It was never a secret that Novak Djokovic was the third wheel to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Yet the Serbian planted himself into the conversation in two ways. First, a machine-like greatness over the past 12 years — 21 of his 22 Grand Slams have come since 2011, which is a period of condensed dominance that’s unmatched by Federer or Nadal. And second, his propensity to say shit that would get you talked about. Whether it’s his on-court demeanor, openly embracing anti-vax platitudes, or now using his voice to roil decades-old tensions in Kosovo, his behavior can be described as callous at best and dick-ish as often.
That’s kind of why I think the French Open congregation perked up Friday afternoon. When the Parisian fans don’t have a countryman or woman to pull for, they can only be bothered by great tennis, or someone they deem a heel. After getting told to politely drop the geopolitical bullshit by the French sports minister and Kosovo’s tennis federation, Novak said he’d do it again.
Well, that went over about as well as an NFC East team showing up at Lincoln Financial Field, and the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd hurled its version of AAA batteries. No, not week-old baguettes; just a level of disdain mixed with a dismissiveness that can only be cultivated by a lifetime of fine wine and relentlessly shitting on lesser cultures.
The way a French person says “American” triggers most Republicans, and the jeers they directed toward Djoker got under his skin just as easily. The 36-year-old responded to provocations multiple times throughout his three-and-a-half hour three-set win against Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and the gallery was happy to oblige him during exchanges with the umpire, an injury timeout, and really any other show of emotion.
It didn’t help that Novak fired a tennis ball into the air in the third set, vigorously celebrated a second-set win only to call for a medical timeout moments later, and then egged on the masses during the subsequent calf massage.
After the match, homie who once missed the Australian Open because he got deported, thought he had earned a little more appreciation.
“I think the majority of the people come to enjoy tennis or support one or the other player. But there are people who love to boo every single thing you do,” Djokovic said (per ESPN).
“That’s something that I find disrespectful, and I frankly don’t understand that. But it’s their right. They paid for the ticket. They can do whatever they want.
“Actually 99 percent of the time I will stay quiet, but sometimes I will oppose that because I feel when somebody is disrespectful he or she deserves to have an answer to that.”
Djokovic’s biggest mistake was spurring the fans’ hospitality. No amount of clout or history chasing survives that. He might as well have insulted their cuisine. You’re going to show up and act like this? Oh, no, no, no, monsieur. This is not a Wendy’s. Fuck off.