he's due for his own, he's repeatedly looked for the exit - l a m e.

He's a bad loser, I can't to see him play Rafa on clay, he'll get his due from him too. If he retires then, will you still write such flowery reviews for him?

Posted by Flyer 04/30/2008 at 07:42 PM


Excellent point - very inconsistent perspective when compared with statement's concerning Henin's retirement.

Perhaps because he has a softer spot for the "young gun guy thing" Djokovic represents?

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 04/30/2008 at 07:48 PM

That probably reads a bit harsh to all the Djokovic fans, but some of us old codgers like to try to hold the line on deportment.

Its a losing battle, but unlike all white attire or sleveless shirts or whatever, for some reason I think there is still a point.

Most tennis players never get anywhere near the tour, or make any money. If you don't place comaraderie with your opponent on a very high level, well, for most of us it would be a huge loss, as comaraderie with one's opponent is a hallmark of tennis.

Now back to regular programming.

Posted by ™shot 04/30/2008 at 07:48 PM

...can't wait, can't wait to see him play Rafa on clay. If he thinks playing Fed is tiring, he's gonna have problems just seeing straight against Rafa.

Posted by Flyer 04/30/2008 at 07:50 PM

Shot - LOL :-)

Posted by Orpheo 04/30/2008 at 07:52 PM

Picture this scenario:
RG semifinals...Novak is loosing 6-1 6-1 to Rafa...i have serious doubts he would get up for the third set. Instead of thinking - I got him where i want, this spanish bully will now see the greatest comeback of all time!!....his attitude is more like -hmmm i dont think i feel that good, thats why im loosing!! actually i feel preety bad, so this spanish bully is abusing an injured player..Ill have none of it....

Posted by Libby 04/30/2008 at 07:57 PM

tmShot -- nice one!

(Randomly and perhaps apropos of nothing -- when I saw this article posted I was skimming and thought it said "Serbian Bimbo." I laughed so hard I spat diet pepsi on my keyboard.)

Posted by zolarafa 04/30/2008 at 07:58 PM

Dunlop Maxply
Great post ay 7:39

Posted by Acemam 04/30/2008 at 07:58 PM

Federer Rules!

Posted by codge 04/30/2008 at 07:59 PM

Well said Dunlop!

Posted by ptenisnet 04/30/2008 at 08:02 PM

That's quite a good lecture and I agree with most of it.

Do you know for sure that Federer was addressing Nole's parents? I'm kind of harping on this, but I am not really sure from the clip I've seen.

Posted by Aceman 04/30/2008 at 08:05 PM

Did people see the way Novak's parents dressed during the Grand Slams? They spelled out his name in color coordination. They're like the Beverly Hillbillies of tennis parents. He seems like a nice kid with parents that are not really ready for prime time.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 04/30/2008 at 08:11 PM

Dunlop and Flyer,

Excellent posts. Yes, Djokovic is young, but so is everyone on the ATP tour. It is a young man's game. He will turn 21 in a few weeks. He is not 12. He turned pro in 2003, plenty of time to observe how professional tennis players should behave. There are plenty of good examples, led by the the #1 and #2 players in the world.

The Djokovic parents do not get embarrassed. That is the problem. Their embarrassment meter is broken.

I'm not suggesting that Novak be tarred and feathered. But a free pass? Uh-uh. How will he ever learn unless outsiders call him on his behavior? Clearly, he cannot depend on his parents to teach him these crucial lessons.

Posted by zolarafa 04/30/2008 at 08:12 PM

I see no harm in outfits with Novak's name on it. I think if they did not behave the way they did and kept it quiet, No one would have mided. Maybe it would have struck as "cute" too. They just blew it with those ridiculus remarks one after another.

I also think one factor in Nole's retirement was a remark by his Mom or Dad, who after AO semi said, My son will never lose to Federer again!

Now, talk about pressure and stress!

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 04/30/2008 at 08:16 PM


I, too, would like to hear the full story and am rather surprised we haven't heard some eyewitness accounts of what Djokovic's parents said to provoke a reponse from Fed. Or was he reacting to someone else entirely? It definitely isn't clear on the video. This assumption seems to be based entirely upon the announcers' comments.

Posted by ptenisnet 04/30/2008 at 08:17 PM

Precisely tangi. And even the announcers never actually said the remark was directed at the djokrents.

Posted by ognost 04/30/2008 at 08:25 PM

Do you know of World Number One's bagelled while at their PEAK?

#1 Martina Hingis, in top form, bagelled in 1998 by an obese Seles and a Graf-in-stitches (Philadelphia 1998)

#1 Sharapova, in top form having just won Wimbledon, bagelled by a limping Davenport in 2004.

#1 Graf, in poor form, bagelled by Seles at USO'95, although Graf prevailed in 3 sets.

#1 Henin, in top form, bagelled successively by Sharapova and by Serena in 2008.

What about #1 Federer?

Posted by Flyer 04/30/2008 at 08:26 PM

The parentgate was given more credence 'cause when the camera panned to them immediately after - they were strangely quiet with set stoney expressions...

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 08:27 PM

for what I saw, its inconclusive. box was seated at the direction Fed was adresing to, but I could not make it a certainty. I didn't hear nothing from the stand... but who knows.

imo only way it could be justified would be that someone from the box said something really inappropriate, not just 'its in' or something similar. if someone in the novaks box was speaking quietly to each other, than Feds reaction is out or order. But if they were interfering with the game, than he should have said it, sure. either way, its already blown out of proportion and serves as a tabloid like crap. especially the hate comments of Novaks family. Its low.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 04/30/2008 at 08:29 PM


I just checked YouTube and here's what the commentators said:

Robbie Koenig: *Well, that was a gesture from Federer over to the Djokovic camp. It was just a "be quiet."*

Jason Goodall: *Just telling mom and dad to keep quiet. No love lost as we mentioned between these two and that will only make matters worse.*

How did the announcers know that Fed's comments were directed at Djokovic's box? I wish they would have explained that. I still can't believe "the rest of the story" hasn't come out.

Posted by Aceman 04/30/2008 at 08:32 PM

I know we are talking about Novak, but I have an observation about when Federer plays Nadal on clay. If you notice, Federer gets a lot of aces, service winners, and return errors when he plays Nadal on hard and grass courts. At least one or two a game. On clay, he rarely gets these cheap points. That means every game has to be grinded out to win. Any unforced errors by Federer put added pressure on him to try to outrally him. He makes too many errors and every game becomes a struggle to win. Eventually, he seems to lose confidence and doubts are written on his face. Nadal seems content to pound his backhand with as many of his vicious topspin forehands until Federer makes an error or hits short. It seems like the same pattern plays out every match. I don't know how Federer can solve this problem!

Posted by ptenisnet 04/30/2008 at 08:34 PM

Yeah, I did go back and listen to it. I didnt catch the "mom and dad" thing until now.
Nevertheless, like you say, not sure how the announcers would know. And how would they know who Federer THOUGHT made the remark?

Too bad it didn't come up in the presser.

Posted by Tari 04/30/2008 at 08:35 PM

Voks, I just want to say again how much I respect you for hanging in there in a very reasonable way for your guy. It's people like you that will make me feel like trying to look at Novak with fresh eyes. And although I agree with posts like Jackie's and Dunlop's, today for the first time, reading some of this stuff, I do wonder how much some of this is caused by pressure. And if that's the case, I hope he finds a way to deal with it. Because it can't feel good.

Posted by TennisEsq 04/30/2008 at 08:37 PM

tangi, I see your journalistic instincts at work. Can't you have an emotional response like the new crop of "journalists." :)

You bring up a good point though. I also wondered how the commentators drew the conclusion that Fed was addressing Djokovic's box.

Posted by Sher 04/30/2008 at 08:37 PM

Dunlop, I agree with the sentiment you've expressed.

>His parents...request that other fans who support an opponent vacate the immediate area.

Isn't this going to be a problem at Wimbledon, where parents sit together?

Posted by Flyer 04/30/2008 at 08:38 PM

I for one am glad the "Be Quiet - OK?" didn't come up in either Roger's or Nole's pressors - it was a very minor bit during the "heat" of combat and really wasn't and isn't worth all the hand wringing.

(But it was pertty funny at the time...)

Posted by ognost 04/30/2008 at 08:38 PM

Making a mountain out of a molehill.

Anyone who has the stature of World Number One

has every right to say "shut up!" even to his opponent's parents

if they distract him while he's playing.

"be quiet" is rather nice and gentlemanly.

Posted by zorba 04/30/2008 at 08:45 PM

Zorba, Be decent.

Posted by Tari 04/30/2008 at 08:46 PM

Well, clearly the question SHOULD have been asked in the pressers. I have a feeling the journos are sheltering Djoko a bit, and it really isn't professional. Sorry, but how else could you explain that, really?

Posted by zolarafa 04/30/2008 at 08:48 PM

what are you talking about?
I think you are in the wrong column!

Anyway, you are very welcome to ignore my comments and not read them!

Posted by Russ 04/30/2008 at 08:55 PM

In my opinion, Djokovic made his own bed when he decided to imitate his colleagues on Center Court at the USO. I cannot think of ANY player, or ANY athlete having the, er, Wilanders, to do that.

If he were wise, he would have politely declined, and it would have probably been the greatest thing he could have done to improve his "image". I'll bet he lost a lot of respect from his fellow players that day. I know he lost mine.

Say what you want about his "youth", but he was 19 or 20 at the time, and when I was that age, I would have still thought it was unwise. Horrible, horrible mistake.

Posted by Christopher 04/30/2008 at 08:55 PM

Dunlop-- Great, as always.

As a junior player (i.e. the last time I had to play tennis against people I actively disliked on a regular basis), there was no doubt in my mind that a rivalry based on antagonism was bad for the performance of both people involved. Increased emotional tension (beyond what's natural for any given match's circumstances) VERY rarely produces better tennis. A respectful rivalry, of which two excellent examples are Federer-Nadal and Martina-Chrissie, can produce truly outstanding tennis. It pushes the people involved to higher levels to impress their opponent, not shame or emotionally damage them.

I don't know other people's feelings on this, but I think as a fan/spectator, a respectful rivalry also makes matches much more enjoyable to watch. Every ounce of my being wanted Federer to beat Nadal last Sunday, but because I have great respect for Rafa, Federer's loss was tempered by awe at Rafa's brilliance on clay. I hate watching Federer play Djokovic because of the latter's arrogance and his and his parents' nasty comments in the past. The extra emotions there make the viewing experience a lot less pleasant. Part of me was happy to see Djoko quit in that match. I'm pretty confident that I would have felt nothing but great disappointment if Rafa had retired for any reason.

Posted by FoT 04/30/2008 at 08:58 PM

I have enjoyed reading all of your comments. I don't like Djokovic, but I won't punch him while he's down... You guys have done a good job at that! lol!

I just really hated the fact that he retired. It's almost as if the winner is 'embarrassed' to go out and give the 'victory' wave. It's not just this match, but any match in which a player retired. It takes away from the winner (in my opinion). We were watching the match, happy that Roger had won the first set and had gotten back the break and now we're on a roll. We're all geared up...then - bang - the match is over. It's like "is this it?"...we're shorted out from a 'finish'. Like kissing your sister. lol!

I guess if Djokovic had pulled a muscle and limped off; or couldn't raise his arm to serve or something - I could at least have felt better about it. But a sore throat?! I mean, don't you think people would think you were a little "soft" when you retire against a man who competed against you with mono and you retired with a sore throat?

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 08:58 PM

Hi Tari. Thanks for the post. Although I've more or less often been posting here lately, I've never actually wrote why I support Novak.

Its simple really. Hes from my country and he does a good job of representing it, added to that I think hes a great emotional player who is interesting to watch and hes a great personality. Its a good thing that the sport, tennis in particular, has a expressive, extrovert person to be around. Its not like these soccer players for example, they get all blend into this ever-present team spirit.

If I weren't from where I am, I would definitely think of him of great addition to the top of the game, though most probably would not be rooting for him, the way I was for Agassi or Nadal for example. Its a matter of perspective.

But regardless of the 'angle' its a pity that we allow ourselves to sink to such a low levels to make a mockery of people that make the world we follow. Disrespecting the conditions different individuals face, that is.

Posted by tontonsky 04/30/2008 at 09:01 PM

sorry voks.. there must be no comments regarding anything from a players box. it's the rules. Applause and "come ons" are fine. but commenting on line calls is not allowed.

Posted by zorba 04/30/2008 at 09:03 PM

zola: I was referring to your "We are all praising Rafa, talking about how great he is"

No, we are not. I was merely expressing that this reader is sick of the Rafael Nadal schmooze-fest. I enjoy the debates (i.e. what tactics work, etc.), but if I wanted Rafa praise or fanclub drivel, I'd go read the comments of the pre-pubescent girls on, or whatever.

I've reached my capacity for reading about something that is not up for debate. I agree-- RN is a machine on clay and will never lose on the surface as long as he is healthy and <27

Moderate as you see fit.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 04/30/2008 at 09:06 PM

Hi TennisEsq,

You have a very good memory! :) Yes, the "new school of emotional journalism." The TV station I worked for kept preaching "reporter involvement." *sigh*

We really must talk politics again sometime soon. So much going on! It's crazy. :)

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 09:07 PM

i know that. but I didn't hear anything apart from applause and c'mons. which doesn't mean that nothing happened. im also curious why no one asked novak or fed something about it at the pressers. for what we know, it could be that fed addressed someone else. commentators comments is not enough to be positive. i personally would not discard that what fed actually said is an over-reaction inflamed by novaks mums ming-bogling comments at the AO.

Posted by tontonsky 04/30/2008 at 09:08 PM

sorry again voks, but if you think the djokerwitches are showing a good image of Serbia you need to think again.
If not for Ana you would have no tourists

Posted by Aceman 04/30/2008 at 09:08 PM

Think aout it. Novak's parents owned a pizza parlor. It's like Tony Sprano and his wife in the player's box. They really get carried away with their over-the-top support. Someone should try to counsel them on how to root in an respectable way. Djokovic does have a history of retiring. Take your beating like a man. Respect your opponent and the game.

Posted by tontonsky 04/30/2008 at 09:11 PM

I have no doubt that the commentaters heard what was said and that is the reason they said Feds comment was directed at the Djorker box.

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 09:14 PM

youre missing the bigger picture tontonsky, and your sense of humor is feeble to add.

go and browse the TW articles during AO, especially after semis, and you will see that the picture that is being portrayed here (and on other forums) is a misty thing, prone to being blown away - by something as simple as success.

Posted by Christopher 04/30/2008 at 09:14 PM

For the record, I've seen Andy Roddick do player impressions at an exhibition, but they were limited to retired players (Sampras, McEnroe, and Becker, if I recall correctly) and were much more respectful. Basically, they were real impressions, as opposed the caricatures that Djokovic does. I do think that Djoko's bits ARE very funny and he should have the crowds in stitches doing them after he retires (from the game, not from any given match :)), but they are completely inappropriate in his present context.

Posted by ognost 04/30/2008 at 09:15 PM

NEGATIVE. Novak retired, he was afraid to be humbled

by the man he had beaten in January 2008,

resorted to all kinds of alibis, definitely an act of cowardice.

POSITIVE. Novak's attitude. There's still another day.

No shame in losing to World Number 1,

an act of cowardice does not make him a coward forever.

Now Novak is still the best from Serbia, Ivanovic only gave us

the greatest embarrassment of a Grand Slam Final at RG' 2007.

Posted by Irving 04/30/2008 at 09:18 PM

Regarding Federer-- it's funny how the general sentiment is that he is such a gentleman, and Djokovic is an arrogant boor. I posit that Fed's just as arrogant (but deservedly so-- he's earned the right to say "I'm better than you"), but he knows how to come off as otherwise. But next time he's interviewed, really listen to what he says.

I don't have verbatim quotes, but what always makes me laugh is that Federer's stock reply whenever he's beaten is "I like to give credit to my opponent". But really, he rarely does more than say this, and is often dismissive of his own losses. Before matches, he's constantly talking about how good his record is against certain players, "I've got a great record against him"... and when he is pushed, e.g. against Tipsy, he comes up with these gems, "I don't get the opportunity to play 5 sets very often." These are his mind games, and just because his insults are delivered with kid gloves, doesn't make them less damaging than Nole's.

My argument is that Fed's just as arrogant as anyone else on tour, if not more so, but he has the charisma to deliver his barbs in a way that you don't realize they're barbs until they've hit you.

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 09:19 PM

ognost.... you really, and i mean really, have no clue.

Posted by zolarafa 04/30/2008 at 09:19 PM

you got me wrong.

What I meant was that this is not the time to criticize Djoko.I would rather talk about Djoko when he is up, not down.

Well, like it or not, the press and the comments are mainly in praise of Rafa and Federer for their efforts last week. That's what I refererred to.

But you are of course free to do or say or think what you want.

Posted by Tari 04/30/2008 at 09:22 PM

Irving: Shhhhhhh! :) But seriously. Food for thought. It is something that I have wondered about myself. Arrogance is one thing, but foolish arrogance is another.

Posted by Andrew 04/30/2008 at 09:25 PM

One thought that hadn't occurred to me until now. It's a complete hypothetical, of course.

Who was waiting for Djokovic if he won on Saturday?

Suppose you're Novak Djokovic, and not feeling too great. You're not at the point of collapse, but you've felt better. It's the start of the second set, and you're thinking "am I going to get two sets off Federer? I might, if I play well. But Nadal? A quick straight sets victory tomorrow? I don't think so. It'll be three hours of trench warfare. If I get a quick lead in the next few minutes, great. But boy, I feel rough."

I honestly think Djokovic, on court, is his own man. I don't see any reason why the interchange at the baseline in set 1 would make any difference - I doubt he even heard it.

I was very disappointed that he retired for the reasons he gave. I think many posters here have expressed their disappointment eloquently. I think it has already cost him. Respect is hard won, and it isn't only won with the racquet.

For me, I also enjoy the posts of Voks, Serpiko and other Djokovic fans here, and very much hope you continue to take your part of the conversation.

Posted by zorba 04/30/2008 at 09:27 PM

zola: I'm intrigued... why is this not the time criticize Djoko? He's a public figure, playing a game in public for all to see. He is rewarded handsomely for this privilege, and part of the burden is being subject to criticism by those who pay his salary (i.e. fans that attend the event). Just as part of the reward is the praise for fantastic accomplishments.

Posted by ognost 04/30/2008 at 09:30 PM

Federer is by no means, "arrogant and dismissive of his opponents"

He is simply truthful and realistic.

His strokes are far superior.

The artistry and elegance we have never seen before.

The smartness of strategy reveals his natural brilliance.

The reasons why Federer loses:

-- creeping overconfidence, his feeling that he can win with just 50% preparation and 55% effort.

-- mental walkwabouts or sudden lapses of concentration. is he bored? is mirka pregnant?

-- getting baited into a power-duel with his opponent (tit-for-tat) rather than executing his incredibly intelligent shot placement.

Posted by Flyer 04/30/2008 at 09:31 PM

Well if some people up thread can give Djokovic a "pass" on English being his 2nd or 3rd language and thus not expressing himself with the nuance of a native born speaker - then Federer deserves one as well.

So Fed's supposed "arrogance" in phrasing can be easily understood as a reflection of his lack of facility in a language and culture he was not born into.

Posted by Tari 04/30/2008 at 09:33 PM

I'm going to get my Roger Federer Fan Club card revoked, but I'll elaborate on my thoughts from my last post. I think Roger is very bright, and for a few years I wondered why he continues to make statements that can be read as arrogant. Hasn't anyone told him how they sound sometimes? Surely. So part of me has come to the conclusion that he says what he means. He knows exactly how it sounds. Yes, it is a bit arrogant. But most of it is true, and delivered in a very subtle way, so he has the best of both worlds. Maybe Novak just needs some refinement. Then again, it is a matter of taste for fans to decide. :)

Posted by Orpheo 04/30/2008 at 09:33 PM

Your country is beautiful I was in Belgrade a few years ago and enjoyed it a lot. Ana is but a "normal" girl in terms of the beautiful women i saw there...This being, i dont really see that Novak is a very good ambassador, he is extremely proud of his country and that honors him, but he has shown at times a feeble attitude and a somewhat lack of respect to his peers. His fantastic tennis ability makes him enjoyable to watch and follow, but in my opinion if he is to become a banner for Serbia he has to polish himself a lot offcourt. He should be competitive not cocky, Witty not sarcastic, and he should be gracious in victory and in defeat. It is a lot?? i dont know, but those traits would make him an admired player all around....

Posted by zolarafa 04/30/2008 at 09:40 PM


If I get started about the things I don't like about Djoko, it will be longer than Pete's post. I agree with all you say about him. Go read my previous posts and also a few on Steve's thread. His retirement was discussed in detail here and on other blogs that I sometimes post. But dedicating a full post with comments? I don't know. Maybe I would have understood better if this was written on Saturday.

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 09:40 PM

Its a momentum battle as well. Both fed and novak, and rafa to a lesser extent are well aware of the fact that public perception plays an important role into the 'push' for the prizes. None of the other guys are talking about their chances for the no. one sport, ask Davydenko or Nalbandian, or even Murray, who is also of the 'next' generation.

Fed is the astute one. The one driving the buss. The established one. After all he is the proud owner of 12 slams, and internationally established image of a precise, kind, benevolent champion from politically neutral Switzerland. His arrogance is derived from what he represents.

Nike, Rolex, Sampras exibitions... its all part of the package, and his - for the lack of the better word - arrogance is a necessity on the path to glory. Of course he is gonna dis the reporter who, after Wimbly semis vs Gasquet, asks him is there something wrong with the Frenchman who is not playing to his potential. He knows he is a lost cause, so he is going to beam-out arrogance by 'highlighting' Gasquets technique.

Its a huge bandwagon whose astute members don't pass on the opportunity to dis his opposition, in the (false) hope that the perception will be altered and thus 'easing' his path to glory.

Novak is of a different kind.

Posted by Irving 04/30/2008 at 09:41 PM

Sure, he's arrogant. I'll freely cop to being a Fed KAD, but look no further than his Wimbledon get up as Exhibit A. If I'm his opponent, and this dude walks out in such an anachronistic uniform, of course I'm intimidated. The thing is ... he's NICE in his demeanor, so it's difficult to perceive the arrogance.

Just like Nadal wears his muscle shirts to flex his biceps and acts like he's Ali. It's all part of the mind game that the top guys need when so little separates 1 from 2 from 3.

If Novak did the same things/said the same things as Fed, we'd be all over him.

And don't mistake me-- I'm not faulting Fed for this for this- at the level he's playing at, much of the outcomes of his matches with other top players are determined by mental aspects. If I'm Nik Davydenko, and I've heard Fed say about me that "I've never lost against him"... that's probably going to be in my head during the match. How's that different from Djokovic claiming he's going to be "#1 player of the world"? Both Djoko and Fed intimidate in their own way.

And their arrogance is not necessarily a fault-- it's a necessary aspect of their personality that has allowed them to be successful.

Posted by zolarafa 04/30/2008 at 09:42 PM

I second Orpheo. Djoko is a great talent, but you don't want people to think of him as the typical Serb.

Posted by Sher 04/30/2008 at 09:42 PM

Tari, is it really arrogance when the best player in the world says, for example, "I'm the best player in the world". It's not modest, it's not humble, but it's true. He does say more or less what he thinks whenever appropriate (he won't kick someone when they are down).

Posted by Jackie 04/30/2008 at 09:44 PM

Fed doesn't mince words - he just tells the truth. Sometimes the truth IS "I was better than my opponent" or "I have a terrific record against my opponent." To exhibit false modesty would be unnecessary and even annoying. After all, "if it's true, it ain't bragging."

Posted by SueB 04/30/2008 at 09:45 PM

Djoko is a hugely talented player. He has the physical abilities to be #1--no doubt in my mind. (This is a big time Fed fan talking; I also rather like Nadal. I'm not dissing anyone here, just making an observation.)

But...Djoko doesn't have the mental capacity to achieve his stated goal yet. His behaviour is immature, he can be disrespectful to other players, his retirements are a way of not letting his opponent win. (See Mrs. Tennis on previous blog for great personality analysis.)

Also, and I haven't seen this discussed anywhere, Djoko is very young and his parents have laid a lot on him. Never mind stuff like "Fed will never beat him again." Have you considered Djoko is now supporting his entire family with his tennis successes? And having to contend with parental approval/disapproval issues. I hate to think what Mrs. Djoko has to say when he loses.

I hope Djoko's coach sends the Nole-block back to Serbia and gets Djoko a good therapist. I want to see him develop that crisp, clean, agressive game into everything it could be.

Posted by highpockets aka "Madame 'Pockets" 04/30/2008 at 09:46 PM

Check this out ... Federer on players with "mental toughness" ...

"IT: And mental toughness? There’re a lot of tough players.

RF: It would have to be Rafa or Lleyton, as well as Djokovic, who is also very strong."

(From "Inside Tennis" interview; see link below):

Posted by 04/30/2008 at 09:46 PM


For G's sake, Federer is not arrogant

but 'confident', 'secure'

in his contributions to tennis

and to society (United Nations, remember?)

He is the brightest Ambassador of the Sport since Agassi.

Would love to have him for two more years until

some coarse, uncouth, occasionally-cowardly player ripens.

Posted by Tari 04/30/2008 at 09:47 PM

Yeah...Sher, good point. And I'm not knocking him at all. I'm just saying I think we're past saying that it is his English at fault somehow, you know? I think he says exactly what he means, and I'm fine with it.

And if Djoko's fans are fine with what he says and does, that is all that matters.

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 09:49 PM

Orpheo, thanks for the comment about my country. I like it very much too :)

As for Novak.... I don't know, I can speak for myself as I did in previous occasions. I didn't like the chest-pumping or his father pointing thumbs down at the AO. I found his impersionations funny at first and I don't mind them except they got a bit 'stale' (but hes finished with them)... what else ?(scratching) Ah yes! Hes going down comment, well, it turned out actually he didnt say that but simple hes going into the match to win, not 'perform'... retiring i dont like (of course) but it is quite possible that he has some condition.

You can make it what you wish. I don't mind it, its more that Im worried about him, thats all. But its just me, generally I am happy that we have an interesting trio at the to.

Posted by ™shot 04/30/2008 at 09:52 PM

"Novak is of a different kind."

The quiting-when-things-aren't-going-my-way kind.

Posted by tontonsky 04/30/2008 at 09:52 PM

oddly enough Voks on the other thread we had a long discussion about the phrase "the devil is in the details" which i had heard as "God is in the details" I decided that if indeed the devil in the details then God must be in the bigger picture... at any rate bigger picture, or devilish detail.....
Fed: number one for 4 years, 12 grand slams, 54 titles, 571-139 win/loss
Djoker: 1 slam, 9 titles, 141-56 win/loss

The young man should "be quiet,ok" play tennis and earn our respect the way Fed has done.

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 09:53 PM

@zolorafa. what do you mean at 9:42?

Posted by ognost 04/30/2008 at 09:53 PM

The pressure of being breadwinner

of a whole pizza-parlor family

is heavy on Novak's shoulders.

How was it with Sharapova?

Posted by highpockets aka "Madame 'Pockets" 04/30/2008 at 09:54 PM

Also saw BBC interview with Djoko and several times he mentioned being "a perfectionist" and said he had to learn to hand "off the court matters" over to others more. I think Pete's right ... he's been definitely feeling pressure.

Still don't think his retirement was right ... something about it just "smelled funny" to me. I think there might be something to Djoko experiencing a bit of panic during that match. Don't know what the source of the panic was, but he should have played at least through the set ... he may have even been able to pull out a win.

My opinion.

Posted by tontonsky 04/30/2008 at 09:55 PM

oh and voks... I am freakin' hilarious.
Tari told me so.
you amuse me a great deal too.

Posted by Sher 04/30/2008 at 09:57 PM

Tari, both Djokovic and Federer exhibit good enough English to stop giving them a pass. Sure there'll be a little thing here or there that they will get wrong every once in a while, but they are well-versed in idiomatic expressions and even use slang occasionally. Over the course of the entire press conference you can glean exactly what they mean.

Rafa's English isn't spectacular but have you noticed he manages to never step on anyone's toes anyway? (Well, except ET's. Who deserves it, so whatever. :)

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 09:58 PM

tontonsky, sorry to burst your bubble, but this is not jerry springer show, or oprah 'the correct' show. its sports. an activity where people compete using their mental and physical capacitys. its not meant for you to feel that everyone excersises feet-kissing gestures to your favorite player, who happens to be a proud owner of 12 slams...

Posted by Whitney 04/30/2008 at 09:59 PM

Christopher was talking about the difference in Roddick's impersonations and Djoko's. I've seen several clips of Roddick's from different events and he will only impersonate retired players, like Christopher said. I've seen him do Maria Sharapova before and some of his buddies. And in every clip I've seen someone yells "do Roger" and Andy always makes some joke about how sick of Roger he is - and everyone laughs. But he doesn't impersonate players he plays against. That may have been the key with Djoko that people didn't like.

Posted by Christopher 04/30/2008 at 10:00 PM

Let me be another Federer fan who agrees that he can be arrogant. I think an important difference is that he never comes across as being dismissive of other players. He's honest about his mistakes, but he always gives credit to the other players, even when he's played just horrible tennis. Does anyone really think Mardy Fish "taking the ball really early" as Fed put it, would beat him on a typical day? Hingis was and Serena is very dismissive of their opponents, and I think their statements of that sort annoy people more. Djokovic saying that none of the players he played in MC before Fed were much of a challenge or that he was "in control of the match" when he quit at two sets down to Nadal at RG are of this type as well.

Another key difference, as many of you pointed out, is that at this point Fed has plenty to be proud of and, O.K., arrogant about. I don't recall anything to the effect of "the king is dead" or claims that he would soon be #1 after he beat Sampras at Wimbledon. Federer's arrogance is typically factually correct, while Djokovic's is highly speculative.

Posted by ognost 04/30/2008 at 10:02 PM

Can Novak contribute something

to social problems?

use his stature and his victories

to unify people of diverse backgrounds?

end widespread racism in Serbia-Kosovo?

Posted by Tari 04/30/2008 at 10:02 PM

Sher: Yes, Rafa has perfected the art of not giving his opponents anything to use as motivation. He is not only sweet, but very bright as well. Different style. :)

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 10:06 PM

ognost, again you have no clue... go ask people from croatia what they think of djoko... browse the poll they made at who is most pleasing to watch. go ask serbian people from kosovo what they feel... go read novaks comments about how albanians and serbs should live together in peace and about the need for political situation to be resolved a.s.a.p. and in peace.

Posted by 04/30/2008 at 10:06 PM

Here is the recent BBC interview with Novak Djokovic, it appears it was done during MC but before he lost.

What I find relevant is how he talks about been a perfectionist and needing to have control. My thoughts which echo several others is that he is living with an intense amount of pressure and this combined with his need to have 100% control create stress levels that serve to exacerbate any symptoms he is feeling during a match. In a sense, I think may be creating his own monster, in his head of course.

Posted by Tari 04/30/2008 at 10:06 PM

Oh, for goodness sakes. That's the second time in a couple of days that someone has gotten rude with highpockets! Come on, guys. She is a well-respected TW poster. A lady. How about keeping the comments in line with addressing her as such??

Posted by Whitney 04/30/2008 at 10:08 PM

I agree with everyone talking about Fed being somewhat arrogant (is this the right word? should it be confident?). But what is he suppossed to say? He talks about Andy Roddick and says "I enjoy playing Andy, I have a good record against him." Well that's true. I always wondered if Andy was in the locker room like "yeah I bet you do" lol

Posted by Irving 04/30/2008 at 10:08 PM

Christopher: Very nicely put.

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 10:12 PM

I most humbly apologize for my distastefull comment...

its just that when opinions are based on 'smell' it usually shows there is something 'fishy' about it... and no number of posts has an effect on it. quite the opposite in fact.

Posted by ognost 04/30/2008 at 10:15 PM

Voks: it's not about mouthing high-soaring rhetoric concerning

how Albanians and Serbs and Yugoslavs should live together

it's about walking the talk,

modelling it through concrete projects affecting real people

like the Agassi charities, the Steffi Graf children centers,

the Roddick projects, the Andrea Jaeger communities.

do you have a clue now?

Posted by FoT 04/30/2008 at 10:17 PM

I think people are confusing arrogant with "confident". Roger is supremely confident. If he was "arrogant" why would his peers constantly vote him as the best sportsman in the game year after year? Arrogants isn't rewarded. Confidence is...

Posted by koen 04/30/2008 at 10:17 PM

As a man or as a sportsman or as a showman, Djoko is for a class better then Nadal and Fed suma summarum. It is good to see the anger from both of them and anti-Djoko funs too, cause that shows whose time is going to come.
;) (Yesterday was past, today will show tomorrow)
All that talking about retirement. It is his choice, who are u to judge him? All this text about it. Better you'd write some song, maybe will become a hit.
PS. Does it enough man's surrender or his murder?

Posted by Tari 04/30/2008 at 10:18 PM

Voks: Well, all we have to go on, besides something not seeming right, or "smelling" right, is our own eyes and Novak's explanation. Even you were not impressed. That said, tomorrow is another day, and Novak has his whole future in front of him, really. Plenty of room for improving whatever is lacking, right?

And thank you for the apology. Very gentlemanly of you. :)

Posted by tontonsky 04/30/2008 at 10:18 PM

sorry voks you haven't burst my bubble... i am pretty sure you don't have the necessary "prick" to burst my bubble
12 slams. shall i say it again. 12 slams. the budha is under the tree. 12 slams
dreaaaaaaaammmmmyyyyy. let me say it again 12 slams

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 10:20 PM

ognost... i sense you mean well, so i wont go at ya...

look at the people you mentioned, where are they from, how old they are, what have they accomplished, how big is their wallet, what is their surrounding...

its a mis-match to say the least.

for what Ive heard, Novak did considerable charity work down here, along with other Serbian players.

Posted by ec 04/30/2008 at 10:20 PM

Didn't the Djokster simply reinforce Federer's dislike for his antics by quitting when it was visibly clear he was more than capable of finishing the match? Fans can have varying opinions on what transpired, but the one that probably really matters is the player across the net that was robbed of a normal victory. No sweat for Federer, but no doubt his respect for the Djokster just sunk a wee bit lower.

Maybe the ATP should come up with a new year end award for which player is the biggest pansy. Gasquet, Davydenko, and the Djokster would be leading front runners for the award no doubt.

Posted by zolarafa 04/30/2008 at 10:22 PM

I wanted to respond to your question at 9:53, but your comment to highpockets at 10:00 made me think twice. That was rude. Is this how you want to represent your prople? and here we all criticize Novak for his manners!

Posted by ognost 04/30/2008 at 10:23 PM

Novak is a coward

-- occasionally, not all the time.

Bitter pill to swallow, but

hard realism for me as a Novak fan.

Posted by Voks 04/30/2008 at 10:25 PM

its a biiiig wave youre riding on tontonsky. just watch for the splash ;)

but enough of this prissy-claps... its 4.30 am, and holiday brunch awaits tomorrow...

/waves/ to all well intended people (including all ive adressed here, esp Tari)



Posted by Whitney 04/30/2008 at 10:27 PM

Yeah FoT - I think you are right - I felt weird even writing arrogant really. And Fed has a right to be the most confident tennis player out there.

Posted by koen 04/30/2008 at 10:27 PM

hard realism for me as a Novak fan.

you mean NOT Novak fun :)

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