It’s official, Novak Djokovic will never, ever be loved like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He might, and probably will, win more Slams than them, but his desire to be on their level of popularity and affection will never happen. Not after yesterday’s embarrassing and shameful default for drilling a lineswoman with a ball during his US Open fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.
There’s no argument to the ruling: You hit an official with a ball and you are gone. Denis Shapovalov and Tim Henman know that rule and have experienced it.
Djokovic knows the rule, as well. He just figured his aim was better than it was, but when he saw the woman go down even he knew. He must have felt it in the gut. It’s bad luck but it’s ultimately on him.
The officials came out. Djokovic tried to make a case in a situation where there simply wasn’t one to be made. In one of the craziest US Open scenes in…in… a couple of years, Djokovic shook hands with the Spaniard, walked off the court and minutes later was in a Tesla driving off back to his rental.
The emotions, the shock, the disbelief must have been overwhelming. Even today. Even right now. Here was Djokovic, as big of a favorite as he’s ever been to win a Slam with none of his rivals in the field. He was just a week away from holding 18. Instead, he’s holding the bag for the most egregious exit ever for a top seed at a Grand Slam.
Even worse, Djokovic couldn’t face the music from the press and never (as of now) went to see the woman he injured. Those are hard things to do, but in this case they are also required, especially from a champion like him and someone who considers himself a leader of the players. Instead, he took the easy road of releasing a statement on social media. Yawn…
So a summer of one hit (Cincinnati) and many misses is finally, if not mercifully, over. I don’t know where he goes from here. Does he embrace the dark side, actually become The Joker? Does he waste his time trying to repair his image? Does he take time off?
I don’t know. But for all the talent and skill he has, deep down there something going on. Some turmoil or conflict, which isn’t a bad thing. But maybe it’s time he just gives up the nice guy act and just embraces being the true villain. At this point, what else could go wrong?
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