Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray yesterday 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to claim his first French Open, claiming the career Slam while becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles simultaneously. (By winning this year’s Australian and French Opens, he also joined a very short list of men who started the season winning the first two Grand Slam events. Laver, Wilander, and Courier are the others.) It’s his 12th overall Slam singles title—he’s won six of the last seven—and his sixth tournament championship overall this year. He has been the sport’s dominant force for five years, and is among its greatest male players ever.
And yet nobody seems all that excited for his achievement. Djokovic’s win over Murray prompted a muted reaction from most tennis followers—less than, even, Garbiñe Muguruza’s upset of Serena Williams a day prior—and it seems there’s no good reason for why Djokovic lacks the passionate following of Federer or Nadal before him.
It’s not for lack of charisma. Djokovic—multilingual, gracious, and corny—mostly exudes a lighthearted on- and off-court persona. (He did have one misstep.) It’s not his nationality, either—fellow Serb Ana Ivanovic remains one of the women’s tour’s most popular players, despite having earned her last Slam title eight years ago.
Djokovic’s style of play isn’t substantially less aesthetically pleasing than previous popular stars, either; we beg you to watch footage of men’s tennis from 15 years ago and tell us it’s more entertaining.
No, it seems Novak Djokovic lacks universal popularity simply because he is not Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. That much is true; neither Roger nor Rafa ever achieved what Djokovic has. Once tennis fans realize the opportunity to watch Djokovic play is to literally observe history, perhaps they’ll come around.