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17 Sep, 2021 12:25

‘It is not acceptable that Novak is always the bad guy’: Tennis great Becker jumps to Djokovic’s defence after US Open breakdown

‘It is not acceptable that Novak is always the bad guy’: Tennis great Becker jumps to Djokovic’s defence after US Open breakdown

German tennis legend and former Novak Djokovic coach Boris Becker has said that the spotlight placed upon the world's top player is "unfair" compared to fellow stars Rafal Nadal and Roger Federer after his US Open defeat.

Russia's Daniil Medvedev breezed past Djokovic in the final at the Arthur Ashe Stadium last weekend, trouncing him in straight sets to end Djokovic's pursuit of the first Calendar Slam since Rod Laver achieved the feat in 1969.

Falling at the final hurdle as he did in New York proved too much for an emotional Djokovic during the match, with the notoriously stoic Serb reduced to tears at the final changeover as the crowd in Flushing Meadows attempted to bellow him to victory.

While that didn't materialize, Djokovic said later that he was touched by their support.

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"I felt something I never felt in my life here in New York," he said after the defeat.

"The crowd made me feel very special. They pleasantly surprised me. I did not expect anything, but the amount of support and energy and love I got from the crowd was something that I’ll remember forever.

"That’s the reason on the changeover I just teared up. The emotion, the energy was so strong. It’s as strong as winning 21 grand slams. That’s how I felt, honestly. I felt very, very special. They touched my heart, honestly."

And Becker, the six-time Grand Slam winner who served as Djokovic's coach for three years beginning in 2013, says that the crowd's support shouldn't be an isolated incident and that the sometimes-controversial star should receive the same level of public backing as fellow greats Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

"It was an incredible situation, a crazy moment in time," Becker said of the emotional scenes in Flushing Meadows.

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"I know Novak privately and professionally, and I can only say that he is a fine guy – a competitor who sometimes misbehaves on the court, but who doesn't?

"The public, including the media, really have to get used to the fact that there are not just two, but three [legends] who have great qualities as players and as individuals.

"It is not acceptable that Novak is always the bad guy and Roger and Rafa are always the good guys. That is unfair.

"I hope that these two weeks in New York, the final, the speech [that followed] and the reaction of the New York audience will ensure that he is finally seen in a different light."

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While Nadal and Federer have maintained relatively squeaky-clean media images, Djokovic has endured more negative publicity, including over the mid-pandemic tournament he held which resulted in a string of Covid-19 infections and his views that players should not be forced to take vaccines.

Becker became embroiled in a feud with contender Nick Kyrgios after the Australian publicly accused Djokovic and other players who were involved in the tournament of acting recklessly.

The world number one was also criticized after being disqualified from last year's US Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball.

Becker added that Djokovic's decision to participate in the Olympics, where he was beaten in the bronze medal match by Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, likely proved to be a fateful blow to his pursuit of the historic Calendar Slam, and admitted that the ensuing media glare likely proved a distraction from him goal.

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"He didn't want to become one of the best - he wanted to become the best, and he would have underlined that with a victory here today," added Becker. "I have never seen Novak so clueless."

In his own comments after the loss to Medvedev, Djokovic seemed to hint towards the mental toll that he was experiencing in his hunt for glory and said that the loss was a "relief" – a statement notably at odds with some of his previous remarks.

"I was glad it was over because the build-up to this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot," he said.

As Becker previously noted, the often superhuman-looking Djokovic appeared disconcertingly human last Sunday in New York – and maybe it is exactly this type of frailty which can lead to tennis's international galaxy of fans finally and unanimously rallying around one of the sport's best ever players.

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