US Open

Serbs Him Right, No Djokes

Novak Djokovic disqualified from US Open after hitting line judge with ball.

Just a punny headline, but no funny business at the US Open as Novak gets disqualified for unintentionally hitting a lineswoman on her throat.

“She ain’t going to the hospital”, he pleaded, but she could have.. in either case, the rule has to be the same and the same for all, however harsh it may be or whether it is a 250/500/1000 point event or a Grand Slam for that matter.

I remember Federer getting docked a point for gently lobbing a ball into the crowd. Knowing Fed, he must have been furious to do that, for sure.

Coming back to Novak, he is a nice guy who wants to be known as the nicest guy. And that’s his problem. Trying to be what he need not be and then the reverse happens.

He cannot control his temper, his frustrations etc. all probably stemming not only from the occasional let-downs in his extremely high-standard game but also the relative non-acceptance from the crowd.

It presumably runs in the family, starting with his granddad and then percolating down to his father and mother. Frustrations, I mean.


I remember watching an interview with Novak when he was seven years old. The interview was in Serbian but with English subtitles, and he came across like a kid who was extremely sorted.

If I had seen that interview live, I would have thought that kid will be No 1 one day. You know I am 59, and I know a thing or two about human psychology, mostly with Serbian kids who speak in Serbian!

But the kid grew up, and then all sorts of insecurities have crept in. Not in his game but other stuff, leading to being dubbed a drama queen, and trying too hard to please.

Coming back to the recent past. I was at the Dubai Open. As some of us know, the player’s lounge is a fairly good distance away from the courts and at around 6.30 pm, or so the players walk from the lounge to the courts along a fenced pathway. And we fans throng both sides of the path to get a glimpse of the players—all at arms distance.

And on one February evening, out came Delpo and then Roger. We all shouted Go Roger. But Fed was in the zone. He looked straight ahead with not an inkling that he had heard any of us. But of course, post-match he spent almost half an hour signing autographs. Fed knows what to do when and how.

Getting back to the story, then came Novak. I shouted out “Hey Djoker” He turned and beamed at me. If I were a celebrity, he would have become my fan for sure that evening.

Of course, I am dealing in extreme hyperbole here, but you get the drift. Novak wants to please, and the effort shows, and it tells in ways which he cannot comprehend either.

I loved John McEnroe, Goran Ivanisevic and Marat Safin, though I supported Borg, Edberg and Fed respectively when it came to head-to-head meetings.

In the ultimate analysis, the fans always like those who are natural, like that Serbian kid in the interview.

Murli Pillai

Fanatic Federer fan. Watch all his matches on TV if shown ( outside working hours ! ), and quite often drive down to Dubai from Muscat to watch him live. Apart from being an IT / Telecom sales professional, am a quiz-master, classic rock & blues fan, movie buff and a veteran tennis-ball cricketer. Love to research on Fed’s on-court & off-court doings – the Fedberg quiz an outcome of that.

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  1. Loved the headlines.. rules are rules. US Open has 3-4 unsportsmanlike incidents past years. The place seems to bring out the worse in players.

  2. I think this is an example of a case law case (ok, it’s not up to Murli’s puns, but anyway…).
    Were it not for a few recent cases of players unintentionally having hit someone with the ball with varying degrees of consequences and being *all* (if memory serves me right) defaulted for that, Djoko might, with some luck and a team of acquiescent officials, have got away with a game penalty, which in this case would have cost him the set.
    However, hitting someone on the Adam’s apple can cause very serious injury and the intention of the act would be secondary to that. Maybe the case law wouldn’t have helped him after all.
    We can only wonder what the whole scene would turn into with a packed precinct…

  3. Dear friend and classmate MKP,
    I am afraid I do not agree with your comments on Djoko. I am a Federer fan too.

    According to you, Djoko is genetically not a nice guy, but wants either portray himself as nice or perhaps trying to become one. What’s wrong with that? On the contrary, it’s the right kind of thinking. Why should he continue to be natural if his nature isn’t right.

    I understand the rules, as per rules he should be shown the door. However, only a few moments ago he was let off for “ball abuse”. Why do they apply the rules selectively.

    Think Murli. Perhaps he is being Penalized for starting a rebel ATP?

    1. Hey Murali my friend , I am saying that Novak is a nice guy but he wants to be the nicest, because he is under some pressure to match the popularity of Federer and Nadal. I think his family too is under the same pressure as they feel that he doesn’t get that much appreciation and crowd support like the other two.

      This additional pressure somehow makes him lose his composure many a time with ball abuse, racket abuse etc, This one was a disaster waiting to happen.

      I am not sure that the ‘rebel ATP’ factor came into play much because there are precedents like Tim Henman, David Nalbandian, John McEnroe etc. so Novak is not the first to be disqualified for unintentional but potentially dangerous actions.

      Nevertheless, a sad end to his US Open campaign.

      1. There’s a world of difference between:
        1) Trying to be nice, actually succeeding in that at times, and letting it be seen without showing it deliberately,
        2) Trying to be nice and playing the role of a nice guy, without actually having turned into one, or at least without letting anyone know who is behind the mask.

        For me the genuine Novak is the guy who tears shirts, bangs on the chest and roars with eyes popped out. He is who he is, not who he was trying to show with that cringe-worthy act of drawing a giant heart on the clay after his maiden RG title.
        Couldn’t he find something original to mark *his* (and his own) achievement rather than imitating what Kuerten had done years before?

        I really think he would like to be liked. Who doesn’t? It’s just his temper that impedes that. You don’t change temper like you change haircut and even less when you try too hard.

    2. Because he’s hurt that he won’t ever be loved and popular as Federer or Nadal, just because he came after them.
      I don’t like fake people, he shouldn’t mask himself behind politically correct manners just for a charade and then lose it completely on court.

  4. Thank you very much for your post Murli. Fully agree with it.
    Djoko is number 1º tennis player and the gesture of throwing the ball so inadvertently was most unfortunate. So glad the ATP rules are so clear. The one thing a champion -or any other leader- should to know is that nobody is above an institution. It’s that clear and simple. And kids learn that there are always consequences to their actions.

    1. Yeah, simple rule to enforce, no discussion. Henman got done back in the day. Bedene would have too last week but the camera guy was a G and said it didn’t get him.

      I would have done the same if I was a line judge. I’d have caught the ball Djoker hit obvs, but even if it hit me I’d tell the umpire it didn’t. Honour!

  5. “I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being. I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior.”
    Obviously, it’s a devastating departure for Djokovic and a massive loss for the Open. At the same time, the man who helped launched the new Professional Tennis Players Association union has spent recent weeks preaching about unity and leadership yet went mute and MIA today after creating controversy. If you’re going to talk the talk on leadership, you must walk the walk in tough times too.

    Well of course you are not going to disclose her name. Am I supposed to think more of you?

    We miss you Roger!

    1. Djoker is used as a bit of scapegoat by the press. I can understand why he skipped press. If he’d gone, people would say he should have skipped it 😆

      1. I feel sorry for Djoker. No question that he should have been defaulted, but if the ball had hit almost any other part of the body, it would probably have been nothing more than a light tap. The throat is a very sensitive area, though, and the poor woman looked terrified.

        Great point by Murali about Djoker wanting to be the nicest guy, when he would be much better off just being the (reasonably) nice guy that he is. OTOH, I think deep down he knows he will never be as popular as the other two, come what may, and it naturally bugs him to no end. He just has to come to terms with that, and that will actually help increase his popularity.

        Even as a Roger fan, I think it is quite clear to me that Djoker will go on to break almost all of Roger’s records, and end up at the top of the GS tally comfortably. Going by his interviews, Roger also seems to have accepted that to a large extent, and that is the best way to go about it.

  6. Completely agree, I can’t stand his need to be loved in everything he does, when he shouldn’t. I like him a lot better when he’s himself, even arrogant but at least genuine.
    Although I loved his imitations he did in the past. Don’t know if that was part of his act or he really felt it.

      1. I thought he was funny back in the day, but now, especially with his parents being assholes to the rest of the tour is getting old.

  7. I really think that all this hitting of balls into the crowd and smashing rackets has got to be stopped.
    Disqualify them whenever they do it irrespective of whether someone is hit/hurt or not.
    They will soon stop then.
    At present this stupid bahavior is bringing the game into disrepute.
    A horrible experience for the lines woman,shocking and painful.
    Also we should include threatening behaviour towards officials,threatening to ram balls down people’s throats etc.

    1. Annie, imagine golfers doing the same! We get used to certain behaviour but I agree it has to stop.

      Now the lines judge is getting death threats. Did you see the look she gave him?

    2. I’ve seen golfers throw clubs before.

      Hitting a ball in anger is very normal, especially in the men’s game as this is part of the male condition, violence and battle have been around since the dawn of time.

      I am pretty sure if Fed had gotten defaulted all the times he’s hit the ball into the stands, hoardings or net at pace, you would say it’s unfair 😆

      I think the rules works fine as is. If you hit an empty seat, no problem, code violation. If you hit someone, default.

  8. Djoko wants to be number one in all, tennis, popularity, records, whatever. He needs it, and it really annoys him that Roger and Rafa are som much more loved, and like a tennis match, he tries everything possible to obtain it. “But greatest of all is love”, and he plays tennis to win – love. And when this not working he tries to learn how by imitating popular behavior. – A little moved by Murli’s memory about his appreciation of being called upon during entrance pre match. He’s in great need poor man.

  9. Perfect title, love it! How great to hear you since long time, Murli.
    Nightmarish incident for both Djoker and the tournament but agree the rules has to be consistent with anybody at all time. Thank God, Fed hasn’t hit and injured any ball boys so far, even though in his case it’s playing with ball rather than abusing one. Mind you, he might’ve injured somebody outside the court and could’ve been disqualified when he was fined for smacking the ball, hah.
    Assaulting the line judge particularly by ND’s fan has been dreadful on social media…what a mess 2020 is.

    1. Yeah Wanda, 2020 is a real mess in many ways, and from a tennis perspective, more so and seems like Djoko has been in the thick of all the mess, Adria, PTPA and now US Open. I guess we need Fed back in action to get things back on track.

  10. “A nice guys who wants to be known as the nicest”.

    Wow. Well said. That’s some succinct insight there.

    I think that for all of us – that drive to be the “nicest” can sadly turn us all quite not-nice underneath.

    I hope Novak learns to accept not being the nicest. He’ll be freer – and without question, as a result – nicer.

    1. That’s because “trying” to be something never works. At best, one can turn into a mediocre actor.
      (Guys, this page is risking to get quoted in upcoming psychology theses…)

      1. Haha Rui, Who knows I may get a call to be Novak’s psycho trainer…psychological trainer I meant !!!

  11. Well,anyway,it has created a gap as it were and a new grand slam champion.
    Any predictions from you wise people and enthusiasts of the sport?
    I am going with Theim.Not terribly impressed with what I saw from Medledev,very lucky to win that 1st set tie break,I think.So it will probably be a five setter.
    But who knows-Perhaps this is Zrerevs time,but wasn’t that impressed with him either.

  12. The first semi-final wasn’t a good match. There was some decent tennis is set 5 but if Zverev wants to be a top player, he should fix that problem of spending the first one or two sets wandering casually on court and only signing in when things get critical. Pablo has a good no-nonsense game, hits a clean ball and almost got away with it but Zverev has a superior game. Too bad for him that he’s so irregular. If he doesn’t switch to a different mode, Thiem’s current sturdiness won’t give him a chance.

  13. Yes, my money is on Thiem. He’s put in the work. Zverev is looking more zen like? Too long to get his game going.
    As for the women, I’m pulling for Vika. She looks so fit and happy out there. But Naomi looking good too. As far as Serena goes, she always seems to be hitting off the back foot. No one dares say her movement would improve if she lost a few, but hey, she is the queen.

    1. It’s her body language that I find the most annoying. Loses point: “Oh, no! Look at this mess! I spilled the whole pan of boiling soup all over my pet and killed it again! This can’t be happening!”

      1. Ha, exactly. Looks like she is going to cry at any minute. I reread my USO Zoo story again. Ah….the memories….

    2. I think Naomi will be hard to defeat, but Vika looks lean and mean.
      This major is Thiem’s to lose now. What a BHDTL he possesses!
      Serena’s movement is very bad now. It never was very great to begin with. What bugs me is that none of her competitors were able to exploit that with any level of consistency throughout her career. She has always been a tremendous and clean hitter, but her shortcomings should have been capitalized on more successfully by her opponents throughout her career.

  14. Sorry,misspelt Thiem,earlier.Shocking.
    I think and hope that he will win tomorrow.He has been knocking at the door and his work ethic plus quiet
    charming personality would make him an excellent number one,going forward.
    I like Sascha too and he has a great game but does have a tendency to sort of go walkabout.
    So we will see.Hoping for a good match.

  15. It may be quite a battle today, I guess. My money is on both, quite happy with this final! I think it can go either way, and luck will decide.

  16. Hello all !
    My great niece’s first name, just born at the end of the lockdown time is NAOMI.

    My first name is the same as Thiem. It’s written somewhere : he MUST win tonight. Chum Jetze, Domi.

    And why not a video call with Roger on the Arthur Ashe court with Domi and Sasha at the end of the finals to celebrate the first Grand Slam of one of them ?


  17. See? Zverev read to my remarks and did the opposite of what had been doing: he went full throttle on the first two sets and switched to idle mode of the third.

  18. What a roller coaster!
    Well done to both.Dom deserves his first major and Saschas time will come.If only he hadn’t come into the net in the tiebreak……
    What was so nice was that there was no bad temper,no breaking of rackets,just full concentration on the game.It is possible to play at such a high level without behaving like a prima Donna.These two are the future of the sport thank goodness.

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