We all know Novak Djokovic likes to bounce…and…bounce…and bounce the ball before he serves. Most times he gets the clock down to zero before moving forward with his first-or-second serve. He does this for many different reasons, most likely.
For one, all the bouncing calms him and lets him dictate the pace of the match. He’s like a baseball pitcher, prior to baseball having their own pitch clock, who can just wait, and then wait some more, before he makes an offering to his opponent. Baseball and tennis have that in common while few other sports do. The person freely gives the ball to their opponent.
But during the Wimbledon final, especially, Djokovic seemed to get away with holding his serve just a bit beyond the service clock. While part of the reason he does this is to make his opponent a bit more unnerved – Like, when is he actually going to serve the ball?! – it’s also unfair. And I mean no disrespect to Djokovic in saying that. If the umpire lets him play loosely with the clock, fine. This is a sport after all.
But there is another aspect of many tennis players’ games that is even more annoying: The grunt.
Taylor Fritz implies grunting is an issue but just not by Novak Djokovic
In Djokovic’s semifinal against Jannik Sinner, Djokovic was called for a “hindrance” after he grunted seemingly midway through a point but the sound stopped before Sinner hit the ball. Still, the umpire awarded the point to Sinner. This ruling is extremely rare and was very surprising in such a big match.
The other aspect of this is that many players grunt all the time – Carlos Alcaraz even does it quite a bit – and yet do not get penalized for doing so. World number 9 Taylor Fritz stated as much in this tweet.
Grunting seems to have become more and more fashionable since the late 1980s. Some players do it simply because they are striking the ball so hard, some likely make the sound because it helps them focus, and sometimes players do it to try to hurt the rhythm of their opponent, though they’d never say this outwardly. Is grunting necessary? Not really. But it’s a permanent part of the game now.
It was nice to see Fritz tweet his thoughts, even though he said that he himself did not actually see the point. It’s odd that Fritz simply dismisses Djokovic’s grunt without seeing the point. But maybe by playing nice, Djokovic won’t be so hard on Fritz the next time they play (Djokovic leads the all-time series versus Fritz 6-0 and Fritz hasn’t won a match against Djokovic in five of six meetings).