Novak Djokovic: Lovable Character or Just Trying Too Hard?

Eduardo AfiniContributor IIISeptember 20, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts against Rafael Nadal of Spain during the Men's Final on Day Fifteen of the 2011 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

One point! Sometimes all it takes is one point to completely change the course of a game, a set, a match or even a Grand Slam tournament.

The first match point saved by Novak Djokovic against Roger Federer in the semifinal of the 2011 US Open might have even saved the reputation of the Serbian’s character before the New York crowd.

It was clearly shown on the broadcast that Djokovic was frustrated, getting annoyed with the spectators (mostly Federer supporters) and ready to get out of the stadium.

Anyone who knows a little bit about tennis knows that he went for the miss on that service return. It didn’t take any courage to go for that shot, it only took rage and frustration. Djokovic knew that and Federer knew that.

Had Djokovic missed that shot and lost the match, he would have lashed out at the crowd, in much the same way he did three years ago after playing Andy Roddick, when he couldn’t take a joke about the high number of different injuries the Serbian claimed to have at the time.

One that jokes with people the way he used to by doing impersonations should know how to take jokes, too. The incident made him unpopular in the locker room and among fans worldwide.

Djokovic has been trying to improve his image since then, likely with the aid of marketing agents and PR professionals. But everybody knows it is easier to build a reputation from the beginning than to suddenly change it.

John McEnroe gave him a hand in a previous edition of the event, going from the television booth down to the court and playing a few points with him after one of his matches, providing some entertainment to the public. However, this year’s dancing with Kelly Ripa didn’t help much.

It's easy to see when somebody is overdoing something or when somebody is not comfortable in a particular situation—like the image of Rory McIlroy in the Royal Box of Wimbledon center court this year, wearing a suit that probably belonged to a 7'0" cousin of his. Not comfortable.

That match point was like a glass of scotch presented to a recovering alcoholic, who was about to give up to temptation, when some kind of divine intervention prevented it from happening. He would have lost his temper and it would have overshadowed what he has done on the court this year, which is what really matters.

Djokovic is an outstanding professional, who worked on improving his game in an impressive manner, took shot-making ability to another dimension and became No. 1 in the world during the Federer and Nadal era.

This is already remarkable enough and he should stick with that. It is unnecessary to spend energy trying to be funny, nice or cool.

In the same way he is not a natural talent as a player, he is not a natural entertainer.

He is simply a great athlete.