Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tuesday Tirade: Davis Cup Disgrace

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.


Pamela said...

Excellent tirade Craig. Those are my exact sentiments. He's a great player with enormous potential but I can't stand his on court behavior (nor his box) and I can't root for him. Ever. As for the Sampras comparison, please. Sampras would throw up on change overs and go back and finish his match. Perhaps his mother should tell him that "Kings" finish their matches even if they are "tired."

tangerine said...

"Novak Djokovic is a disgrace to the sport."

Craig, you need to make a poll out of this: "Who was the biggest Davis Cup disgrace this weekend?" the gutless Djoker, the cowardly Murray, the Austrian crater court, Federer and Nadal not showing up again, the "Russian flu" making its convenient rounds, et al. ;)

I love the tirades on this blog, even if I don't agree with every point. I can definitely appreciate the passion.

Craig Hickman said...

I like your suggestion, tangy.

But for me it's no contest. A raunchy temporary sandbox passing itself of as clay? They all had to play on it.

Andy Murray? Meh.

But Djoke has already been anointed and this is how he (continues to) behave(s)?

If he becomes the sport's future "King" I'll have to find another one to get passionate about.

vw said...

you need to make a poll out of this

OK put me down for Federer and Nadal not showing up again

Craig Hickman said...

Switzerland didn't make World Group, so Raja gets a pass.

Rafa said Spain was better off without him. Yeah, Spain swept their tie, but...

oddman said...

Spain has a very deep team to pull from. I give Rafa a pass.

tristann said...

Hi Craig. Good post.

What I think is just as disgraceful is the write-up(s) at the Davis Cup official website. There is not even an attempt at objectivity.



It is the Davis Cup website which compares Djoko to Sampras.

Someone also needs to explain to Djoko that when you retire from a match, you LOST. End Of Story. He always comes back after a retirement to claim that he would have won.

RG 2006 - "I was in control"
Wimbledon 2007 - "I should have been in the final"
Davis Cup 2008 - from his website: "Nole was close to winning, but he couldn’t beat the flu!" (this has since been removed but was spoken about extensively on Tennis.com)

Craig Hickman said...


Thanks for the links. But it was also the commentators that made the Sampras comparison. I heard them.

Either way you slice it, though, it's a disgrace.

MMT said...

Djokervic went down in my book after this farce of quitting once he knew he would have to fight.

The only way they should pull a player off a Davis Cup court is feet first.

And why does Rafa get a pass - I'm sure he would have been selected had he made himself available.

Enough is enough - it's time to put ATP points on the line for DC.

Margaret said...

Well said, Craig! Thanks for not being afraid to criticize the current media darling of tennis. To paraphrase Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Novak, you are no Pete Sampras!

chip kittenplan said...

Ease up. The Djoker cited dizziness specifically for the reason he quit. I would love to see any of the people who agreed with this rant play a 5 set competative tennis match with the flu. I will not believe a Grand Slam Champion would ever tank a match with a two set lead if they weren't physically ill. I've experienced dizziness on the court before. Try running for a shot when you have no sense of up or down.

Shannon said...

I'm glad you said this too, because I'm sick to death of hearing how great and noble and self-sacrificing he is because he played with flu-like symptoms. And the comparison to Sampras? I'm not even a Sampras fan, never have been, but that made my blood boil. In Djokovic's dreams, maybe. Bleah.

vw said...

why would he fake being sick if he's up 2 sets, leading 3-0 in third set, playing in Davis?

Craig Hickman said...

I never claimed he was faking anything. Novak quit in the middle of a Davis Cup match up two sets to one. He wasn't carried off the court. He walked off the court, didn't seek medical treatment at the hospital as was first reported, and sat through his press conference.

Sick or not; dizzy or not. Finish the match. That's what real champions do.

He'll continue to be criticized in these parts unless or until he proves that he has integrity. It remains my observation he has zero. Zilch. Nada.

He made his bed. And he seems quite comfortable lying in it.