Novak Djokovic is ‘the most effective participant within the historical past of males’s tennis’ however he’s leaving a ‘sophisticated’ legacy off the courtroom

2022-01-14 16:14:44

“I see life as an ideal studying curve,” Djokovic informed CNN in an interview final 12 months, “and I really feel over time I realized the right way to bounce again.”

That means to bounce again will likely be put to the check within the coming days because the world No. 1 continues to endure a turbulent begin to the 12 months.

Arriving in Australia unvaccinated however with a medical exemption to compete following a optimistic Covid-19 check on December 16, Djokovic spent his first 5 days in a detention facility in Melbourne as he mounted a authorized problem in opposition to the revocation of his visa.

His legal professionals efficiently argued that Djokovic had “ticked completely each field” for vaccine exemption along with his latest Covid an infection, however 4 days later, Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke introduced the choice to revoke Djokovic’s visa for a second time “on well being and good order grounds.”

Djokovic celebrates victory at last year's Australian Open.

It stays unclear whether or not Australia will transfer to deport Djokovic as the choice is being challenged by his authorized group.

However it’s one other setback for the 34-year-old Serbian in his bid to maneuver away from Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on the prime of the boys’s all-time listing with 21 grand slam titles.

Such an achievement would arguably be the crowning second of Djokovic’s already record-breaking profession — the time he cements his standing as the most effective participant within the historical past of the boys’s recreation.

“Strictly talking about outcomes, Novak Djokovic is the most effective participant within the historical past of males’s skilled tennis,” stated journalist Ben Rothenberg.

“He is tied with Federer and Nadal for essentially the most grand slam titles, however Djokovic dominates just about each conceivable tiebreak class: most weeks ranked No. 1, a profitable file in opposition to the opposite two, having gained each grand slam and Masters 1000 occasion at the least twice (nobody else has gained all of them as soon as, even).

“Djokovic is a counterpuncher with an ideal serve, a very versatile athlete, and although he in all probability is not a preferred choose for essentially the most stylistically pleasing participant ever, in the case of who’s the simplest and dominant on courtroom over the longest time period, he is your man.”

Djokovic’s phenomenal file on the Australian Open, a event he has gained 9 instances, had made him the favourite forward of this 12 months’s event, even bearing in mind his spell in detention.

Nadal stepped up his return from damage final week by profitable the 89th title of his profession on the Melbourne Summer season Set 1 event, whereas Daniil Medvedev, who beat Djokovic in final 12 months’s US Open last, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas can even be contenders for the title.

‘Novak is Serbia, and Serbia is Novak’

However few would have guess in opposition to Djokovic, who has obtained vociferous assist from his followers — in Melbourne in addition to again in his native Serbia — in the course of the course of his visa saga.

What we know: Novak Djokovic and Australian Open timeline

Crowds gathered exterior Melbourne’s Park Lodge in protest in opposition to Djokovic’s residency there final week, whereas chants of assist had been heard exterior the workplace of his legal professionals after he was cleared to remain in Australia.

There have been related scenes exterior Serbia’s Nationwide Meeting in Belgrade, the place the tennis star was hailed as a nationwide hero by his household.

“They’re holding him captive. Our Novak, our satisfaction,” Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, railed in assist of son final week. “Novak is Serbia, and Serbia is Novak … They trample Novak, and they also trample Serbia and the Serbian folks.”

Regardless of the ardent assist of his fanbase, Djokovic stays a divisive determine — inside the tennis group and past.

He has spoken of his opposition to obligatory vaccinations, and the choice to grant him a medical exemption for the Australian Open was met with criticism; Stephen Parnis, one of many metropolis’s outstanding emergency physicians, stated it despatched “an appalling message to the general public.”
“I am not an knowledgeable, after all, and I am not going to speak about what are the professionals and cons of getting vaccinated,” Djokovic informed CNN in August, “however I’m a proponent of freedom of selection.”

He added: “I actually consider that it ought to be left to a participant to decide.

“We do not know what the long run holds. I do not assume any business is de facto sure what the long run brings.

“We’re going to ensure that we collect as a lot knowledgeable data on this (as potential) and work with gamers and supply no matter data is required for them to make a aware selection.”

In the meantime, questions have additionally been raised about Djokovic’s actions within the aftermath of his optimistic Covid check final month.

On Wednesday, he admitted he didn’t instantly isolate after the optimistic consequence, however denied realizing he had the virus when attending public occasions.

He additionally stated he had made an “error of judgment” in doing a media interview and picture shoot with French outlet L’Equipe on December 18, two days after his optimistic check.

‘I nonetheless have my fears, my insecurities’

It is not the primary time Djokovic’s actions have been questioned in the course of the pandemic.

In June 2020, his Adria Tour exhibition occasion was canceled after he examined optimistic for Covid-19 alongside his spouse, three different gamers, three coaches and one participant’s pregnant spouse.

Not like different tennis tournaments held on the time, there was restricted social distancing on the Adria Tour, which was performed in crowded stadiums with gamers hugging and high-fiving one another.
“I’m so deeply sorry our event has brought about hurt,” Djokovic stated after his optimistic check, including that the charity occasion was organized “with a pure coronary heart and honest intentions.”
9 months previous to the Adria Tour, Djokovic landed himself in sizzling water as he was defaulted from the US Open for placing a line decide with a ball. He once more apologized and stated he was left “unhappy and empty” by the state of affairs.

Talking about that interval in an interview with CNN final 12 months, Djokovic mirrored on classes realized.

“I am nonetheless a human being like everybody else, I nonetheless have my fears, my insecurities, I nonetheless make errors and errors,” he stated. “Tennis, it is type of my studying floor. My strongest, most lovely feelings floor there, however all of the worst of my feelings floor there.”

Throughout and past this 12 months’s Australian Open, it is probably that Djokovic’s stance on vaccines will proceed to be scrutinized. In accordance with the ATP Tour, he’s considered one of three unvaccinated gamers ranked within the prime 100.

“Djokovic’s legacy is massively sophisticated and getting extra so,” stated Rothenberg

“For all of his professionalism and his generosity (he is nice with charities and in interactions along with his followers), his judgment typically will get him into hassle, typically straying him … towards fringe concepts, like his latest anti-vaccine dedication.

“A lot of tennis is about personalities and charm on and off courtroom, and Djokovic has repeatedly sabotaged himself in these areas.”

CNN has contacted Djokovic’s consultant for remark quite a few instances forward of the Australian Open however has not obtained a response.

Djokovic is hoping to win his 10th Australian Open title.

Djokovic gained his first grand slam title on the Australian Open in 2008, after which he needed to wait three years for his subsequent main triumph, once more on the Australian Open.

Grand slam titles — 11 in complete — got here thick and quick within the six-year interval between 2011 and 2016, culminating in Djokovic claiming the “Nole Slam” because the defending champion of all 4 grand slam tournaments on the similar time.

However an elbow damage in 2017 derailed Djokovic’s progress. His preliminary unwillingness to endure surgical procedure annoyed his former coach Andre Agassi, who informed The Guardian he thought Djokovic had hoped his elbow would “heal naturally, holistically.”

Djokovic ultimately opted for surgical procedure in early 2018 and returned to the courtroom a number of months later, nevertheless it was a setback that had nearly led to him quitting tennis altogether.

“To do the surgical procedure, it was in opposition to his core values,” his spouse Jelena informed CNN in 2019. “It was actually large, it is like he buried one a part of him with that call. He stated: ‘I am performed, I am not taking part in tennis anymore, I misplaced this, I am not having enjoyable anymore, that is it.'”

Since that elbow surgical procedure, Djokovic has gained eight grand slam titles throughout a four-year interval, ultimately equaling Federer and Nadal’s file at Wimbledon final 12 months.

Many see it as solely a matter of time earlier than he owns the file outright and establishes himself as the best participant within the historical past of males’s tennis — a titan on the courtroom with an advanced, controversial legacy off it.

CNN’s Christina Macfarlane, Don Riddell, Ben Church, Hannah Ritchie, Jessie Yeung and Angus Watson contributed to reporting.

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