Novak Djokovic has yet to take the court this week at the ATP Masters Series event in Indian Wells, but he is already competing with the media, who is hounding him for his record number of retirements at Grand Slams and other events.
This past January, Djokovic quit during his match with Andy Roddick at the Australian Open because it was too hot, citing heat exhaustion. Roddick had no such problems, bouncing in place on the baseline as trainers attended to the overheated Serb.
Afterwards even Roger Federer took a sideways shot at Djokovic.
“It’s happened before,” Federer said. “He’s not the guy who’s never given up in his career…That’s kind of disappointing to see when you got two top guys playing each other and you give up.”
That retirement made three of the four Slams, and now the joke on the Djoker is that he only needs to retire at the US Open to gain the “Retirement Slam,” possibly the first Top 10 player to earn such a dubious honor.
“I’m tired of proving whatever I need to prove,” said the 21-year-old Djokovic on his resiliency as a top player. “I’m just playing tennis for myself and I always have put my health as a priority to everything. Tennis is probably my life at this moment, but it’s not the only thing in my life.”
Djokovic has retired a total of four times in Grand Slam play, and seven times at tournaments during his short career.
“It’s just that this reputation which has been going around, I don’t think it’s right,” Djokovic said. “But everybody has a right for their own opinion.”
Djokovic was defending his title at the Australian Open when he retired, and this week is defending the Indian Wells title during the next week and a half.
The Serb currently stands at No. 3 on the ATP Rankings behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and well ahead of No. 4 Andy Murray. His Serb compatriot on the women’s tour, Jelena Jankovic, silenced many of the detractors of her resiliency and will when she reached the No. 1 ranking, despite not winning a Grand Slam title.
Djokovic has shown no roadblock to winning the Slams — but it may take a similar trip to the top before the media, fans, and fellow players alike cut him a break and acknowledge his championship mentality.
“I think I’ve proven to myself that I still have a lot of quality and I can do well,” Djokovic says in his defense.
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