Australian Open: Controversial Off Court, Sublime On It, Novak Djokovic Is On A Mission To Make History
It’s been a turbulent 12 months within the lifetime of Novak Djokovic, however the world primary can put all of it behind him by successful a record-extending ninth Australian Open title in opposition to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev on Sunday. The world primary has at all times been a polarising determine for followers and pundits alike, along with his on-court mastery tempered by a knack for controversy away from the sector. Since successful his seventeenth Grand Slam in Melbourne a 12 months in the past in the past, he has hardly ever been out of the headlines, principally for the improper causes. He started 2020 on a excessive, main Serbia to carry the inaugural ATP Cup, after which fought again behind to beat Dominic Thiem in 5 units to carry his eighth Australian Open crown. But the coronavirus pandemic meant the world’s tennis excursions have been suspended in March.
Three months later, Djokovic took it upon himself to launch his ill-fated Adria Tour.
The match in Belgrade had 4,000 spectators packed in whereas gamers shook palms and took selfies with followers, and ball children dealt with sweaty towels — all throughout a worldwide shutdown.
Djokovic and gamers together with Thiem and Alexander Zverev have been closely criticised for partying shirtless at a heaving Belgrade evening membership.
The inevitable occurred. Djokovic, his spouse Jelena and gamers Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all caught Covid.
Djokovic was then branded “tone deaf” for launching a breakaway Professional Tennis Players Association in August simply as the game was trying to stagger again to its toes.
Days later, Djokovic was kicked out of the US Open after hitting a line decide within the throat unintentionally with a ball he slapped away in anger throughout the fourth spherical.
The distressed feminine oficial wanted remedy on courtroom and Djokovic apologised. “I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended, so wrong,” he stated.
The Covid-delayed French Open rolled round and Djokovic reached the ultimate, the place his shot at changing into the primary man to win all 4 Grand Slams twice since Rod Laver in 1969 led to additional humiliation when he suffered a 6-0 “bagel” to Rafael Nadal on his method to a straights-sets defeat.
Controversy isn’t far-off from Djokovic, who whipped up one other storm after gamers flew in to quarantine forward of the Australian Open.
Nick Kyrgios led a wave of criticism of the Serb for issuing an inventory of requests that reportedly included gamers being given personal properties with tennis courts.
“Djokovic is a tool,” Kyrgios tweeted, as Australia’s media savaged the Serb.
Once the motion started all appeared effectively as Djokovic gained each his singles matches within the ATP Cup and his first two on the Australian Open.
But within the third spherical he seemed like he might need to tug out earlier than in some way overcoming an belly harm to beat American Taylor Fritz in 5 units.
Djokovic’s potential to thrive among the many greats will not be in query, however there have usually been doubts concerning the dimension of his coronary heart after a collection of big-tournament retirements.
At Wimbledon in 2007, he retired with a again harm within the third set of his semi-final in opposition to Nadal.
He additionally stop on the 2006 and 2007 French Opens, whereas on the 2009 Australian Open, the place he was defending champion, he pulled out of his quarter-final with Andy Roddick citing warmth exhaustion.
He stop in a 2017 Wimbledon quarter-final in opposition to Tomas Berdych with a proper shoulder harm. He pulled out once more on the 2019 US Open with a left shoulder drawback when two units right down to Stan Wawrinka.
But Djokovic also can discover bravery within the face of adversity.
He might barely stroll at occasions as he beat Fritz in 5 painful units, after which grimaced in ache by matches in opposition to Milos Raonic and Zverev regardless of having not skilled.
By the time he beat Aslan Karatsev within the semi-final he proclaimed his health was the most effective it had been all match.
He now stands on the cusp of an 18th Grand Slam title and will by the tip of the 12 months be neck and neck with Roger Federer and Nadal who’ve 20 every.
If he might bookend a torrid 12 months by lifting the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for a 3rd 12 months in a row and ninth time in all on Sunday, individuals would possibly simply begin to neglect all of the controversy in between.
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