Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Drama King
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Drama King 03/08/2010 - 2:08 PM

Nd We can argue over whether tennis, when it comes to team events, could do better than the Davis Cup. I believe it could; that if all of the sport’s name-brand players were chauffeured to the same location over the same period of time—this is the simple genius of the Grand Slams—you’d have a tournament that would preach to more than the converted. Then we’d just need to find a way to ban the thunderstick, the cowbell, and the kazoo, and we’d be all set.

Alas, the ear-splitting noisemaker is here to stay. But today is no day to lament the persistence of Davis Cup. Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and John Isner proved again this weekend that playing for someone other than themselves forces the pros not only to find their best tennis, but to give us their personalities at their most fervent and concentrated—their truest. What does a player look like when he’s not allowed to cave, not allowed to pack it in, not allowed to default because of injury, not allowed to do anything other than find a way to win? Davis Cup brings it to you every time.

Isner and Djokovic, not surprisingly, are very different people and competitors when it's all on the line. The American’s DC debut was memorable for its stoic, if ultimately tragic, heroism. While he lost both of his singles matches, it wasn’t because he was overcome by the moment. Isner’s performances in his doubles win with Bob Bryan—he drilled the key shot of that match, a forehand pass to clinch the third set—and in his five-set loss to Djokovic showed that beneath the backward hat and gawky gait is a problem solver who keeps his emotions out of his way. When he lost a point this weekend, even a crushingly important point, he rarely did anything more than call for the towel and move on to the next one. Last year I talked to Isner after he’d been eliminated at Indian Wells. I knew he had a reputation as a practical joker—rubbing habanera pepper on his trainer’s toothbrush was a specialty—so I was surprised by how sober, how enclosed, how all-business he was during our conversation. And, despite a few choice swear words and a few less-than-choice double faults on break points, that’s the attitude he maintained through all five sets on Sunday. Like Fernando Verdasco in the DC final in 2008, Isner may have even proved something to himself in this tie that he can take with him for the rest of the season. Is it too early to designate him a dark horse—a very long snake in the grass—for Wimbledon?

Isner’s serve, especially the wide one in the deuce court, was crucial, of course, but he had the edge in many of the rallies as well. He hit his forehand past the speedy Djokovic, he passed well with his backhand, and he made a specialty of hitting drop volley winners while threatening to fall flat on his back. He also pulled off the gutsiest play of the day by following his second serve in at set point in the tiebreaker in the fourth. Like a lot of Isner’s plays this weekend, it wasn’t pretty—he slipped and stumbled through the frontcourt—but like a lot of those same plays, it worked.

The difference in the end was the court surface. On clay, Djokovic’s defense meant as much as Isner’s offense. More specifically, his ability to scramble to his forehand side was decisive. This has always been a weakness of Isner’s; while he has improved his movement, he still ends a lot of rallies waving at the ball at it streaks past him on his right. Djokovic, on the other hand, is fast enough to run in that direction and still flick the ball back at an acute crosscourt angle. The Serb, who, depending on your point of view, became either more intelligently conservative or more anxiously tentative when he needed a point, won with consistency and court coverage. But if this wasn’t his most impressive or spectacular win from a playing perspective, Djokovic was nevertheless must-see TV all weekend. He wasn’t just a tennis player. He was a drama in multiple acts. A few highlights of the Loco Djoko show:

After winning the first set 6-2 against Sam Querrey and looking to be cool, collected, and far the superior player, Djokovic lost the first two points of the next set on his serve. You might think the No. 2 player in the world would shrug this off without a second thought. You’d be wrong. Djokovic immediately started to breathe more deeply, to suck wind. He leaned back and put his hand over his nose, as if he were having trouble getting oxygen. He sighed and shook his head. He stared up to the heavens and down at his feet. He looked like the weight of the world had just been dropped onto his shoulders. And he hadn't even been broken yet. But he was soon after. In his anxiety, Djokovic got away from his game and began trying to end points too quickly. He popped up an awful drop shot to hand Querrey a break point. His fears were a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Events proceeded on similar lines through most of that set. Djokovic threw his hands in the air when Querrey hit a good shot, as if to ask how this could possibly happen to him. He snarled in the direction of his teammates and his entourage. When, down 1-4 and at 30-30, he reached back to hit an overhead, it appeared that he had lost all hope. Djokovic took out his frustration by hitting that shot as hard as he could, the way you might hit a shot if you were on the verge of tanking. But it went in. He won the point. He snuck out of the game. He started holding his head a little higher. He breathed easier. When he broke serve, he pounded his chest, and on the way to the sideline he did that little thing where he sticks his jaw out and puts his tongue in his cheek. It’s usually a sign that he’s feeling cocky again. He’d gotten his strut and his self-belief back as quickly as he’d lost them. Djokovic would go on to save five break points at 4-5 and win the set. Naturally, when he was broken early in the third set, he smashed his racquet in half. Never mind that he was still up two sets to none to a guy ranked 20 spots below him.

The rage, the fear, the strut, the wind-sucking, the cocky tongue-in-cheek, the highs and the lows experienced from one point to the next: That’s how Djokovic played all five sets against Isner. No wonder he struggles to keep it together after two weeks at a major; Davis Cup, with its four intense weekends spread out over the course of the year, should be his kind of event. I’ve written here that Rafael Nadal takes his fans along for the emotional ride when he plays. But he’s got a face of stone compared to what Djokovic showed us this weekend. When he was coming up a few years ago, I admired the guy for his steeliness and his resolve—he seemed cutthroat, a born winner. It hasn't worked out that way, but now I like him more. It turned out that, like a lot of us, Djokovic was a live wire whose reason and confidence are often blinded by emotion. Like a lot of us, he has trouble taking the long view and seeing beyond his success or failure in the point he has just played. 

When Isner's final shot found the net and Djokovic had clinched the tie, he burst into tears. But I preferred his reaction to his first-set win, when he ran toward the net like a blind banshee. Normally, you might say this kind of thing was in bad taste—the match wasn't even close to being over yet. But after Djokovic had shown us all of his nerves and fears over the weekend, his crazed reaction to overcoming those fears didn't seem crazy or tasteless at all. It was touching. 

Of course, five minutes later, after he was broken to start the second set, he smashed another racquet and sent it flying toward the bleachers. Never change, Novak. There are safer and smarter places to be, but no ride can compare to the roller-coaster.


Posted by Yolita 03/08/2010 at 02:34 PM

I absolutely agree. No ride compares to these roller-coasters.

I think it's very easy to underestimate the incredible pressure Novak is under. Always. He's carrying a country on his shoulders and it can get overwhelming. Witness Ana and Jelena, who are finding it really difficult.

This last week-end all the pressure was on him: his surface, his crowd, higher-ranked player,... It would have been unthinkable to fail, and he didn't. And he gave us a moving performance, winning with his heart as much as with his athleticism.

But now he has to fly to California, to compete with the other top players who didn't play Davis Cup, who have been resting and practicing and getting used to the place. Yet again he will be carrying the weight of expectation. And the roller-coaster ride begins again . . .

Posted by Cami 03/08/2010 at 02:44 PM

Oh, Djokovic. Eastern-European antics. Know them too well. Not impressed at all, at all. He used to be more likeable when he didn't take himself so seriously...

Posted by Kombo 03/08/2010 at 03:16 PM

Kudos to Isner, he put a great fight. Djokovic was starting to lose it, indulging in histrionics and pantomimes every point, tossing racquets, etc. If Isner could have just extended the match another 5 mins who knows. Congrats to Serbia

Posted by BrooklynNY 03/08/2010 at 03:46 PM

Novak is not impressive.

Posted by Monica 03/08/2010 at 03:46 PM

Steve, I don't get why you're so enamoured with players who go bi-polar on the court. You like Nadal because he shows how far tennis can take someone (i.e. how nerve-shredding it can be.) You like Djokovic better once it turned out that his emotions blind his reason and confidence. You call Federer nonchalant, never (that I can recall) giving him much praise or love for his remarkable poise and self-control. Why is it so important to you that players fall to pieces or seem to be on the brink of falling to pieces? Do you enjoy dysfunction more than function? The funny thing is that during the podcast session you sound like the most poised, level-headed guy of the three. So I don't get why you can't appreciate that in a tennis player.

Posted by Cloud13 03/08/2010 at 03:47 PM

Djokovic is determined to prove he's no longer going to quit in long, draining matches when things get tough. Four times he's walked away from Grand Slam tournaments mid-match, but no more. His five-set Cup win over Isner yesterday was an example of his new resolve.

Posted by Mr. T. 03/08/2010 at 04:08 PM

Steve - Excellent post. I liked the title - Drama King - and the term "Loco Djoko". Djokovic has always been a puzzle. His histrionics can be hard to figure but he can look awfully good at times and then go into a walk-about. Perhaps this weekend will be the start of the player that most were sure was headed for greatness.

Posted by Rose Smith 03/08/2010 at 04:26 PM


I do like Novak but I watched the tail end of the match with Isner and I think Novak was over the top! The prayers for divine intervention, the faces, the walks at the baseline were getting a little too much since Isner was the one with less experience and more pressure. It was pitiful to watch Novak and I really like him-specially the semi in madrid 2009.

Posted by tina 03/08/2010 at 04:30 PM

I don't understand why people can still talk about Fed's so-called mono, but people have forgotten that Novak actually has had real problems with his sinuses and breathing. As for histrionics, he can't win with tennis fans - he either acts up too much or too little.

Fact is, Isner did not "extend the match another 5 mins". He lost. But I don't think Sampras did well in his very first tie, either. No shame in that. As a newcomer to DC 4 years ago, Cilic was blown off the court, and now he's a DC stalwart.

Until there is some alternative to Davis Cup - and I don't really want one - Davis Cup is the closest thing our sport has to World Cup. Can you blame a guy from a small country for getting excited about leading his team to a victory over the USA, with our population, size, and relative wealth?

It's a sport, and it's entertainment. Poise and self-control are over-rated, and Roger Federer DID NOT PLAY this weekend. Steve Tignor doesn't need to heap any more praise on him, the guy's got quite a full trophy shelf. Which is likely why he doesn't often participate in Davis Cup.

Posted by Master Ace 03/08/2010 at 04:33 PM

John played well this weekend as he stood toe to toe with Novak but Novak came up with the goods when the crucial points. Now, he has won 7 matches in a row and he still has not played his best as he is struggling with his service motion and his play has been up and down.

Posted by Master Ace 03/08/2010 at 04:36 PM

Agree that John can be a darkhorse at Wimbledon with his serve and improving net game but the top players will find a way to hit passing shot low and at his feet as he approaches the net.

Posted by noleisthebest 03/08/2010 at 04:42 PM

Underneath the djoko-loco it's the resolve of steel. Never be mistaken about it. He wants to be a number one, He WILL be a number one.
The drama razzamatazz and the rollercoaster comes as a bonus, and as a long-standing fan have been enjoying the ride ALL THE TIME!

Posted by tina 03/08/2010 at 04:49 PM

So, it's okay for Roman Catholic Juan Martin del Potro to cross himself on court, but a guy who's Orthodox can't be seen to "pray for divine intervention"? I didn't get to see the end of the match, but the Serbian Orthodox church is a huge part of the culture and national identity there. And since a certain amount of nationalism is a given in Davis Cup, let the guy go as over the top as he wishes. Besides which, his "prayers" were evidently answered.

Posted by cavedweller 03/08/2010 at 04:53 PM

Mystified by your admiration for Djokovic's histrionics. What's to like? Really, it's embarassing to see an overgrown baby belt a drop-shot into the stands or pretzel a racket. If he's not acting, he has pathetic control of the emotions he needs to channel into the steely resolve of Fed or Nadal.
A few years ago I was put off by the vainglorious chest-beating but then gradually warmed up to what seemed to be increasing maturity - both the game and the man. This weekend's drama leaves me cold.
As for Isner, lots of props. The guy doesn't do fiery, but he came to play - and did.

Posted by noleisthebest 03/08/2010 at 04:55 PM

Underneath the djoko-loco it's the resolve of steel. Never be mistaken about it. He wants to be a number one, He WILL be a number one.
The drama razzamatazz and the rollercoaster comes as a bonus, and as a long-standing fan have been enjoying the ride ALL THE TIME!

Posted by noleisthebest 03/08/2010 at 04:56 PM

Plus, you forgot the key drama moment when he begged the crowd on his knees to remain silent so he could serve the last game out and win the match.

Posted by Corrie 03/08/2010 at 04:56 PM

"Steve, I don't get why you're so enamoured with players who go bi-polar on the court."

I agree, even though it may be fun for some spectators. And what about Isner? He's the younger, less experienced guy who should get the praise for showing some impressive self control in a very difficult situation in a hostile setting.

If you want to win on the biggest stages in tennis you have to learn to control your emotions, get some self discipline and self control going.

And sorry to mention Federer, Tina, I know you hate the guy, but his success exemplifies his progress from "terminal hot head" loser to self disciplined winner.

Also, lots of players coming from countries with few top players have massive pressure on them, see A Murray or F Gonzales, and they don't all go into hysterics. I also have a feeling that Cilic, who shows lots of promise, will have his emotions under better control in a very pressured next DC round than his older opponent, Novak.

Posted by tanya 03/08/2010 at 05:06 PM

//He's the younger, less experienced guy

Actually Big John is two years older than Djoko, but whatever.

Steve likes emotion in a player and I don't understand what's the big deal. Why should everyone's likes be the same? Steve even said that giving free reign to his emotions often harms Djokovic (and I agree with him), but it's entertaining and what the purpose of the sport if not entertainment? Maybe these outbursts will help him to "unlock" and play calmer in the deciding moments. Who knows.

Posted by Yolita 03/08/2010 at 05:08 PM

Actually, he wasn't praying for divine intervention. That's how it was interpreted by commentators. A serbian friend of mine who was in the arena told me that he was begging the public to keep quiet, because they kept shouting "OUT" every time John Isner hit a line and they, in their excitement, were making it really difficult for Djoko to concentrate.

Obviously there are some people that will never like Nole, whatever he does. (Would they feel the same if he was English or American?).

I first saw Novak when he played Coria in Roland Garros in 2005. I've been there for his first final, his first title, his first Masters Series Title (at the age of 19!), his first Grand Slam (at the age of 20!), and THE RIDE HAS BEEN GREAT ALL THE TIME!

Posted by tanya 03/08/2010 at 05:09 PM

Oh, ad this:

//If you want to win on the biggest stages in tennis you have to learn to control your emotions, get some self discipline and self control going.

is not true, as McEnroe, Connors, Safin and others prove. Fed is not the only pattern, not by a long shot.

Posted by tanya 03/08/2010 at 05:21 PM

Oh excuse me, and this:

//Oh, Djokovic. Eastern-European antics.

Is just offensive. Hello McEnroe and Connors! Roddick's constant vendetta against the umpires (which I enjoy very much, btw)? Murray's bitching and moaning and c'moning at opponents' doublefaults? Monfils' clown jumps? These "upper-crust" milquetoast sensibilities are not becoming, especially when they're hypocritical.

Posted by fedfan 03/08/2010 at 05:31 PM

I thought Isner showed remarkable poise and fortitude. Given his many hours on court and the fact that he was playing on clay, on Djokovic's home turf, his tenacity was,as you say, heroic.

Watching the match, I was struck by Djoko's fragile nerves, given his remarkable talents. I thought he would make short work of the less mobile, lower-ranked, and deservedly tired Isner, but Isner fought fiercely in his low-key stoic manner.

Posted by lurker 03/08/2010 at 05:44 PM

Corrie:"And sorry to mention Federer, Tina, I know you hate the guy" So now Federer should not be mentioned when tina is commenting in a blog, good to know.

Posted by Dejan 03/08/2010 at 06:14 PM

Drama King or not, Novak played for his flag, for his country. He could have stayed home, like a celebrity millionaire and made all excuses possible, blaming ITF and who ever.... But he is honorable patriot and real ambassador of Serbian nation and maybe that is why Good answers his prayers. Will Good answer prayers of those you call cool, mature, well behaved players like Fed, Rodic, that support their colors,by making a phone call from overseas? I don't know. Ask Good.

Posted by etheralx23crisis 03/08/2010 at 06:32 PM

yeay nole! EMotional rollercoasters are more fun to me than watching a blow out match from federer. I respect that federer is a great player and all, but i watch tennis for entertainment, entertainment to me, is those long grueling 5 hour matches where the players are neck and neck and no one knows who will win. the blood sweat and grind is what its all about to me. Ala Madrid 2009. Australian Open Semi NAdal Verdasco. Good stuff.

GO NOle!

Posted by Bibi 03/08/2010 at 06:41 PM

Love Novak's passion. He had such a responsibility on his shoulders to deliver an historic victory for Serbia. I watched and cried from tension. Felt his desire. It was out there on the court. No pretense. Raw emotions. You could tell he was not playing for himself.
It was painful to watch, but so rewarding.
Bravo Novak and the rest of the Serbian team. USA team did great too.
Thank you Steve, that was such a nice post.

Posted by tina 03/08/2010 at 07:46 PM

Hey, Isner had the advantage of 24 aces - that is 6 games' worth. That's like getting a 20-meter head start in a race in a 200-meter race.

Posted by Monica 03/08/2010 at 07:54 PM

" 'If you want to win on the biggest stages in tennis you have to learn to control your emotions, get some self discipline and self control going.'

is not true, as McEnroe, Connors, Safin and others prove. Fed is not the only pattern, not by a long shot."

Federer's is not the only pattern but his is by a long shot the most successful one (along with Sampras' and Laver's, who were similarly cool and collected on the court.) In fact, one can argue that the 14 Grand Slam difference between Safin and Federer (which is more than either Connor and McEnroe won) boils down to discipline and self-control. Sure some would find Safin blowing up and smashing his racket more entertaining, while the rest of us might find Federer's sublime tennis more enjoyable. It is a question of taste, after all, but I think it's just as offensive to attribute these qualities--self-discipline and calm-- exclusively to the "upper crust." I've known plenty of Eastern-Europeans who have them.

Having said that, you should look up the meaning of the word "balkanized." It's not a positive one, so one can draw certain conclusions as to where that kind of hot-headedness leads one. And if the Davis Cup provides a new forum for heated ethnocentrism, I don't see that as a positive development given the history of the Balkans. I think studying the history of the region gives one an entirely different perspective on the Davis Cup agitation.

Posted by lollipop (Flames > smurf?) 03/08/2010 at 08:41 PM

ok, yes- Nole is a drama king. He is playing terribly, especially on serve. And his nerves are a recurring problem. But, somehow, Novak has managed to win 7 straight matches. I know they weren't to top 10 guys, but i still think it was pretty admirable especially considering the amount of pressure that was on him. Defending a title was a great pressure for him, and DC was even more of a pressure, considering that he had to do this for Serbia, and the fact is Nole doesnt always deal with pressure well. He's just an emotional guy, and as admirable as Nadal's and federer's mentality is, it is unfair to expect everyone to be like that. Even though it was up and down, the important thing is that he won. That being said, this roller coaster ride makes it very tough for fans :) And, his game is far from where it needs to be. But hopefully he'll get there eventually.

Posted by Red⁺ = Legacy Solidified 03/08/2010 at 08:49 PM new name for Nole is Drama (just like the character in Entourage). All you gotta do Drama is let your racket do the talking! Congrats Serbia!
Major props to Isner.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 03/08/2010 at 09:14 PM


Thank you for writing what I have felt was so obvious for so long....

"The rage, the fear, the strut, the wind-sucking, the cocky tongue-in-cheek, the highs and the lows experienced from one point to the next: That’s how Djokovic played all five sets against Isner. No wonder he struggles to keep it together after two weeks at a major...".

It's not that Djokovic isn't in good enough condition to win another major, it's that he is so spent emotionally by the fourth round, that he can barely hang on. The trouble is, his game might not be as formidable (or at least he seems convinced of this) if he were to rein in his emotions. He seems to feed off his emotions as much as they feed off of him, ultimatley sapping hoim of his energy and his will.

Tortured artist... the Michelangelo of tennis.

Posted by VC 03/08/2010 at 09:29 PM

"Poise and self-control are over-rated"

I can't think of a single great champion I've watched who didn't have them. Funny thing is, Djokovic seems to be getting more volatile as he matures and gains experience, while it should be the other way round.

Posted by patzin 03/08/2010 at 09:33 PM

I saw part of the match and it was very entertaining and well contested on both parties. I think Isner, playing 3 days in a row, should have been exhausted by Sunday, and perhaps he was. He played with courage and great heart. The USA team contested well, despite the outcome. As for Serbia, Nole isn't 'the team' because they do have an experienced team, but I agree he probably has the most pressure on him. I like to compare him to Rafa, because both play with heart and soul - the main difference is the emotional component. Rafa was taught as a child to keep his emotions in check and it is part of his strong mentality; Nole on the other hand prob not. Perhaps something to do with the culture each grew up in. I think his prayers to the Gods might be a release of energy which allows him to refocus. Yes sometimes he loses his focus - nevertheless he plays with big heart. I don't particularly like the chest beating but other players do similar motions too. It shows his passion; the Spaniards do it also. I think Nole might want to look at his scheduling because he is playing a lot of matches. He needs to allow his body to recover. Also notice he has tape on his shoulder, which is prob part of the issue about his service motion.

Posted by Monica 03/08/2010 at 10:02 PM

Nadal is a curious case to me. He seems to expand a lot of emotional energy on the court and yet mentally one can argue (as many have) that he's tougher than Federer (or at least was until Madrid 2009). I wonder how that works exactly.

Posted by lollipop (Flames > smurf?) 03/08/2010 at 10:08 PM

"Tortured artist... the Michelangelo of tennis."

*stands up and applauds* I like that reference :)

Posted by tina 03/08/2010 at 11:28 PM

The fact is, Steve Tignor wrote about Novak Djokovic today because he actually played this weekend. Roger Federer did not, so it is not a post on Federer. It's not like we will never see another word about RF on this website.

For a guy who "played terribly", Djokovic nevertheless got the win, when Isner could have easily pulled off a heroic upset.

I very much admire the cool, calm, almost businesslike demeanor of Marin Cilic, but contrasting games and personalities is what watching this sport is all about. That's why McEnroe/Borg was a classic rivalry, Navratilova/Evert and to a far lesser extent Sampras/Ivanisevic. Would we all enjoy it so much if the players were virtually identical?

Monica - I agree that Nadal is a curious case - for the same reasons.

Posted by Nanette 03/08/2010 at 11:33 PM

Djokovic is indeed a drama king and all his phony antics are obvious propaganda to forget his country's lost wars. Ever since the rise of their players, the Serbian fans and their government have typically hijacked tennis and now every tournament has become an ugly platform for their wounded chauvinism. It's also no surprise that Djokovic was just named the best promoter of Serbia last december by the Serbian Ministry of Commerce and that he is actually set to portray Serbian king Alexander I in a television series to be filmed next year...Propaganda King anyone ?

Just like the megalomaniacal comments from the Serbian fans here about "an historic victory for Serbia" for beating rookie #20 John Isner and #22 Sam Querrey on clay and at home, count on Djokovic being now mystified as the greatest tennis player of all time LOL


Posted by tina 03/09/2010 at 12:01 AM

As with a lot of Hollywood productions, Nanette, that television project is "in turnaround." That link is from last December - it's old news, and no longer under discussion. Novak will be too busy playing tennis for an acting career. I think that whole story was just floated as a joke, not meant to be taken seriously.

Is it Novak's fault that Team USA could only field #20 and #22? No. But can it be considered a historic victory in tennis terms that Serbia has finally really arrived in the World Group of Davis Cup? Why not? Isner had great chances to win the match, but he just didn't.

Every group has a different definition of "Balkan". "Balkan" is not interchangeable with Former Yugoslavia, as many consider Slovenia to be non-Balkan. And Bulgaria is.

In any event, I am relieved that when Serbia play Croatia, I will be watching in person and not reading tennis blogs.

If Isner is eventually part of a winning Davis Cup team, I'm sure his home state - Georgia? - would love to put him to use as some sort of tourism promoter. I suppose it would also help if he won a Slam title, even if it's just one. Can Georgia claim a Slam winner?

Posted by Yolita 03/09/2010 at 12:33 AM

"Djokovic is indeed a drama king and all his phony antics are obvious propaganda to forget his country's lost wars." Not nice,Nanette, not nice!

I think any country would be proud of a player like Novak, even more so a small one. And it is historic to be in the quaterfinals for the first time in their history as an independent nation.

They have every right to feel proud to have beaten the mighty US, with a much larger population and tennis budget. Let's not forget that Troicki is lower ranked than both Isner and Querrey, and managed to beat a fresh Isner.

Great effort from both teams. Let's not take anything away from the Serbians!

Posted by tektonac 03/09/2010 at 12:42 AM


i hope you were drunk when you were writing your post.

Posted by tanya 03/09/2010 at 01:13 AM

//Federer's is not the only pattern but his is by a long shot the most successful one

So what? Not everyone can be as successful as Fed, and not everyone should be. Variety is very important, and again, in a field of entertainment, why should everyone like the same thing? Steve wrote an article about Djokovic and what he liked about him, and the way some people are behaving, it's like it's some cardinal sin that he didn't mention Fed and his zen and whatnot. Why indeed does he like peach and doesn't praise mango?

//I've known plenty of Eastern-Europeans who have them.

//Having said that, you should look up the meaning of the word "balkanized".

Me too, but there's just as much people from other parts of the world (including tennis players, see: Roddick, Monfils etc.) who have them, or is that trait only merits scorn in people from Balcans? And Balcans are not even Eastern Europe, but that's beside the point. Djoko is, actually, a Southern European which doesn't mean that the statement above any less arrogant, of course. There were oodles of bad shit happening all over the world throughout history, and none of it means that people living here or there are somehow inferior and should be changed. Anyway, Djokovic is not trying to start a war over there - he's just playing a tennis match. Let him do it the way he likes.

Posted by Pat frm Philippines 03/09/2010 at 01:47 AM

thanks steve for this article...

a way too good article to compliment my fave atp player...

ajde!!! ajde nole!!!

Posted by Elenisa 03/09/2010 at 03:31 AM

Great article,Steve! I'm impressed how well can you understand Novak's soul.This boy is only HEART!At the end of the match i almost cried with him.

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 07:47 AM

"If Isner is eventually part of a winning Davis Cup team, I'm sure his home state - Georgia? - would love to put him to use as some sort of tourism promoter. I suppose it would also help if he won a Slam title, even if it's just one. Can Georgia claim a Slam winner? "

Isner is from North Carolina but he played his collegiate tennis at Georgia. However, Melanie Oudin is from Marietta, Georgia so Georgia is positioned to claim a Slam winner from 2 different perspectives.

Posted by Cami 03/09/2010 at 08:30 AM


I am Eastern European. At least I think so, seeing that the term can be debated... anyway... I'm from Romania.

What I meant by "Eastern Europen antics" is what the British, I think, call gamesmanship. A thing our own Ilie Nastase was a master at (and Connors and other Western players, yes).

But this gamesmanship thing has been taken to new heights recently thanks to a bunch of players from ex-communist countries, both men and women (Djokovic, Jankovic, Azarenka etc). I am not including here the "meltdown cases" (Safin, Safina, Zvonareva), as their histrionics are aimed only at themselves, and not at throwing off their opponents or getting attention just for the heck of it.

But there's a fine line between intensity and plain rudeness or inappropriate (in Djokovic's case, I have one example that says it all: the "be quiet!" incident with Federer and Djokovic's family).

I liked Djokovic very much as a player when he was coming up, and his natural charisma could have made me a lifelong fan, but his behavior on court and in press conferences (arrogant, passive agressive, playing victim/hero, lame jokes, not owning up etc) just puts me off. The man can play tennis, but he just has no class.

Sorry to all Djokovic fans out there, I know we are all entitled to our own opinion and I respect that.
I just wanted to explain mine.

Posted by Yolita 03/09/2010 at 08:52 AM

We are all entitled to our own opinion and I can think of many worse examples of gamesmanship, being passive-agrssive, lack of class, rudeness, etc, from many other players from different parts of the world.

I just think it would be sooo nice to be able to talk about tennis and tennis players without using the words 'ex-communist', Eastern European', 'Balcanization', . . . Maybe in a perfect world?

Posted by tanya 03/09/2010 at 09:20 AM

Corrie - fair enough. I don't think a tendency to use gamesmanship (do you mean willingly exploiting the rules to one's advantage?) is an exclusviely Eastern European province, or that Eastern Europeans monopolize it now so your initial remark was a little uncalled for (and Djoko is s Southern European anyway). But I understand you, Djoko is certainly guilty of that from time to time. I don't see anything wrong with that, but realize how somone might feel differently.

I'm Russian, btw.

Posted by Monica 03/09/2010 at 09:49 AM

Balkans=Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Macedonia, Croatia, Kosovo (as recognized by most countries, though not Serbia), Albania, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary (on the northern border) and part of Turkey. The Balkan peninsula is not Southern Europe; it's South-Eastern Europe and therefore part of Eastern Europe (though some people like to think of Eastern Europe as just Russia and its former satellites in Central-Eastern Europe).

For the record, I never cared for McEnroe or Connors either, but to my knowledge Steve has never discussed them. In my initial post I was simply examining Steve's preferences in the comportment of players at large.

As for Davis Cup, I think again this depends on perspective. Americans rarely play for the United States (except in the Olympics and Fed Cup/Davis Cup) so I can see how someone like Tignor or Bodo might think that it's great when players play for something "bigger than themselves." It seems selfless and giving. However, if one is familiar with the history of a region (which again is larger than Serbia) where people have killed each other over ethnic and religious differences, one might feel a little differently about the whole Davis Cup competition (or any other inter-national competition for that matter). Not that it can't be done right, but it has the potential to spill into something else. For myself, I'm encouraged that the crowds for the Davis cup were not that big. It is just tennis after all. A game we all here love and appreciate but a game nevertheless.

Posted by Cami 03/09/2010 at 10:01 AM

Yeah, maybe in a perfect world...where everybody is the same. Now wouldn't that be just great?

Posted by tanya 03/09/2010 at 10:01 AM


I rest my case.

Anyway, people were killing each other for political and religious reasons all over hte world all the time, I don't know how Balcans are in any way different or worse, and I really don't want to continue this discussion.

Posted by Monica 03/09/2010 at 10:25 AM

Fair enough, we can say south-eastern is both south and eastern Europe. Since you do not want to dwell into the history of the Balkans, Tanya, I won't go into more depth, and plus this is not a history forum, except when it is about the Davis Cup, which, as a competition, is about more than tennis. My whole point about that is that that may or may not be a good thing. I am in general nervous about all international competitions especially the ones between European countries or other countries with a hostile history between them. I hope (as I'm sure do many others)that the tie between Serbia and Croatia is a peaceful and civilized one where sportsmanship rises above all other passions.

Posted by Peter 03/09/2010 at 11:07 AM

Totally love you Djoko!

Posted by lurker 03/09/2010 at 11:31 AM

tina: "The fact is, Steve Tignor wrote about Novak Djokovic today because he actually played this weekend. Roger Federer did not, so it is not a post on Federer. It's not like we will never see another word about RF on this website."

No one said the post should be about Federer. But is seems that posters apologise to you for mentioning Federer in their comments while trying to make a point. Other players' names are used in other comments including yours. But it seems the mere mention of the name Federer merits an apology. It’s just interesting that’s all!

Posted by Matt 03/09/2010 at 11:48 AM

The USA-Serbia tie was an interesting one, specially the Nole-Isner match. BUT IMO the story of this Davis cup weekend was David Nalbandian, I'd have loved to see your thoughts on it although I understand that you probably weren't able to see the tie.

Posted by Charlie Mueller 03/09/2010 at 04:03 PM

I think the most important point of all this is that Djoko would win more if he did not let his emotions take the wind out of him and his game. It is a big reason why he has fallen a bit short of his abilities at the slams since his Australian win. If he wants to win some of them, he should pay attention to this column. He most definitly should have won this match in 3 or 4 sets. He did let a couple bad shots derail himself. He does not fire himself up like McEnroe used to- rather he wears himself out.

Posted by Zoki 03/09/2010 at 04:33 PM

Novak is behaving the way he feels unlike fake American Athletes.

What you see is what you get!

Posted by Denis 03/09/2010 at 04:37 PM

Incredible that small Serbia won against mighty USGay. lol

Posted by Corrie 03/09/2010 at 04:45 PM

It seems like I got mixed up with Cami - I wouldn't dream of discussing Eastern European attitudes, although what Cami said made a lot of sense.

I'm a fan of Novak and I just loved his hilarious antics at the Hit for Haiti, but I'm not going to be uncritical over his various behaviours from the past which have been gamesmanship. And all his histrionics seem to be getting worse and just too over the top. Judging from his performance in the Slams I don't think they're helping him, that's the point. They seem to be a reaction to an inner lack of confidence.

Lurker, I was being sarcastic in my apology to Tina in mentioning Federer, because she's always saying how sick of him she is and that he gets mentioned too much.

Posted by VC 03/09/2010 at 04:48 PM

The World No. 1 tennis player being discussed on a tennis blog? How shocking!

Posted by Stefan 03/09/2010 at 04:49 PM

I have a question for my American friends...Why are you such a losers? Why do you always have to put other people down when you are losing?

Posted by tanya 03/09/2010 at 05:04 PM

Corrie - yes, i got you confused with Cami. My bad.

Monica - well, I'd very much like to claim Nole as my fellow Eastern European, but alas, he's not. :( Central European maybe, depending on his birthplace, i suppose...

As for your other point - there's a certain grain of truth in what they say: sports today is ritualized war. Like it or not, there's always some degree of nationalism in people everywhere, and I say better they express it cheering for their players/teams in stadums and mud-slinging at Internet forums than doing real bloodshed. At the end of the day, it's harmless entertainment. So someone maybe takes it a little overboard with theatrics and tears and whatnot, I say let him. It doesn't harm anyone, and taking Serbia for to the 1/4 for the first time in history is a huge page to turn. I don't think many realise that Djoko is writing tennis history of his country (or even sports history) as he lives, and the pressure of it is crushing.

As for the Croatia tie, the athmosphere is heating all right, but again, I don't think it's a huge deal. Djoko himself already tried to diffuse the situation saying that he was always welcome in Croatia and noone should be acting rashly. He's friends with Ljubo and whatnot, so I think it's all get really blown out of proportion. Noone's going to do a Gunther Parsche on him in Split.

Posted by Cami 03/09/2010 at 06:31 PM


"Nadal is a curious case to me. He seems to expand a lot of emotional energy on the court and yet mentally one can argue (as many have) that he's tougher than Federer (or at least was until Madrid 2009). I wonder how that works exactly."

Exactly! How about that? Nadal is a mystery to me. I admire his mentality, I am in awe, but I don't know how he does it. How does he believe in himself and thinks he can win (and HE DOES!) against someone (Federer) that he openly calls the best of all time? It's unbelievable what the mind can do.

I wonder how does one get to think like that? Is it the country, the family, the climate, the food, the training, the personality you were born with? All of them? Something else? How he never crumbles under pressure is just...I don't know, inspiring. And I'm a Federer fan!

And his oncourt persona is so different from the offcourt one! Mindboggling. If anybody has any ideas, please explain. I know it's offtopic, but I've been wondering about this for a while - since the AO 2009 final, to be more precise :)

Posted by Robert 03/09/2010 at 06:34 PM

Novaks LIONS HEART won the match. Kid is not playing his good tennis right noe but he found the way to win over a guy who has a free point every time he is serving!

Posted by Robert 03/09/2010 at 06:36 PM


Can we get a story about Homosexuality on the US Davis Cup team past and present?

Posted by tina 03/09/2010 at 08:29 PM

lurker, don't engage me or I will have your IP address traced. End of.

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/09/2010 at 08:45 PM

What a peculiar thread. Homophobia, unnecessary threats, excursions into Balkan 'history'.

Djokovic's theatrics are ludicrous. But so what? He's the one playing, unlike us pontificating about correct behaviour from the cosy confines of the couch. He's the world number two, wins more often than he loses and has a grand slam. Maybe, just maybe, he's doing something right.

Posted by Sasha 03/09/2010 at 10:18 PM

This article was written to put Novak Djokovic down. Why? Because he kicked your pathetick assses?


Posted by Daniel 03/10/2010 at 12:49 AM

@Yet Another Loser

There are no Homophobics here, just Homosexual American Males like YOU, Steve Tigron, as we all know almost every player on US Davis Cup(Roddick, Blake, Gimelstob, Fish...)

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/10/2010 at 01:02 AM

Daniel... not American... you seem to know a lot about homosexuality...

Posted by Daniel 03/10/2010 at 01:14 AM

I know what everyone else knows...that Amrican Davis Cup Team is called "Gay Parade".

Tell me how come you Americans are such a losers? 300 million people and one tennis player in top 20!

Are oy upeople just dumb or what?

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/10/2010 at 01:22 AM

Daniel... not being American, I wouldn't know if they were dumb or not... reading your posts, however, I know that you are dumb... astonishingly, spectacularly, indisputably dumb.

I also know you have a strange fixation on homosexuality. Projection? Latent (or not so latent) longing? You protest too much, lady.

Posted by Daniel 03/10/2010 at 01:43 AM

You an Anglo shit, so it's same!

Dumb is your mother because she didn't abort you once she found out that she has Down Syndrome baby.

Posted by Antonio 03/10/2010 at 01:53 AM

USGay? lol

Davis Cup Team-Gay Parade? lol

Posted by Daniel 03/10/2010 at 02:04 AM

@Yet Another Loser

Who are you byitchhh??? What is your nationality byichhh?

Posted by Nenad 03/10/2010 at 02:12 AM

Hopefully Novak's attorneys will see this article. It's defamatory and racist.

At least to make defend lawuit(very expensive)!

Posted by Roman 03/10/2010 at 02:42 AM

If we can't beat Novak at least we can bad mouth him. LOL

Hey Steve Tignor, did it hurt you a lot when Novak won that 5th set?

Where is your HATE coming from.

What is your motivation for bashing Novak?????

Posted by Denis 03/10/2010 at 03:19 AM

Who cares what White Trash Steve Tignor thinks??????

Guy is a litttle man, jealous loser. Fake person like most Americans. They say one thing, they do diffrent thing but what htey really think is somthing third.

Posted by Robie 03/10/2010 at 12:41 PM doesn't need hateful articles like this one. No wonder many people are upset.

Posted by tanya 03/10/2010 at 12:56 PM

I'm really baffled why so many people think that Steve is bashing Djoko in this article. Can anyone explain what I don't see? I thought the article was very positive and even admiring toward him? Huh?

Posted by Nam1 03/10/2010 at 09:20 PM

this thread needs major clean up but given Steve's thread is not monitored by the mods, its not going to happen; no wonder all the gay bashers and racists come here.

Posted by tina 03/11/2010 at 11:04 AM

While I must admit I enjoyed the emotional roller-coasters of Ivanišević, especially since they had the ultimate pay-off in the end, I am most definitely not in favor of this quasi temporary coaching arrangement with the non-headcase (nearly to the point of boredom) Marin Cilic. Although, I think at 21, Marin is already mature enough to know what works for him.

p.s. I believe the poster known as lurker just might be someone who caused all kinds of trouble on here last year and directly emailed me and others.

Posted by lurker 03/11/2010 at 03:31 PM

tina: "lurker, don't engage me or I will have your IP address traced. End of."

Is that a threat? Obviously my initial impression of you was way off; I didn't realize that you're a thug and a bully.

And just for your information, I have absolutely no interest in emailing you or anyone else for that matter. You give yourself too much importance. Anyway, the discussion level here is too ugly; you seem to be in your element.

Posted by tina 03/11/2010 at 04:34 PM

Marian (wtg Rafa!), is that you?

Posted by Marina 03/11/2010 at 05:01 PM

After reading this thread with its thuggish, racist comments and threats, now I can understand better the feelings of my Serbian friends who wanted to get away from the nationalism.

Posted by Senad 03/11/2010 at 08:03 PM

It's incredible how jealous and nasty American people are. That's why nobody likes US and their sleazy ways.

I agree, nasty bashing of Novak Djokovic!

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