There has been a seemingly decade-long conversation among fans about why or why not Novak Djokovic is not as well-liked as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Perhaps this is simply perception, though we can see in tournaments how many crowds react to Djokovic when facing nearly any other player. This is especially true when Djokovic takes on Carlos Alcaraz as Alcaraz seems to have the crowd firmly behind him.
Of course, the debate about who is the best-liked tennis player is different from who is the best player. That can be tangibly argued and Novak Djokovic’s numbers are simply better overall than Federer and Nadal. Perhaps Carlos Alcaraz will surpass Djokovic’s record numbers one day, but he is a long way from that currently.
Carlos Alcaraz might also benefit from not having played against Federer and Nadal at the height of those players’ powers. There was no natural dislike from a real rivalry as we saw between Djokovic versus Federer and Djokovic versus Nadal. That said, fans of Federer and Nadal did not seem to dislike the other player with the same vitriol that they disliked Djokovic.
Carlos Alcaraz is appreciative that fans choose him over Novak Djokovic
Alcaraz spoke about how fans have reacted to him ahead of an exhibition match he played last week in Mexico City against Tommy Paul. That was also the same match where Alcaraz hit a wondrous shot between his legs with his back to Tommy Paul that was a clear winner down the line. It was the kind of shot that has caused fans to fall in love with the Spaniard.
Alcaraz said about the fans, especially those who might be fans of Federer and Nadal but not Djokovic, “It is an extra motivation and a joy to have those fans of Rafa or Federer perhaps, not all, but a large part, cheering me on when I play against him…It is wonderful.”
Of course, English is not Carlos Alcaraz’s first language and he is still young enough to have not mastered a non-native language the way Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic were able to master over time. The longer he plays, and the more tournaments he wins where he has to give speeches in English, his knowledge of the language will increase. But the use of the word “joy” there seems clearly intentional and that kind of word might only increase the rivalry between Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic. Tennis fans should get joy from that.