A little over a year ago today, Novak Djokovic was holed-up in refugee detention. In a few nights time, Novak Djokovic will have the opportunity to serve it out on Rod Laver Arena for a spot in the Australian Open final- his ‘La Decima’ bid back on track. Djokovic is gunning for a record 10th Australian Open title- a feat no man has ever achieved. Incredibly- no man has even won more hard-court majors than Djokovic. Bill Tilden came closest and won 7 US Open titles in the 1920s.
However, this Australian Open will be one unlike any other in history. Novak Djokovic is playing in front of a crowd and a country that deported him in one of the most bizarre displays you will ever see. What started as a request to play a tennis match became an international circus beyond anything tennis has seen in a while. Last year, Novak Djokovic was seen by drone footage practicing, pummelling ball-after-ball with hammer-like intensity. Whether he deserved last year’s hardships or not is an entirely different matter which is up for debate. However what is certain is that Djokovic had become isolated from the sport he loved so much. In the physical sense- while his ‘competitors’ were looking to play tennis, Djokovic was resigned to four walls, mounting legal problems, a world that had seemingly turned against him all at once, and a lack of kind words from almost all of his peers. The same peers who shared such an intimate and unique experience with Djokovic, ten months of the year.
What casual fans in the stands throughout Australia often do not understand is just how much tennis is played outside of a major tournament like the Australian Open. Places like Dubai and Marseille are just some of the names of the places where the biggest drawcards play each other, albeit for large appearance fees. In hindsight- to most, it now may now seem like last year’s situation is water under the bridge. However, there seems to be a sense of unease from a fairly large fraction of fans, players and pundits alike whenever Novak Djokovic opens his mouth. Earlier this week, comments were been made by this same section of fans, players and the general media surrounding Novak Djokovic’s injury concerns. Which begs the question: why do so many jump to conclusions to assume that Novak Djokovic’s injury concerns are not 100 percent genuine? From all observations, his hamstring appears strapped, his sliding movement off his left leg appears to be impeded- and he has seemingly changed his tactics to ensure he more aggressive of his right forehand.
Yet despite his injury pleas, Djokovic’s evaluation of his injury struggles have fallen on deaf ears amongst a considerable portion of the media, fellow tennis players and fans alike. Novak Djokovic has never seemed to be able to get the crowd support that other players enjoy- whether it is at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows or Melbourne Park. In fact, Djokovic was overcome with emotion when he finally won over support from the crowd during the 2021 US Open final. Unfortunately, support came just as he was falling short in what would have been his biggest career achievement: winning the calendar year grand slam.
So, all in all, do you believe this Australian Open has exposed a long-standing bias against Novak Djokovic?