Why is Djokovic love-d by all?
There was little talk about the stupendous achievements of the US Open champion and more focus on Federer’s latest weapon.
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On Sunday night at the US Open men’s singles final, Novak Djokovic didn’t just beat Roger Federer, one of the greatest tennis players ever, but also an extremely partisan crowd that cheered every time he faulted or made an error. Djokovic has been the world’s best, and number one player, for a few years now but he always finds himself as the second favourite when it comes to Federer, whether it is Melbourne, Paris, Wimbledon or New York. Djokovic has won three Grand Slams this year, like he did in the equally phenomenal 2011, and has had as dominant a 2015 as Serena Williams. Yet there was little talk about the stupendous achievements of Djokovic and more focus on Federer’s latest weapon in the form of the "SABR shot". So it begets the question why fans curb their enthusiasm for one of the funniest guys on the ATP Tour.
In the on-court interview post the victory, the interviewer didn’t ask Djokovic about keeping the audience at bay to win the match but the press weren’t afraid to ask the tough question. Take one of the questions on the subject. “I appreciate the fact that at the end of the ceremony you didn't say anything about the public. Because today the crowd was against you as I have never seen any - only Davis Cup maybe some matches. It was, I guess, very, very difficult. Can you say something about that?”
The question, while relevant, is also redundant. Great players are ones who can bring up their best play against all odds. They are resilient enough to overcome mind games. They don’t let the occasion get the better of their emotions. Djokovic found himself in a hole on multiple occasions during the match including the last game in which he saved three break points to win the match. He didn’t allow Federer and the crowd to impose themselves on him, though they tried as hard as they could.
What makes Djokovic an even greater champion than he has already proven – he now enters the exclusive club of players to have won Grand Slams in double digits, with ten – had a classy, measured response to the above-mentioned question.
“... there was a lot of support for Roger. There was some for me. I mean, for sure, I tried to focus on the ones that were supporting me. But I can't, you know, sit here and criticise the crowd. On the contrary, you know, I think it's logical to expect that a great player and a champion like Roger has the majority of the support anywhere I play him. You know, I would say super majority of places around the world are going to give him that support... Me, I'm there to earn the support, and hopefully in the future I can be in that position.”
But “it can't be easy for anyone to be out there, 23,000 people are howling, and not so much for you,” prodded another journalist. Djokovic, maintaining his composure continued, “I know how that feels, you know, regarding the crowd and support and everything. With that on my mind, I came on the court aware that this is going to be the, you know, reality. There's not much I can do about it. You know, I just need to try to focus on what I need to do and my game plan and try to execute it in the best possible way. That's where I keep my focus.”
Djokovic’s answers acknowledge the merits and appeal of one of his biggest rivals. There is a statement there which says that he will be relentless in his mission to win over the crowd. And no, he won’t rely on his Djoker-like antics to do so. The time isn’t far that tennis fans can’t help themselves but enjoy Djokovic’s athleticism and flexibility which sees him cover the court with ease, his clever and beautiful shotmaking (see the lob in response to Federer’s SABR), his deep returns, his never-say-die spirit, his willingness to unleash his emotions and also keep them in check. It will only be in good spirit that audiences appreciate Djokovic now rather than until Federer retires. For they are missing out on the golden opportunity to enjoy one of the most talented and finest players of the sport.