He was the crowd favorite at the US Open, where fans couldn’t get enough of his hilarious impersonations. The new kid on the block was the guy to cheer for, as the New Yorkers not only liked Novak Djokovic, the funny man, but also the rising star who believed he could win it all. New Yorkers don’t despise cockiness, they love it when a youngster talks about beating the No. 1 player in the world and wants to take over his throne.
Fast-forward four months to Melbourne, Australia where the Djoker found himself in a whole different situation. The Aussies don’t care for big-mouthed players, they like the good-hearted Marcos Baghdatis, the sweet Ana Ivanovic or the underdog who came out of nowhere and just happened to look like Muhammad Ali holding a tennis racket. That Djokovic took out Australia’s very own Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets didn’t build his image too much either.
Djokovic was the deserving champion over the past fortnight. He came close to winning the entire event without dropping a set, but his nervous start against Tsonga in the final kept him from sweeping his first Slam title. You can’t argue with the Serb’s self-belief and how much it has helped him become the mentally rock-solid player he is now. Djokovic isn’t afraid to play the big points aggressively and he often comes up with his best tennis when it matters most. What he needs to work on, is control his emotions after winning those points. With the way he celebrates, screams and pumps himself up it often looks like he’s trying to say, ‘yes, I’m that good.’
You can not dominate a sport without being arrogant. It’s just that some athletes show it less than others. Nadal always acts the underdog in the media, Federer likes to be mister nice guy, while Djokovic isn’t afraid to speak openly about his goals, a tournament, a player, whatever. All these three guys have big egos, but each one deals with it differently.
Now that Djokovic has won a major, he will need to start thinking about containing his attitude a little, or he’ll turn more people against him, than he’ll win for him. Djokovic is no longer the fresh up-and-comer with the big mouth who a lot of people liked because he dared to speak about his ambitions, and wasn’t afraid to take on the big players. Now that he’s a champion himself, he has arrived on the big scene and needs to tone it down a notch or he will quickly be widely considered as a brat who talks too much and doesn’t respect the other players.
It’s not hard to see where Djokovic got his attitude from. His parents, father Srdjan and mother Dijana, speak even more freely about what their son could, or better said, will achieve. The mother told Matt Cronin of TennisReporters.net: ‘This is the first of many Grand Slams. You need to remember that. Write it down.’ These kind of lines, compared to their antics in the player’s box during matches can be, let’s say, a little bit off-putting.
Djokovic has now reached the semi-finals or better in the last four Slams he played in. He was a semifinalist at Roland Garros and Wimbledon (lost both to Nadal) and a finalist at the US Open. Now, after winning the Aussie Open, the Serb will need to start defending points from last year, starting at Indian Wells and Miami. There’ll be lots of pressure on him there, not only because he won at Key Biscayne and was a finalist at I.W., but also because he now has to deal with the added expectations of being a Grand Slam champion. Federer meanwhile has a good opportunity to bounce back strong and increase his lead in the rankings again, due to his early losses against Canas last year. There won’t be a new No. 1 before the clay court season, but we’re in for one heck of a year now.
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