World No.1 Novak Djokovic has been “massacred” by the media, probably because of his Balkan heritage, coach Goran Ivanisevic has claimed in an explosive interview.
Djokovic last month won his ninth Australian Open and 18th Grand Slam title in typically dramatic fashion. He was slammed over a list of requests amid player quarantine lockdowns and the legitimacy of a mid-tournament abdominal injury was questioned; occurrences that he branded unfair and hurtful.
Ivanisevic, the former Wimbledon champion, said that Djokovic had carried a target on his back since last year’s Adria Tour; a tennis event hosted by the Serbian superstar that blatantly flaunted biosecurity norms amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He suggested that the criticism of Djokovic may be racist.
“Everything started with the Adria Tour; they were after him even before that, but in the last year it seemed to me as if I am watching that film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Why is he being treated that way? Probably because of his background, people from Balkans are always looked at differently; also, Novak is not afraid to speak his mind and to fight for causes he believes in,” Ivanisevic told Tennis Majors.
“What happened at the US Open (where Djokovic was disqualified for hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball), it was as if everyone was glad because that kind of s–t happened to him. In Australia he stood up for his fellow players and again – let’s kick Djokovic because he is the only one to speak up, everyone else stays silent. Throughout my career I have witnessed players doing all sorts of things, but nobody got the kind of treatment Novak does.
“Then, the cherry on top … How shall I put this? The most perfidious, actually the saddest thing were accusations that he was faking an injury. Why on earth would he do that? Why would the best player in the world make up an injury, and he was up two sets to love at that point?! When some other top player is injured, it is considered a heroic act for them to even step on the court. But when it is Novak, he is faking it.”
Ivanisevic branded Djokovic’s Australian Open win “amazing” and declared: “Novak is just stronger than everybody else and people have a hard time admitting that.”
Djokovic has just equalled Roger Federer’s record of 310 weeks as men’s world No.1. He trails Federer and Rafael Nadal (20 Grand Slam titles) by two in the career majors race.
Ivanisevic said that Djokovic breaking the No.1 weeks record was significant in the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ debate over the trio. He is counting on Nadal to win at least one more French Open, meaning that Djokovic must win at least 22 majors to end his career as the outright record holder.
“Everything is important between the three of them. I mean – 311 weeks and more, it is fascinating,” Ivanisevic said told Tennis Majors.
“Novak has won everything that he could have won and the end of his career is not yet in sight. The GOAT debate comes down to taste and preferences, but if you have the numbers on your side, it is hard to deny some things … For me, Novak is the best and most complete player ever, for someone else it is Nadal or Federer. It will be an interesting topic to discuss when their careers are over.”
Djokovic would need to win 25 singles Slams to overtake the current overall record holder (male or female), Australia’s Margaret Court.
At age 33, he is younger than both Nadal (34) and Federer (39). He has also sustained less damage to his body and would start favourite over both men at every Grand Slam, with the exception of Nadal at Roland Garros.
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