Novak Djokovic is a disgrace to the sport. He goes from champion to quitter over the course of two weeks. But given the character, or lack thereof, contained in the player in question, this ought to come as no surprise to anyone with open eyes.
Simply put, in the fourth rubber of the tie between Serbia and Russia, Djoke walked off the court after choking away a two set and two break lead to Nikolay Davydenko. Apparently, his fragile and entitled ego couldn't take it. Couldn't stand that he would actually have to fight to keep his country in the tie. Couldn't pull any of his other shenanigans in front of the Russian fans who most likely would've had none of it. So he quit. Left his belongings and walked right out of the stadium in the midst of security as though he were some heavyweight champion boxer.
Afterwards, his captain called him a hero just for taking the court. You see, the entitled one had been battling flu-like symptons all week and pulled out of his opening singles rubber against Mikhail Youzhny at the eleventh hour. But he returned to action in the doubles rubber on Saturday and played well enough with Nenad Zimonjic to keep Serbia in the tie.
Djoke looked perfectly fine on Saturday. He looked perfectly fine on Sunday. He played the first two-and-a-half sets like a man on a mission. Like the man who'd just lifted his first Slam trophy weeks earlier.
But Davis Cup is funny. Playing for your country can make the best players as nervous as one making his Slam debut. And Djoke started gagging at 3-0 with a two-break lead in the final set. He squandered leads in his final two service games; Kolya closed out the set by winning the last four games.
And Djoke walked off the court.
Let's see, now. James Blake had flu-like symptons in Austria. He chose to spend two days in the sauna to try to sweat the bug out so he could play for his country. He gave away a 5-3 lead in the first set against Stefan Koubek and found himself down a set and a break pretty early in the second set. But he hung tough, fought back, won the rubber in four sets, and gave the USA a 2-0 lead. On clay. Away from home.
In Sweden last fall, the entire US team battled flu-like symptoms in another tie away from home. Blake was murdered in he second rubber by Thomas Johansson, but the American didn't walk off the court, feigning illness.
In the same semifinal tie, Joachim Johansson hadn't played a match in months due to a sore shoulder. But when called upon by the Swedish captain to play for his country, he showed up, gave Andy Roddick all he could handle, and woke up so sore the next day he had to pull out of his next events. He has since retired from the sport because that troublesome shoulder never healed.
One of the match commentators compared Djoke to Pete Sampras. The point? Both Pete and Djoke could look completely out of it between points, he said, but once the ball was in play, you'd never know anything was troubling either one of them. Ah. So now Novak gets the Pete comparison. But, well, you see, Pete didn't quit. No matter what. And when Djoke walked off the court up two sets to one, the commentators gagged on their own feet.
Davis Cup is one of my favorite sporting events and ranks right up there with Slams in prestige. In my book, anyway. It's when selfishness has to go by the wayside. When ego must defer to comaraderie. It is not the place for low-brow, bush league theatrics. And quitting in the middle of a match when both of your legs and arms and hands and feet can still function makes a mockery of the competition.
If Djoke is a hero, then I don't want any part of the universe where leaving your country in the lurch because your victory didn't come easy is considered heroic.