This is a GOAT?
Novak Djokovic, world Number One and top seed at the US Open, the only one of the Big Three who didn’t opt out this year, was meant to bring grandeur and legacy to a competition hollowed out by the pandemic.
Instead, he got himself disqualified for hitting an older lineswoman in the throat after swatting a ball in a peevish little fit.
The lineswoman collapsed and clutched her throat, clearly struggling to breathe. What looked like a tap clearly struck like a bullet.
Consider that Djokovic’s fastest serve has been clocked at 122 m.p.h. His average backhand speed is 67.3 m.p.h.
Imagine a hard tennis ball slamming into your Adam’s apple with even the lesser force.
Anyone who’s ever had the wind knocked out of them knows the terror of gasping for air. It’s worse than the hit itself.
So what did Djokovic do? After attempting to comfort the lineswoman — who gave him the most epic and deserved side-eye of 2020 — Djokovic argued that he should not, per the unambiguous rules, be disqualified.
“She doesn’t have to go to the hospital for this,” he griped.
Wow. Instead of expressing relief that she wasn’t more grievously injured or killed, instead of humbly taking whatever penalty was coming his way, Djokovic whined like a toddler. Then he stood on the sidelines, head in hand, anxious over nothing but his own fate.
Djokovic’s swat, by the way, was out of frustration that younger player Pablo Carreño Busta, ranked world No. 30 in men’s singles, was making the Great Novak Djokovic fight to win that first (and last) set.
It was all too reminiscent of Serena Williams’ series of on-court meltdowns at the 2018 US Open, her all-but-assured comeback sullied by the much younger phenom Naomi Osaka — who not only outplayed Williams but outmatched her in maturity, grace and sportsmanship.
An otherwise fearsome warrior, the cowardly Djokovic slunk out of Queens rather than face the media — another no-no that may cost him a $20,000 fine. He will also lose every ranking point he earned at the Open and will likely be fined an additional $250,000, his compensation for reaching the fourth round.
In the short run, for a player of his stature and wealth, that’s nothing. It’s the damage to his reputation — as it is, Djokovic doesn’t engender the respect that Roger Federer does or the exuberance that Rafael Nadal commands — that may be irreparable.
This is, after all, a guy who got the coronavirus warning and threw a mask-less party for several of the world’s top tennis players, then got coronavirus.
“Apparently there’s a pandemic . . .” tweeted former tennis champ Andy Roddick.
That’s the other thing: Djokovic doesn’t seem widely liked among his peers. When no less than one-time professional tennis villain John McEnroe says that after Sunday’s incident, Djokovic “is going to be the bad guy for the rest of his career,” you best believe it’s true.
“This is obviously a stain that he’s not going to be able to erase,” McEnroe continued, “whether he likes it or not.”
He’ll never be able to erase it because Djokovic only cares about Djokovic. Let’s take his tone-deaf apology, delivered later Sunday evening via — what else? — Instagram.
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok. I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being. I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I’m so sorry.”
To summarize: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME. What will become of meeeeeee?
Here’s one sure prediction, Novak: You will never truly be considered a GOAT.