Monday, September 10, 2007

Don't Believe The Hype

by Savannah

So I lied.

I thought I'd finished my commentary on the US Open and that I'd rest my brain for the upcoming Asian swing and the European indoor season. But some things just need to be said, and disseminated.

I was doing my thing surfing fan sites when I came across a thread on Mens Tennis Forums dealing with comments Novak Djokovic's mother made after the Open. These were not remarks "overheard" by some kid lugging sweaty towels to be laundered. These were remarks made to the press and meant for attribution.

I usually don't go after parents and children. When you think about it, none of us has chosen to be either, but when parents have such dominant personalities — Richard Williams and Yuri Sharapov come to mind — you have to look at them in relation to their talented offspring and whether they are positive or negative influences in their children's world. Of course most of this is speculation — I don't know Venus or Serena, and I certainly don't know Maria Sharapova — but in this new world of tennis where the parents loom so large and are often their children's coaches and/or managers, the parents do need to be scrutinized from time to time.

The first comments that caught my eye were found on MSN in an article posted by Matt Cronin.
Djokovic's mother, Dijana, later said that her son is "better" than Federer and chalked up the defeat to a long season and inexperience.
It's no secret that I'm not on the Djokovic bandwagon. Apparently unlike much of the US press corps, I followed the European clay court season before Monte Carlo, Rome and Roland Garros. Any fan can do so. Almost every fan site posts live feeds which are readily available so that you can watch these Road to Roland Garros events. I would assume members of the tennis press would be interested in seeing what their anointed darlings are doing before they hit the major tournaments. If they had they would have seen their current favorite play Richard Gasquet in Estoril. If they had seen that match, they may have been a little less willing to allow themselves to be manipulated into thinking this young Serbian is the next big thing. I said at the time that that final was the worst men's final I had ever seen on any surface. I stick by that assessment. It is based solely on Djokovic's antics during the match. Suffice it to say, it was worse than what he pulled against Gael Monfils a couple of years ago at the US Open.

As one fan said, the press had better be wary of this young man and his family.

As has been mentioned earlier, ...(Djokovic) did a fine job manipulating the media...They ACTUALLY believe he is this fun, good hearted kid. If they watched him throughout the year, they would discover the dark underbelly that lies beneath.

And look at the leeway he received...has there EVER been a player who has not been at least WARNED for racquet abuse after throwing his racquet AGAIN and AGAIN throughout the two weeks.

We won't talk about throwing water all over the court, will we? Can you imagine what would have happened if any other player had done that?

Djokovic is doing all the right things. He and his family are stroking all the right people. JMac is almost orgasmic when he talks about young Novak calling to hit with him. So much for objectivity in the broadcast booth.

I'll end this little rant with a quote from Roger Federer who comported himself yesterday the way the reigning champion should. There was no doubt in my mind that Roger was going to win the match. It didn't matter if it was in straight sets or a five set thriller. He was going to win. He's made it clear that he doesn't like Djokovic. He's hinting that others feel the same way. I'm sure the spellbound American press will chalk it up to jealousy on the part of other players.

Federer, who scored an extraordinary five-set Wimbledon victory against No. 2 Rafael Nadal, said that championship would be his favorite.

“But New York has definitely grown on me the last few years,” he said.

He could not say the same for Djokovic. Federer said he still considered Nadal his true rival, even as Djokovic joined the conversation.

Federer was dismissive of Djokovic’s impressions of other players — Nadal, Roddick, Andre Agassi and even Federer.

“In the locker room he’s always very respectful toward me,” Federer said of Djokovic. “He’s pretty quiet. I didn’t see the stuff he did on court the other day. I didn’t see what apparently he did in the locker room either.

“I know some guys weren’t happy. I know some guys might think it’s funny. He’s walking a tightrope, for sure.

NY Times Article

I want to be clear. This is not meant as an attack on all Serbian players. If you read this space you know I am a big fan of Jelena Jankovic and her mother. I'm becoming a fan of Ana Ivanovic. This is about one player and one player only. If he were American I would feel the same way about him. It's funny isn't it that the other golden child, Maria Sharapova, was in the Djokovic family box yesterday?

The top men, Nadal, Roddick and Djokovic are all scheduled to play in Thailand in a couple of weeks. The US press may not be watching but tennisheads all over the world will be. Let's see how Mr. Djokovic comports himself away from his fawning media buddies in the States. I'd like to be proven wrong.


Shannon said...

I don't think you're going to be proven wrong, sadly. A lot of people think that I dislike Djokovic because he's beaten Nadal. Nothing could be further from the truth (if I did that I'd have to hate Ferrer and Gonzalez, and I can't even contemplate such a thing!). Most everything he does off-court has a whiff of desperation about it, the kind of over-eager bid to be seen as the funny guy life of the party that reminds me of David Brent/Michael Scott from The Office. On court doesn't even bear thinking about. I'm still annoyed by the water thing. I did see the tournament director and someone else official looking walking off court after that. I wonder if they said something to him?

What happened with Monfils? I must have missed that.

Mick_Aussie said...

Anybody who read your post could characterise you as an unhappy person and jealous too.

Savannah said...

Mick, Welcome. As Shannon has said in her post people think the dislike of Djokovic comes from his observable actions. I hope you visit more often and see that.

Shannon during the US Open in 2005 Djokovic said he was ill and couldn't breathe yet would miraculously revive and as has been said by others run around the court like a rabbit completely disrupting Monfils who had been winning.

Not one word was said about that incident this year to my knowledge.

oddman said...

People have such short memories. One year later and the pundits are crowing about this youngster's arrival, forgetting all those instances of questionable behavior, smack talk, and James Brown-like recoveries from injury on the court. How many times did I hear the lines 'the legitimate number 3' and 'biggest serve in the game' spouting from JMac on Sunday? Is Roger the illegitimate number one? Aren't all the rankings legit?
Sure, Novak is a talented player, and has had a great run this year, risen to the top ranks, and made his presence known - good for him. He needs to back up his results next year and cut out the trainer visits on court for me to warm up to him. JMac's drooling and fawning over him made me want to hurl - listening to that over and over this last week, ugh. His mom said he's better than Federer? She can say that when her son gets his 13th slam. Let's get real.
My inner jury is still deliberating on this kid. And the hype is deafening, really too much.

oddman said...

I can't remember where I read the interview, but pretty sure Novak all but admitted using some of those injury time-outs as a chance to 'get a rest'. (Sometime last year)
You see some of the women stretching the rules with this, and I guess it's within the rules. Well, fine. Yet I heard JMac blabbing away about 'how fit' this young guy is, 'he's so strong' etc, during the Ferrer match, meanwhile he's called for the trainer 'cause it's hot and he's got a headache. Hype, hype, hype - annoying.

TangledStare said...

Better than Federer? That's something only a mother would say.

Yet, I feel the need to play devil's advocate here. Like another certain player, it's too much attention he, or anybody else for that matter, doesn't deserve. Unlike her, I can see where it comes from. Whether he's consciously "manipulating the media" or not - I for one happen to think his impersonations are pretty funny and well spirited, and it wasn't any different before americans started licking his ass - and despite his inappropriate behaviour on court at times (which is hardly different or worse than many others' around) I happen to think he's an above average player. Granted, I haven't seen him playing live, but I highly doubt they can photoshop that. Finally a player who may have (may, not necessary has) come to challenge this monopoly of two. So even if he was the most despicable person in the world, as long as the rules aren't being bent in his favor (are they? I do not trust the US Open, but other than that we're gonna have to wait and see) that would still be good news for tennis. Maybe not for Nadal lovers, but smile - maybe he'll kick Fed out on a semifinal sometime and Nadal is finally gonna have a chance of winning a Grand Slam on a surface that looks a little less red...

Just kidding. Don't hate me. said...

Savannah, Djokovic wasn't the only player to complain about breathing problems or sickness. Justine Henin complained of breathing problems on the court and was able to win a tough match against Venus Williams.

To me, it looks like you are holding on to anything bad you see about Djokovic, and rejecting anything good rather than keeping an open mind and seeing how this young man develops.

What you cannot deny, is that he is a young man with a great deal of talent, who will be a major force on the tour if he continues to improve and can stay injury free. Everyone who watches the game of tennis has their likes and dislikes. There are top players who have personality quirks that give me shivers of dislike too, but unlike you, I'm not wrapping myself in some sort of pretended journalistic objectivity.

Savannah said...

"I can't remember where I read the interview, but pretty sure Novak all but admitted using some of those injury time-outs as a chance to 'get a rest'. (Sometime last year)"

I read that too Oddman. I think it was earlier this year but I could be wrong. During either Cincy or Montreal the commentators said you can have multiple injury time outs as long as they weren't all for the same reason. I can't understand how someone so "fit" is always hurting during a match.

"Justine Henin complained of breathing problems on the court and was able to win a tough match against Venus Williams."

C.Rich, tangledstare, and all new posters welcome. I hope you visit more often. I like to discuss tennis. As long as the conversation is civil and there is no flaming you're welcome here.

As for Justine and her breathing problems please don't get me started on her. My issue with her is her need for coaching on every single point. If you're that good, and she is playing great tennis, why does Carlos have to tell you what to do to the extent that if he has no answer for you you self destruct?

The whole subject of coaching from the stands is worthy of it's own entry. As I say in my review of the Justine/Serena match it is not as obvious when you're live as it is on television.

I'll get around to that subject in my end of year review.

oddman said...

tangledstare, I agree Novak may and probably will challenge the top two, and perhaps we'll see a trivalry (found that one on MB) - great! More challenge from the entire pack is great for tennis.
'That's something only a mother would say.' Yes, his mom must be very proud of her boy, but I cannot recall any other player's mom spouting off like that for the press to hear. Was it a mistake, meant for private conversation? Doesn't sound like it. Have never heard of anyone in Roger's family saying such stuff, only about Mirka pleading with JMac to stop praising her man to the heavens. Or Toni Nadal with nothing but praise for other players.

Agh, maybe it's all contrived from all of them, and the Djoker camp just hasn't quite got the 'rules of artful management' down perfect yet.

About Justine's aforementioned breathing problems - I haven't heard of her doing this almost every match. Yet Novak seems to do this just about every time he's on court. It's become a bit of a laugh now - let's count the ball bounces, and the trainer calls.

Anyway, I don't hate you, you silly! I would dearly love Novak to take down Fed in a semi to give Rafa a chance at a slam title off clay. I'm just goggled at all the hype. Perhaps I'm too sensitive, lol.

Craig Hickman said...

oddman says: "Agh, maybe it's all contrived from all of them, and the Djoker camp just hasn't quite got the 'rules of artful management' down perfect yet."

I beg to differ. It is my opinion that the entire family knows exactly what it is doing. They know how to manipulate to get what they want. Remember when they were courting the AELTC in order to move to England? Well, that didn't happen because they used those "negotiations" to get want they wanted from the Serbian tennis federation instead.

More power to them, but that doesn't mean their machinations won't be remarked upon.

oddman said...

I had no idea that was happening with the AELTC - hmmm.

Mom's comment is pretty telling - you can see where Novak gets his ego from. Just because she's his mom doesn't excuse the behavior though.

Let's see what happens in the next few months or so.

MMT said...

Djokovic is clearly manipulating the media - from the serbian flag colors player box stunt, to all of the box wearing his US Open costume, to inviting De Niro and Sharapova to his box, they know exactly what they're doing, and unfortunately are doing it quite well.

Personally I think he's as good as his results indicate: very strong on hard courts, but a sufficiently all-court game to make headway in other events. I think the Australian Open in '08 will be a strong indicator of his quality, and my guess is he'll make the final and win, because he's young, getting better, and had a lot of chances against Federer in the US Open final.

To me, Djokovic is only missing some tennis IQ - Federer cleverly began taking pace off his shots (particularly the backhand) when Djokovic's power started causing him to make errors, and picked his spots for winners. That's the sign of a true champion, and it's only a matter of time before Djokovic learns this.

But I can do without the shameful pandering and the unbearable cheering section.

tristann said...

His father also made some pretty outrageous comments when Federer called Djokovic out on his multiple injury time-outs. Among other things he said that Federer was scared of him because Djoko would soon be number one.

It appears to me that not only has Djokovic bought into all the hype, but his whole family seems to have dived in without looking back, and as Craig has said, hype kills. There are not enough results over a more extended period of time to justify the hype. Anything can happen.

I wish people would remember cases in the not so distant past, such as Safin. In 2000, at the same age as Djokovic, he won two MT tournaments and reached the final of a third one. He won four IS tournaments in both hard and clay and most telling, he reached the final and actually won the US Open by defeating Sampras in straight sets. He embodied someone who should have gone on to have a brilliant carreer, and we all know what happened. I know injuries took their toll, but no one can deny that his inability to deal with the hype and the associated lifestyle changes it brought, played a big part in his decline. He may be an extreme case, but stories of failed potential vastly outnumber those of success at the top.

Even the case of someone like Nadal, who has already had more success than anyone currently on tour save Federer, may turn out to be a story of what could have been if injuries take their toll, but at least he already has many accomplishments to his name.

I am just disgusted at how someone like JMac can continue to overhype players, when he better than most should know how often players cannot live up to the hype.

tristann said...

I also wanted to add that I really enjoy reading your and Craig's blogs, and your special insights. Eventhough I do not post often I read your blogs every day. Keep up the good work.

Savannah said...

Thank you Tristann.

As Craig so admirably pointed out hype kills. I remember reading something - I can't cite the source so I don't want to say he said this exactly - but Marat hinted that after he won the US Open taking down Sampras the media attention and hype threw him. It's interesting that as Craig has said, now that Andy seems to be back playing the style that made him a Slam champion TPTB want to kick him to the curb.

Allegedly Djoke has made some new comments that I won't get into.

It'll be interesting to see how he carries himself at the TMC won't it?

oddman said...

Savannah, can you tell us?

Not having all the hype going on for Rafael is a good thing, in my mind. People still seem shocked that he won a Master Series on hard court (again) this year, thinking he's only a clay court specialist. Even his second Wimbledon final (sorry, Savannah, I mentioned that, oops) was not that big a deal. I much prefer this actually.
I think he surprised TPTB with that repeat performance from last year - no fluke.
OK, will not mention this again (grin).

Aabye said...

It is kind of unfair to blame Djoko for what he said in the past, or even what his folks said recently. But the back rubs have to STOP! As for his impersonations, I was fine until he was doing them on worldwide TV. I mean. none of the players he targeted seemed to complain. But after he did them on TV I thought, "What do Nadal, Sharapova, Federer, and Hewitt all have that Djoko does not? At least two Grand Slam titles." You have made it to primetime, kid. Show your equals (and betters) some respect.

Aabye said...

Oh, and I think the comparasions to Safin are a bit misleading. Safin won a Slam, crushing one of the GOATs in straight sets along the way. Naturally, there was a lot of attention on him, but he never really sought it the way Djoko does. If the score in the Fed-Djoko match had been reversed, maybe I could understand the hype, but for now all the kid is a lot of potential. And that is where Safin comes in: without hard work talent means NOTHING! But Djokovic seems a lot more driven than Safin ever was.

Savannah said...

AAbye welcome. Safin is climbing a mountain in Nepal. Metaphor much?