Some sections of the media are seemingly refusing to allow the Novak Djokovic narrative to move on from the US Open, and that doesn’t sit well with us.
Tennis, in general, feels pretty surreal right now doesn’t it? We are playing Roland Garros in October, the last Wimbledon feels a lifetime ago, and Roger Federer is nowhere to be seen.
However, even within the context of those omnipresent oddities, the continued referencing of Novak Djokovic’s disqualification at the US Open feels bizarre, particularly given it’s coming from some of the finest and most respected journalists in the business.
Novak Djokovic hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball to derail his flawless season is the wildest thing that’s happened on a court this year (this century?),” said the generally excellent Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times.
“So no, we’re going to keep mentioning it for a while longer.”
Really? This century? This century that has seen the consensus three best players of all time battling it out with each other, producing unprecedented quality and some of the most epic rivalries and greatest achievements our sport has ever seen, yet a simple piece of split-second misfortune is our go-to highlight?
You’ll forgive me if I don’t agree.
What happened at the US Open was a huge story at the time and understandably so. The best player in the world being ejected from a Grand Slam, for whatever reason, is going to create headlines and that is perfectly fair.
Djokovic fans, some of whom use twitter from what I’ve been told, are treating the US Open default like it happened in 2002, not 2020. Move on? Already?
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) October 1, 2020
But that’s all it was – a story. It wasn’t a scandal, or anything even remotely similar to that. The incident itself was an accident, a complete quirk of misfortune. That it happened to Novak Djokovic… that was the story.
And that is fine, by the way. No one can possibly criticise the press for leaping upon the developments of that night in New York. It was an incredible example of sport’s ability to create the most unpredictable of dramas.
What is important, though, is that the narrative is not skewered and contorted beyond recognition. Journalists don’t get to create the story; they only get to tell it. That is how it should be anyway.
Only one person gets to create the story, and that is Novak Djokovic. It is, after all, his story, his legacy. It is forged by his actions alone. What transpired at the US Open was just a story within a story, one small anecdote of adversity within an anthology of achievement.
Sports, like any dramas, need their bad guys. For many in tennis, that appears to be Djokovic. I don’t personally agree with it, but I get it.
The worry is, though, that the demand for a villain is in danger of being allowed to overshadow the achievements of arguably the finest player our sport has ever seen.
And, no matter what anyone may think about what happened at the US Open, Djokovic surely deserves to be defined by his accomplishments, not his accidents.
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