Roger Federer is gracious in victory but ungracious in defeat. Novak Djokovic is gracious in defeat but ungracious in victory. They are two sides of the same coin. No wonder they have the same type of fans.
Roger Federer was fortunate that when he reached his prime in 2003, there were no other great players.
Those who read my articles regularly know what I mean by "great" and "prime". But an explanation for those who came in late is provided in the notes at the bottom.
Federer, therefore, had no real rival until 2008. Practically the only fight he received was from a pre-prime Rafael Nadal, who was still developing his game and could offer competition only on clay.
So, Federer was not pushed, easily won his matches and was gracious. If you remember, he had a bad temper in his pre-prime years but not so after he reached his prime in a weak era.
Then when Nadal started challenging him, Federer began to lose some of the veneer of graciousness. Federer bitterly complained about Nadal's on-court coaching (which was strange, considering that he did not believe in the value of coaching).
Anyway, when he discovered that he was getting bad press, he stopped. Federer thereafter has been very gracious on-court with Nadal but has never missed opportunities in his various interviews to put down the great Spaniard.
Federer has not, however, been so gracious on-court to Djokovic, but then in "ungraciousness" the two are evenly matched.
This was in such bad taste that even though Federer and his fans would have dearly loved an ally to stop Nadal, they all hated him.
Subsequently, Federer asked the Djokovic box to "be quiet" later that year at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters. Although some might say that the family deserved it, I feel it is not good form to yell at your opponent's box.
In the Australian Open this year, Federer exchanged words with Djokovic in the third set.
Reuters' Alastair Himmer reported the scene:
"Federer, already upset about noise from Djokovic's box, then complained to his opponent across the net for the number of times the Serb was bouncing the ball between serves, to which Djokovic sarcastically replied, 'Sorry'."
Clearly a breach of etiquette.
What about Djokovic? He is the kind of guy who applauds his opponent's good shots and victories. At US Open 2010, he graciousness was personified in how he congratulated Nadal and spoke about him afterwards.
Yes, Djokovic is gracious in defeat.
However, just as we caught a glimpse of his "ungraciousness" in 2008, it has very much been evident in 2011. The "unclassy" way in which he and his team celebrated his victories over Nadal and in particular, the silly jokes ridiculing the great Spaniard reflect poorly on him.
Just as in Federer's case, the fans of Djokovic have picked up the cues and have posted garbage on the Spaniard's Facebook wall as well as on many tennis forums.
In contrast, Nadal is humble. So is Andy Murray, but unfortunately as he hasn't won any slams as of yet so not many people have remarked on his humility.
I subscribe to the theory that a humble player, focusing only on his own improvement, is likely to be more successful than an ungracious or conceited player of the same caliber.
So let us wait and see who laughs last for is it not said, "he who laughs last, laughs best?"
"Great" is a player who wins at least three Grand Slam titles (not all won at the same venue) by the end of his career.
"Prime" is approximately between 22 and 29 years of age based on my studies of performance vs. age of elite players. Data base of three groups of elite players in the period from 1973 were studied for this purpose. Data of players who held the top ranking, players who were top 10 and finally players who had won at least six Slam titles ("super greats" eligible for entry into GOAT competition).