My open response to the recent criticism of Novak Djokovic

Friday into Saturday was a tough 24 hours for Novak Djokovic, we can only speculate how he felt after he lost to Zverev and Carreno Busta but has anyone outside of his team, family, friends and fans actually thought, I wonder how he is?

If Christmas Panto was on all year round he would be cast as the villain in many eyes but why?

Novak Djokovic has always been honest, determined and passionate about his tennis. His career achievements and in particularly over the last decade put him streets ahead of anyone and in my eyes the greatest male player there has ever been.

Passion can overspill, this is competitive sport not a hit down the park. Whether it spills into the emotion of tears or at times in anger or frustration, it’s all a part of sport and sometimes you can be overtaken the by emotion of the situation. So, why should he be criticised and grossly targeted time and time again?

Find me a sports star or a tennis player who hasn’t shown raw emotion and maybe sometimes crossed the line? If there is a list it’s a very short one.

A lot has been said since Djokovic lost to Carreno Busta and I keep coming back to one question, did Novak Djokovic do anything soo wrong it has warranted this coverage? My answer is No. I’m not biased but I see where there is a targeting of someones character and fair criticism and this isn’t fair.

He through a racket into the stands and smashed a racket, not good but let’s be honest we’ve seen worse across the world of sport. We’ve seen worse go by without being mentioned, we’ve even seen the same or worse happen and a player made out to be a ‘joker’ or ‘entertainer’.

Djokovic spoke about pressure this week when asked about it in Press and his comments were badly twisted to be about Simone Biles’ withdrawal.

Djokovic said:

“Pressure is a privilege, my friend. Without pressure there is no professional sport.”

“If you are aiming to be at the top of the game you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments – on the court but also off the court.”

He was taking shots at anyone, it was cruelly twisted to make a story. This guy has thrived off pressure and putting pressure on himself in his entire career. Novak knows when he steps onto the court against Roger and Rafa crowds favour them but he comes out on top more times than not.

People have decided to use Djokovic’ comments quite cheaply in targeting him after his racket throw and smash saying he can’t handle pressure which as I said is nothing more than cheap and shameful. If we want to talk about pressure think about how he bounced back after his US Open default and has won three consecutive majors, think about his records over the last decade, think about his previous Olympic heartache and his dedication to his sport and country. Don’t for one moment come after Djokovic saying he can’t handle pressure, I could sit here all day and night telling you the times he has so don’t use a comment out of context to take a cheap shot.

I think more than anything the last year or so has shown why people need to think about others and their words more. No one knows what struggles someone might be going through whether they are just like you and me or a professional athlete.

We have seen openly how more and more sport stars have spoken about their struggles. Some of the most notable are Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles who made the right decision for themselves to take themselves out of the sporting spotlight. Four words matter in the last sentence, “right decision for themselves” , what is right for one might not be for everyone but everyone should be respected and treated with the same respect.

I’m a big fan of Naomi Osaka and at 22 she is a hell of a woman but she’s had her battles and it was heartbreaking to hear her feel like this and my hope was she took her time and did what was right for her. Naomi received gross criticism but a lot of praise, those who criticised should be ashamed as in different circumstances have praised someone for protecting their own mental health.

Mental Health isn’t a sport, it’s personal. It isn’t two teams or two players against each other it is personal to everyone but universal around the world.

The hypocrisy is a problem, people will praise someone for looking after their mental health but then think it is socially acceptable to drag their name (someone they don’t even know) through the mud on social media or in the media to get a reaction, I go back to what I said at the very beginning of this piece…

“has anyone outside of his team, family, friends and fans actually thought, ‘I wonder how he is?'”

He’s just had probably one of the toughest 24 hours in his tennis career and it’s suddenly ok to jump on him like this?

It’s easy to jump on a bandwagon but don’t preach support for mental health and then attack someones character. Those who tweet messages about being kind and then don’t are nothing but hypocrites.

A lot of the time it comes from a clip on social media. Someone may not even watch the sport and then can voice and set their opinion on someone off one clip and it’s a sad way to leave, look for and research the bigger picture. Follow the sport, not the headlines, you might just learn something.

Sport isn’t about liking everyone but have respect, treat people how you would like to be treated. There are people or teams in sport I don’t particularly like but I would never slate them on social media or in anything I write. I’ll appreciate them and be respectful to what they bring to the sport but I won’t be cheering them on and that’s fine.

My hope for Djokovic? I hope he has a bit of a refresh and comes back to New York in a months’ time ready for his challenge of winning the Grand Slam. That sentence itself makes this piece seem unnecessary, why are we having this conversation when the man is on the cusp of tennis history? Simply because people love a cheap shot and it’s a sad way to live.

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