Tennis

Novak Djokovic's Incredible Show of Sportsmanship

MONTREAL, QC - AUGUST 14:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia leaves the court after loosing against Andy Roddick of the United States during the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup at Uniprix Stadium on August 14, 2009 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Donald FincherAnalyst IAugust 15, 2009

Last year, in the Olympics, James Blake complained (to no avail) that a ball had nicked Gonzalez's racquet before sailing long and being called out. The chair didn't see it and Gonzalez refused to own up to it so Blake lost the point.  Even though it wasn't match point, it essentially ended the Olympics for Blake because he just couldn't get over it.

Afterwards, Blake spoke about it in a press conference and said he was disappointed in his opponent. Blake said tennis is a gentlemen’s sport and the Olympic spirit should reflect the highest integrity of the game.  He spoke about the values he received from his parents and that if he had ever behaved in such a manner his father would have pulled him off the court.

This kind of thing is why golf and tennis are popular among those who value sportsmanship while pro basketball (where showboating is very much en vogue) is losing ground among that group.

But, what I saw from Novak Djokovic in tonight's match against Roddick went beyond sportsmanship.  Some might call it crazy.  It's one thing to admit that your racquet might have hit the ball on its way out.  Serena Williams had a similar instance this year when the ball hit a player's elbow (also considered interference even if they tried to get out of the way) and bounced back into Serena's court for a "winner." 

But, when Djokovic told Roddick to challenge an out-of-bounds call it seemed different to me.  First, if Djokovic was wrong, it costs Roddick a challenge.  Secondly, there was nothing to confess to.

Given that the reversal ended up squaring the match when Djokovic was up a break and Roddick went on to win the set and, with it, the match, it seemed beyond sportsmanlike and almost self-loathing.  While I can say that I have a newfound respect for Djokovic now, I can also say that I agree with those that might be wondering if he's half-crazy.

Perhaps sportsmanship should not go to this length.  However, it would certainly be great if more athletes at least started moving toward this direction.

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