As Novak Djokovic prepares to defend the Rogers Cup in Montreal this week, his father, Srdjan, opened up to the Serbian media with some astonishing comments on two of his son's main rivals.
On Federer, both sources reported on quotes from the Serbian newspaper Kurir:
Federer is perhaps still the best tennis player in history, but as a man he's the opposite.
He attacked Novak at the Davis Cup in Geneva (in 2006), he realised that he was his successor and was trying to discredit him in every way. Novak's success is an amazing thing and something that one cannot understand.
Srdjan Djokovic has opened an old can of worms since this is not the first time the Djokovic family has spouted off about Federer.
In 2008, after her son had upset the Swiss in the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic's mother, Dijana, said "The King is dead, long live the king," according to The Australian.
A few months later, during a match in Monte Carlo, Federer told the Djokovic family to "keep quiet."
Though Federer and Novak Djokovic have navigated around occasional tension and barbs, the Djokovic family seemed to have settled into more respectable behavior during their son's ascension to No. 1. But now, Srdjan Djokovic has again reverted to pettiness.
Nadal was his best friend while he was winning. When things changed, they were no longer friends. It’s not sporting.
Nadal seemed perplexed by Srdjan Djokovic's observations and deflected the issue when telling Marca.com:
Djokovic's father should talk to his son. I've always got on very well with him and I still do. I've lost lots of matches against him and vice-versa, but we've never had a problem.
Srdjan Djokovic's remarks are another disgraceful episode that follows in the footsteps of tennis fathers like Stefano Capriati, Richard Williams and John Tomic. They have a history of overstepping their bounds. Because of their own ego and hubris, they have a need to tell the world how great their kids are. They make heated accusations and spoil the spirit of competition.
The accuracy of Srdjan Djokovic's classless comments is debatable, but the important point is that Novak should not have to answer for his father's petulance. He has become the best player in the world without having to resort to vitriol, and he does not need this distraction.
The comments imply that Federer and Nadal are jealous of his son's success, but the irony is that Djokovic senior seems to be fishing for more respect and adulation on behalf of his son. Does he expect Federer and Nadal to smile and heap more verbal praise?
Srdjan Djokovic clearly has his own belief on how players should react upon losing and cites his son as the model of graciousness in defeat. It's an ignorant expectation to expect all opponents to act according to his model. Are players not free to be more internal or within character of their own personalities and cultures?
They can't be best friends because they're fighting for the biggest titles and, at the end of the day, lots of money as well. But they are perfectly sporting rivals and I'm sure they will be great friends when their careers are over.
Yet, according to The Independent, Novak Djokovic and Murray have cooled their former friendship. Murray said as much last month:
I would hope that when we finish playing it will be different. But it's just hard because playing in big, big matches, with a lot on the line, you can't be best of friends.
Tennis fans connecting these dots can surmise that it's not acceptable if Federer and Nadal maintain a professional distance in their rivalries with Novak Djokovic, but, somehow, it's OK for Murray.
Srdjan Djokovic should know better with the front-row seat he has had the past decade. His son has had to fight and work for all of his success in an ultra-competitive ATP. Why would he suddenly expect the old standard bearers to suddenly kowtow before his son?
Is he grasping for more accolades after his son's epic 2011 season cooled into one Slam in each of the past calendar years? Does he fear that he will never receive the historical acclaim of Federer or Nadal?
Whatever his reasons, Srdjan Djokovic should have kept a lid on his thoughts. He didn't do his son any favors and will now attract a more critical eye toward him and his circle.
Maybe he can gather up some of those worms and go fishing instead.