May 17, 2022 9:51 am

Novak Djokovic and a career in jeopardy: the obstacles of a self-limited schedule and the mental challenge he will face

Novak Djokovic, the best tennis player in the world, lost. The Australian government lost. He also lost Tennis Australia, the body that administers the sport of rackets in that giant of Oceania. Craig Tiley lost, the director of the first Grand Slam of the season, who until now had a highly positive image, as a proactive official. All the protagonists of the messy and scandalous case that surrounded the Serbian player (finally his visa was canceled and he was deported) were damaged, indelibly stained. Everything was (is) a painful chapter in the history of the sport, which will leave sequels. In this scenario and in the midst of a pandemic, Could Nole’s future be in danger? In a way, yes.

If Djokovic himself never went unnoticed on the circuit (from his beginnings as an “imitator” of colleagues to rising as a threat to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, until surpassing them in the records), now their exposure is increasing. It seems that he is loved or hated, with no middle ground. Deified or rejected. In June 2020, when the Covid-19 outbreak paralyzed, it became a kind of anti-system sports reference, leading the organization of an exhibition tournament with few health protocols (Adrian Tour, in Belgrade) that ended with at least nine people infected with coronavirus. It was too reckless. His spirituality prompted him to disbelieve in vaccines and even explained that water reacted to the vibrations of people and that its composition could be changed through “energy and prayer.” He generated enemies on different fronts and the acid statements of some people around him (his father, for example) did not collaborate. In Melbourne, in these hours, everything finished hatching.

Djokovic along with Grigor Dimitrov, Dusan Lajovic, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev in June 2020, during the controversial Adria Tour, the exhibition tournament in Belgrade amid the pandemic.REUTERS / Marko Djurica – Archive

Start another game. Can the same obstacle that Djokovic faced in Australia be repeated in another country? Yes, without a doubt. The position of the winner of 20 Grand Slam trophies is a minority: 97% of the Top 100 are vaccinated, as reported by the ATP. The body that administers men’s professional tennis published a statement after the cancellation of Nole’s visa, in which -between the lines- he left a message: “The decision that has been made marks the end of a series of deeply sad events. Ultimately, the decisions of legal authorities in matters of public health must be respected (…) Regardless of how it has come to this point, Novak is one of our greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for our sport (…) The ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination of all players.”

Nole is left without being able to play the major that he won nine times, which prevents him – at least for now – from achieving his great desire: the exclusive Grand Slam record, which at the moment he shares with Federer and Nadal. Djokovic, who in 2021 came close to becoming the first player to win all four major trophies in the same season since 1969 (Rod Laver), will lose 2,000 points after the Australian tournament. It is guaranteed to remain number 1 when the new ranking is published (on Monday, January 31), but he will lose the top in February if the Aussie champion is the Russian Daniil Medvedev (current 2nd) or the German Alexander Zverev (3rd).

This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows Serbia's Novak Djokovic (2nd L) preparing to depart from Melbourne Airport in Melbourne on January 16, 2022, after losing a sensational legal battle over his coronavirus vaccination status with his dream of clinching a record 21st Grand Slam in tatters. (Photo by Mell CHUN / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE --
This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (2nd L) preparing to depart from Melbourne Airport in Melbourne on January 16, 2022, after losing a sensational legal battle over his coronavirus vaccination status with his dream of clinching a record 21st Grand Slam in tatters. (Photo by Mell CHUN / AFP) / — IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE —MELL CHUN – AFP

Will Djokovic accept to continue paying a high price in his career for the decision not to get vaccinated against Covid-19? After the “Australia case”, obviously, a cascade effect can be expected. Undoubtedly, there will be opponents who will put pressure on the different governments not to let a famous person who openly does not want to be vaccinated enter their territories. Every time Nole reaches a new frontier, he will be watched with much greater attention. For example: entering the United States, where in addition to the US Open three of the nine Masters 1000 are held, it will be very difficult for him. Full vaccination is mandatory for foreign visitors and exemptions are in drop count. New York has already caused him a disappointment (it is worth remembering that he was disqualified in the fourth round of Flushing Meadows 2020 for inadvertently hitting a line judge with a ball).

According to current health regulations, the first tournament that Djokovic could play is the Monte Carlo Masters 1000, from April 10 to 17, which has not yet communicated its health protocol, but when it is played on French soil it is believed that a “health bubble” will be in operation. This was indicated by the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, with a view to Roland Garros (May 22 to June 6). Although French President Emmanuel Macron was severe with the restrictions, in order to compete it would be enough for tennis players to present a certificate that proves, or have the complete vaccination schedule, having overcome Covid-19 less than six months ago or have a negative PCR test.

Two of Djokovic’s biggest sponsors (a car manufacturer and the clothing that wears him) are of French origin and, for many, Nole’s presence in the Bois de Boulogne will be an issue -almost- of state. Gilles Moretton, president of the French Tennis Federation, ventured: “We are working in collaboration with the public authorities, who will specify in due course the rules for the reception of unvaccinated foreign athletes.”

Always controversial, Srdjan Djokovic, Nole's father, defended his son with bombastic phrases: "50 shots to the chest", was the phrase he chose to defend the number 1 in the world.
Always controversial, Srdjan Djokovic, Nole’s father, defended his son with bombastic phrases: “50 shots in the chest” was the phrase he chose to defend the world number 1.

Of course, after Monte Carlo and before Roland Garros, Nole could also participate in the ATP 250 in Belgrade, Serbia, from April 18 to 24. And continue at the Rome tournament, from May 8 to 15, where, to date, unvaccinated players can compete under a restricted regime: PCR test every 48 hours, without access to the tournament club except the court. And Wimbledon (from June 27 to July 10)? Under current British regulations, the event will be open to unvaccinated athletes as long as they respect a ten-day quarantine on arrival and it is complemented by various PCR tests.

The German Boris Becker, world number 1 in 1991 and former coach of Djokovic, sounded an alarm regarding Novak’s future. “I think you make a big mistake by not getting vaccinated. A mistake that threatens the rest of his career and the possibility of becoming the best player of all time., declared in the British medium Dialy Mail. And he continued reading the scenario: “It is not just about Australia. The world has changed and it will be very difficult for him to lead a life as a professional tennis player in the world without vaccination. Maybe one day the situation will be more normal, but at 34 years old, he doesn’t have much time left to achieve his goals”.

Djokovic built his tennis legend, to a large extent, in Australia, where he was a nine-time champion, but this time he was deported.
Djokovic built his tennis legend, to a large extent, in Australia, where he was a nine-time champion, but this time he was deported.Hannah Peters – Getty Images AsiaPac

“The number 1 rival who can stop Djokovic is himself,” Frenchman Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach, said last year. How will you rearrange your career after the traumatic departure from Australia. How the neutral public will treat you in the next tournaments you may play. How he will react mentally during matches. Very important scenarios that are presented, from now on, to Djokovic, an athlete (a legend) who has everything to be elevated as a God of tennis but who gets involved in problems that can even put his future in check.

Reference-www.lanacion.com.ar

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.