No Love For Djokovic?



by PHILIP MARE

No Love For Djokovic?

Novak Djokovic must be wondering what else he has to do to please people. The Serb has been the number one player in the world for nearly a year now, and has beaten everyone who matters at least a couple of times each. Heck, he even beat Rafael Nadal seven times in a row – the only player ever to enjoy such a streak against the Spaniard.

He broke the duopoly Federer and Nadal enjoyed over the Slams for nearly a decade, winning five of them. He even won three in the same year, and this season has the chance to be the first man in nearly half a century to hold all four Slams at the same time.

He's played ball with charities, started a tournament in his home town and constantly entertains crowds with his jokes and player impressions. Yet this week, when Pat Cash said that without Nadal and Federer tennis would be boring, there was hardly an outcry over his statements.

The Australian has a reputation for stirring things up, but it's hard to argue with his sentiments. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have given the sport of tennis the two things it craves most – a great rivalry and contrasting styles of play.

Federer is all class, floating across the court and hitting winners at will from all angles. Nadal is all power, hitting balls with such ferocious topspin that it seems as if they might come apart any second. When either man does anything, it is not just the tennis world that takes notice, it is the wider world.

They command huge crowds wherever they go, and whenever it is announced on which court they will be playing it causes a virtual stampede of fans. They rarely, if ever, play to anything but a packed house. While Djokovic has no shortage of fans, it's hard to argue that he commands the same level of admiration.

Yes, he often plays to stands brimming with fans, but all too often the television cameras will pan over sections of empty seats – seats that would never be empty if Federer or Nadal would be playing. He's the it-player of the moment, the undisputed world number one, yet when Pat Cash says tennis would be boring if he were left holding the fort, it seems to make sense to most people.

True, his style does not have the Federer's panache or Nadal's power. Instead, he strives above all for consistence. He can run down any ball, but when he gets there he's most comfortable just hitting a medium-paced ball up the middle of the court.

He will wait until kingdom come for his opponents to make an error, and not often stray from his comfort zone. But is it fair to say he's boring? It's a tough call – and we certainly won't try and answer that question here – but the very fact that people are questioning the future of tennis when the current world number two and three are gone is certainly strange.

Perhaps the huge shadow cast by Federer and Nadal just needs some time to fade a little, or maybe Djokovic just needs to dominate a little longer before he is considered "worthy" by the likes of Pat Cash. But one thing's for sure: right now, the Serb's work is not done, and it looks as if it may never be.