Novak Djokovic gives a perfect response to a frustrating question

Djokovic was asked the question during a press conference at Indian Wells.
Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer. Likely even people who are not tennis fans know those names. They are arguably the three best players in the history of the sport, but what many tennis fans debate is the popularity of each player. A supporter of each great wants their favorite to be the most loved. It is a bit weird and fairly tiresome.

Yet, the question is posed to Djokovic than seemingly more of the other two. The query implies (and almost dares the Serbian to react negatively) that not only is Djokovic the least-liked of the three, but therefore, he is the most aggressively disliked. This narrative, whether true or not, has become presumed truth because of how much the question is asked. One might wonder, for example, how many fans reveled in Djokovic's loss to Luca Nardi in round three of Indian Wells on Monday.

To be honest, Novak Djokovic likely handles the negative may be better than Nadal or Federer would. They would not be used to the situation. But we can watch matches and hear an audience pulling against Djokovic sometimes and he invites the jeers. He feeds off them as well as any athlete ever has.

Novak Djokovic comes up with the perfect answer

But when asked once again by a reporter during a press conference at Indian Wells about the dislike he might get from many fans and how interacting with them during matches might inspire the ATP No. 1, Djokovic took a different approach to his answer. He smiled. But he knew his answer would hit its mark.

He said, "I was fortunate to play so many matches in my life where I have experienced positive and negative experiences on the court with fans...At times atmosphere really gets to you, in a good or bad way. So then you use it as a fuel, and you connect maybe with a specific person. Those types of moments are really something that stays with these people forever, but they also feed our soul.

"It makes us feel great and very grateful and appreciative of the fact that they paid tickets to come and watch you and support you. So good or bad, in the end of the day, we are all there to celebrate a sport, and tennis players..."

This might be the most introspective, reflective, and perfect answer to the tiresome implication that Djokovic is not among the best-liked players that he could give. And he, in fact, is correct. He knows the game within a game. He is at tournaments to win tennis matches, but crowd reaction to points and players is part of that. Understanding how to work in that environment is partly why Djokovic has remained atop the tennis world.

But when his career is over, let's hope those fans who do not care for him appreciate the player he was. He will retire with more Grand Slam victories, more Masters 1000 wins, and more combined weeks ranked No. 1 than any other player. That kind of excellence should be respected even after his shock loss to Nardi.

Read more from Lob and Smash