Monday, September 7, 2020

Unintended Consequences

 This has been a season of swirling controversies for Novak Djokovic. First, his comments questioning the efficacy of vaccines and any governmental mandate to individuals as to their use. Then his organization of the Adria tour in Serbia and Croatia where those involved rejected protocols for mask wearing and social distancing, prematurely ending in a rash of Coronavirus cases including his own and that of his wife. Finally, his recent decision, not  universally applauded, to resign as President of the ATP player's union to break off and form a new union.

But nothing compared to one swipe at a tennis ball in anger and frustration. Its path leading directly to unthinkable consequences.

Did the punishment fit this crime? Certainly, if intention was the catalyst for the determination, the match would have continued with but the smallest of penalties. The look on the face of Djokovic the moment he heard the anguish in a brief cry of pain and realized what had transpired, unmistakable in its apology for his transgression.

The one in a million shot something a man who has hit a million shots over a tennis lifetime would not have expected in a million years.  

I grew up in an era of bad boys, from Nastase to Connors, to McEnroe. A time of ill tempers, bad language and broken racquets.  When the concept of right and wrong, in this court at least, was fluid and flexible. Where verbal abuse of the chair umpire, the linesman, even the ball boys, was almost as accepted a part of the game as topspin lobs and crosscourt backhands. But those days are now but vague memory, historical footnote.

Now it is clearly understood there are rules that apply with equal force whether you are a wild card entry or the number one player in the world with a seemingly unimpeded path to Grand Slam title #18. And one is a form of strict liability for your outbursts and their results. And even as he pleaded his case before the sentence was handed down, you could sense that Djokovic knew the inevitability of the answer.

And thus a man who had beaten back the negatives that followed him through recent months, who had walked into this tournament without tasting defeat on the court in 2020, who had questioned rules of protocol both personal and professional and was still standing defiant, left this arena with tennis bags flung over his shoulder and the weight of one thoughtless moment bringing him crashing to earth. 

No ace up his sleeve, or on his racquet, to defeat this opponent.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic piece. One of my favorites of yours. Well said and written


Anonymous said...

This is so well written Bobbi Jo. Send it in to Tennis Magazine for publication


Anonymous said...

I echo BK's sentiments. Terrific!!!!


Anonymous said...

While I feel terribly for Djokvic, his intention may have just been to get the ball from his pocket and to return the ball back to the ball boy, his frustrations leading up to that moment resulted in a very punitive and heavy consequence. Bad luck that the line judge was there but he did know both ball boy and line judge were in the vicinity! His reaction was one of shock when he realized what he did and ran over to see if she was okay.

Maybe making an example of his unlucky mistake is the lesson for all to learn. After all rules are rules for all to abide by. What were the odds the ball would hit the line judge’s windpipe? He took that chance and lost.

One of the announcers mentioned tennis players have no outlet. Points occur against them at key times, they screw up at key times and they can’t consult their coaches. They are expected to show the best on the court and all that is inside festers...is there a better way? Who knows? Their reactions, behavior and transgressions are on the world stage for all to analyze for eternity.


Anonymous said...

100% my thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Even though he's been one of my favorites for 10+ years...there have been numerous instances with him, some you mentioned above, which you can't fully get on board with or flat out disagree. This summer has been full of them for him. And this was one in which a rule was broken, not an argument of opinions or feelings.

Anger and frustration happen on court, no one is a machine, but you also know there are rules. He didn't smack the ball super hard and he hit it towards the ball boys which is normal at changeovers, but it was definitely harder and in an area where he knows people are standing. 10000% unintentional, but he took a risk hitting in back there at that speed. Literally 3 inches either way and he probably would have only gotten him a warning.

Even though I wanted him to win and really didn't want to see him defaulted...there wasn't a choice. He didn't just break a rule but he hit someone in the throat. Last week in the Cincy Open when a player hit a ball...less hard...but hit a cameraman in the stands, he broke the same rule yet wasn't defaulted since he wasn't hurt and the cameraman said such to the ref...the player got very lucky. This was different and terrible for many reasons, but without a major (and possibly controversial) exception, per the books he got hit in the throat as well.


Anonymous said...

Additionally,remember Serena Williams got booted for an outburst a few years ago


Anonymous said...