By Chris Le
American tennis fans, particularly those in New York for the U.S. Open, just found a new Public Enemy Number One—Novak Djokovic.
Dispatching of fan favorite Andy Roddick in surprisingly easy fashion, 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), it could have been a moment of sweet retribution for the 21-year-old Serb.
Before their quarterfinal meeting, Roddick took a few jabs at Djokovic, who cited hip, ankle, stomach and breathing issues as reason for his poor play in previous rounds. Roddick wondered, jokingly as he suggests, if Djokovic is also suffering from bird flu, anthrax or SARS, saying “He’s either quick to call a trainer or he’s the most courageous guy of all-time.”
Djokovic did not take the comments lightly and took it out on Roddick on the court.
In post-match interviews, Roddick reiterated everything he said was in jest, as he is known to be sort of a jokester, and his comments aren’t always without a hint of sarcasm.
Djokovic still wasn’t humored, telling USA reporter Michael Barkaan, “You know, Andy was saying I have 16 injuries in the last match. Obviously, I don’t—right?”
A few boos from the pro-Roddick crowd began to shower on the third-ranked player in the world. Barkaan gave Djokovic a chance to take back his comments, a clear opportunity to win back the crowd that loved him a year ago, but the Serb didn’t bite. “They’re already against me” Djokovic said, “because they think I’m faking everything, so it’s all right.”
After that, every pro-Djokovic American turned against him and the boos magnified in intensity.
It’s funny that Djokovic is so easily butt-hurt, since he himself is famous for mockingly mimicking Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova (see here) and their pre-serve idiosyncrasies. His sense of humor, apparently, is relegated to making fun of others.
In later interviews, however, Djokovic apologized to Roddick and seemed genuinely remorseful when saying, “He made a joke and it was a misunderstanding, so I don’t blame it on him. Maybe I exaggerated and reacted bad in that moment.”
Is this apology enough to get back on the New York crowd’s good graces?
We’ll find out in Saturday’s semifinal when Djokovic faces number-two seed Roger Federer.