Djokovic Default Latest Blow To His Image In Recent Months
Novak Djokovic’s ouster from the U.S. Open on Sunday for hitting a line judge with a ball “immediately made a bizarre U.S. Open even more strange,” and it also marks the “latest misadventure” for Djokovic this year, according to Christopher Clarey of the N.Y. TIMES. Djokovic already has “expressed personal hesitation about vaccines, organized an exhibition tournament that led to coronavirus cases, including his own, and sowed division in the tennis world by forming a potential breakaway players’ organization” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/7). In London, Matt Dickinson writes Djokovic has become a “figure of compelling, frequently excruciating, fascination for reasons far beyond the excellence which has made him the world’s outstanding player.” Dickinson: “In reputational terms, he manages self-inflicted damage as frequently as tournament victories these days. ... Djokovic’s 2020 is certainly having a valiant attempt in taking an image and smashing it into ground until the frame cracks and the strings turn to spaghetti” (LONDON TIMES, 9/8).
SELF-IMPOSED BLOW: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote Djokovic's default was "such an unnecessary fiasco," and it became the "kind of viral moment everyone heard about, even if they don’t pay the slightest bit of attention to tennis, or to sports at all." Gay: "Suddenly, he was back to Novak the Heel" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/7). Tennis Channel’s Jim Courier said, “This is going to resonate for the rest of his career." Tennis Channel’s Martina Navratilova: “He will not be able to live this down ever because every single interview he will be doing from now on he will be asked about it" (“Tennis Channel Live,” Tennis Channel, 9/7). SI.com's Jon Wertheim wrote there could be a "long-term impact of this gaffe." How Djokovic handles the "splashback from this catastrophe will be a prominent theme going forward" (SI.com, 9/6).
WANTING SPECIAL TREATMENT? THE AUSTRALIAN's Will Swanton writes Djokovic "had to be kicked out," as this was his "third week of belting balls against fences because spectators were gone and officials reduced in number." Swanton: "Djokovic went through a don’t-you-know-who-I-am routine for 10 minutes before finally leaving the court. Imagine the whistling and hissing and jeering if there had been a crowd" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 9/8). ESPN's Patrick McEnroe said, "Djokovic didn’t make himself look a whole lot better with what ... he said to the referee and the supervisor to try to plead his case. ‘Well, she’s not in the hospital.’ That was a little disappointing to me to hear exactly what he said. The fact that he sort of tried to say, ‘I’m Novak Djokovic. I’m here in Grand Slam on Center Court on center stage.’ No. The rules apply to everyone” (“U.S. Open,” ESPN, 9/7).
WRONG CALL BY OFFICIALS: In N.Y., Marc Berman wrote the "lack of malice and intention couldn’t have been clearer when you saw Djokovic’s face react in horror." Berman: "The tennis pundits of ESPN, business partners with the USTA, defended the decision about 'rules being rules.' It was a great day for all those tennis 'abuse-of-ball'’ sticklers. It was a bad day for tennis amid a struggling tournament devoid of spectators and, according to TV ratings, interest" (N.Y. POST, 9/7).