Okay, so Novak Djokovic is a big, dumb kid. He doesn't know how to hide his feelings, be they joyful, angry or petulant. He's probably a bit of a mama's boy, too precious and indulged growing up, maybe because he was a sports prodigy or maybe because of the dangerous world that spawned him, a world I admit I can never really understand. So while that last part is just speculation based on his all-too-frequent pouting and whining, the rest is obvious. Djokovic is prepared to play great tennis. He's just not quite prepared to deal with everything that comes with it.
Why is that so hard to imagine at 21?
A great tennis player has to be much more than just that in this day and age. He's got to be a good marketer, a good public speaker, a good role model and a good mixer. In his public persona he's got to be middle-of-the-road, not too much of this or too much of that, for fear of possibly offending someone and losing lucrative endorsements. He needs to learn to be guarded in how he responds in press conferences and interviews. Being candid is rarely rewarded. It's better to be an automoton, parroting the same responses over and over, than letting your real feelings show, in the event you have any (feelings, that is).
Now Andy Roddick is a very funny guy. He likes to indulge his dry sense of humor, sometimes at the expense of the other players or the reporters, but usually at his own. What he said about Djokovic having "bird flu, SARS and the common cold" was delivered with his typical deadpan, and it was hilarious. And it was pretty much right on. A strapping young man running around the tennis court continually groaning and gulping for air is a ridiculous sight.
Just like a 26-year-old breaking his free rackets during every match because he can't get his overrated trademark forehand to land inside the lines is ridiculous.
(I won't even get into the ridiculous tennis rules that allow for continually calling for the trainer. I'll save that for another entry.)
What does Roddock risk by dogging Djokovic? Andy's already had the ultimate humiliation of believing his own marketing bullshit and 'losing his mojo' in front of the entire world, so he has nothing left to lose.
Oh, yeah. Except another match at the US Open.
Why should Roddick be concerned that his comments might actually galvanize the Serbian's game? Andy knows trash talk can be very macho, and he's the ultimate macho dude. He serves big. He hits a big forehand. He wears a baseball cap and clothes that are too big. For an American tennis player, he's a big star. Remember, he was on Saturday Night Live once! When he was Djokovic's age he was dating pop stars and preparing to take over the world. And he still indulges his big star lifestyle at every opportunity, picking up chicks while touting his supermodel 'fiance.'
Andy Roddick is America's perfect example of Too Much, Too Soon given to somebody barely deserving. And he knows it. Just like he knows he blew his chances in his quarterfinal match with Djokovic, even if he won't admit it. He blew it both during the match when he choked on his own chances, and before the match when he pissed off the Serbian. Here's Roddick, a guy who's spent his whole life doing nothing much of any meaning other than serving a tennis ball at plus-125mph. And when he has a chance to level the match against Djokovic, he double faults twice. And all he can say after is he was "going for it," not that he blew it.
At least our petulant young friend Nole was honest. His little feelings were hurt.
So he kicked Roddick's ass.
We would have loved Djokovic more if he had shut up afterward, which is something he'll undoubtedly learn in the next five years when he's racking up the Grand Slam titles that Andy Roddick never did.