Is Djokovic’s Reputation as a Bad Loser Unfair?

The next time you have a free moment, head over to YouTube and type in ‘tennis tantrums’: you won’t be disappointed. Indeed, there’s more than just the expected John McEnroe montages. Tennis, after all, is a sport prone to outbursts in the heat of battle and nobody is exempt from losing their heads from time to time.

Despite this being the case, it seems as if Novak Djokovic has developed a reputation for being slightly more hot-headed than most. Is this stereotype an accurate depiction of the man who is currently the outright favourite, at 8/11, to be hailed the men’s singles winner in the US Open tennis betting odds? Or could it be argued that his prowess on the court makes people envious of his success, thus leading to an unfair barrage of critique?

Admittedly, the Serb can be quite prickly from time to time. Call it passion or dedication, we’ve seen it when he’s losing and then takes his frustration out on the shellshocked ball boys, and we’ve also seen it in the media when he bites back at questions he deems inappropriate. Let’s not forget that we’ve seen Djokovic smash his racket in Tokyo at the Olympics during a defeat by Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta in a bronze medal match.

It’s all very distasteful, sure, but is there a tennis player alive who hasn’t smashed a racket at some point? As the old saying goes, never meet your heroes or look up their indiscretions on YouTube. This begs the question, however, that if the odd tantrum really is so widespread across the roster of tennis legends, why is it that Djokovic, in particular, has gained such a reputation from his occasional outbursts?

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Well, perhaps age and experience may have something to do with this as tennis fans find fault in the fact that the Serb hasn’t necessarily matured as he’s gotten older. Basically, there’s a time and a place for tantrums, and continuing to act so petulantly in the esteemed settings of tennis tournaments could be considered a little unprofessional. Djokovic is, of course, 34 years old now. Actually, as of 2023, he’ll be able to boast an impressive feat in that he’ll have been on tour for two decades. So yes, you can understand why seasoned tennis fans perhaps expect more from the Serb in terms of on-court etiquette and general conduct.

There’s also a school of thought that suggests that Djokovic’s detractors grow increasingly bitter and critical as he carries on winning Grand Slams. After winning Wimbledon 2021, Djokovic drew level with Federer and Nadal on 20 Grand Slams each and is forecast to win at least 26 by the time his career comes to an end. Now, if he were to achieve this, then his tally would become unassailable and he would cement his legacy as the greatest tennis player of all time.

When you consider that there are millions upon millions of Nadal and Federer fans, and the fact that Djokovic looks set to surpass them both for Grand Slam wins, you can see why this narrative of the Serb being a bad sport is reiterated quite a lot. That’s not to say that Djokovic can’t be his own worst enemy at times, but perhaps he isn’t quite as bad as everyone thinks.

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About the Author: Tad Fisher

Prone to fits of apathy. Music specialist. Extreme food enthusiast. Amateur problem solver.

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