As a diehard Roger Federer fan , I was rooting for him to win his match against Novak Djokovic and go on to add one more to his list of Grand Slam tournaments won. He came awfully , awfully close but Djokovic uncorked a miraculous shot to save a matchpoint and went on to win by the narrowest of margins . After the match , Federer was still stunned by the turn of events , unable to believe what had happened . Who can blame him ? I was upset too and I’m only a fan.
Once I got over Fed’s defeat , I was rooting for DJokovic to win it all and I’m glad he did . One reason is that I don’t want Nadal to eclipse Federer’s total of 16 Grand Slams… at least , not for a while . The other reason is that I have begun to like Djokovic for himself. There is a wonderful article by Brian Phillips at Grantland . com which explains Novak Djokovic and his quirky charm .
You can read the full article ” Novak Djokovic : The Shot and the Confrontation ” at http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6961013/shot-confrontation .
Isn’t it a terrific piece ? I particularly appreciated the description of Djokvic’s actions after he hit The Shot. Phillips writes that (with Federer serving for the match) “” Djokovic flicked back Federer’s serve with a slappy, haphazard forehand — The Shot — that looked doomed but happened to drop inside the line. The crowd cheered, thinking the match was over, then fell into a murmury silence when it became clear that Djokovic had just hit a bafflingly great shot. That was when Djokovic produced The Confrontation. Turning toward the stands with an incredulous look on his face, he raised his arms up over his head like a pro wrestler, then broke into a dufusy grin. The crowd, uncertainly, started cheering. Djokovic kind of rolled his eyes and went back into his return stance with a look like, these people. After that, he loosened up, reeled off four straight games against a staggered Federer, and took the match.”
How can anyone not like a guy like that ?
The Shot itself seems to have been instinctive rather than pre-meditated but what I loved was his reaction afterwards . At that point , Djokovic was still not out of the woods ; he had saved a match point but the match was still far from won . Yet he still played to the mostly pro- Federer crowd , trying to get them to applaud his save . It was a light-hearted moment , of which there are far too few in pro sports . Most players are so focused on winning that they barely crack a smile even when they win .No one can fault Djokovic’s desire to win but he still manages to have fun along the way. In this he is almost alone in the ranks of pro tennis players . More power to him.
I well remember two or three years ago when Djokovic ( hereafter the Djoker) used to imitate the service actions of other players and get a laugh from the crowd. At the time , he was still growing up and he was not as serious about improving his game and getting to the top as he is today. When you are gifted and young , being No. 3 seems good enough ; there’s all the time in the world to be Number 1. Since then , the Djoker has matured ; he has become fitter and more driven as his 64-2 record this year attests. No question that he is now Number 1.
The U. S Open crowd thinks of the Djoker as a villain because of an unfortunate comment he made a couple of Opens ago about hometown favorite , Andy Roddick. I think that that one incident should not be held against him forever. It’s time to forget it and appreciateate the Djoker for what he is … a free spirit and a marvelous tennis player.
Before I get raked over the coals by Nadal fans , let me explain why I prefer Fed and Djoker to Rafa .
Rafa is a great tennis player and , I’m sure , a very nice guy. There is a lot to like about him . At first strictly a clay court player , he has developed his game year after year so that he now a threat on all surfaces. He is a true sportsman who has been gracious and modest in victory as in defeat. His work ethic and his dedication are unquestioned. However , I’ve always preferred players who go for winners to those who are returning machines that wear opponents down . There is an excitement to watching Federer and Djokovic that, to me, is missing with Nadal . His game is more workmanlike and , in my eyes , less thrilling .
It is good though that Nadal and Federer and now Djokovic are all around at the same time . This happy coincidence has produced some epic matches when they play each other . Hopefully , we will be treated to more such gems at least for the next couple of years .