Novak Djokovic must play by the rules of tennis to win the Grand Slam
Men’s tennis had its second big event in 2022, and its biggest player was at home, probably without a mask and definitely without a shot.
Novak Djokovic was not going to play at the Dallas Open even though he wore five masks and had been triple vaccinated.
This event is DFW’s first major tennis tournament since 1989, and a player of Djokovic’s caliber always skips this level of the ATP tournament because he can.
He is the biggest star in tennis and the biggest problem in tennis.
If you run a sport, not playing your best players is a problem.
For the sake of tennis, its organizers and Djokovic need to understand this, which means this guy needs to accept that even though he might be the best tennis player in the history of the sport, the rules still apply to him too.
He will soon learn, if he hasn’t already, that Novak Djokovic needs professional tennis more than professional tennis needs Novak Djokovic.
It’s not about whether the rules are correct, make sense, or need to be updated; it’s a different rant. This is a rulebook that he chooses to bend or be above, because he is Novak Djokovic.
At this point in his life, 999 times out of 1000 the rules no longer apply to him because he is Novak Djokovic. He found one that does.
“For me, personally, Djokovic is untouchable,” Austrian Jurij Rodionov told me on Sunday morning after beating former SMU star Jason Krall in their qualifying match.
“Djokovic is the No. 1 player in the world.”
He is. For now. But there was a No. 1 before Novak Djokovic, and there will be a No. 1 without him.
His reluctance to play by the rules cost him his chance to win all four Grand Slams in 2022 and will likely keep him behind Rafael Nadal for most major championships for another year. At least.
Djokovic missed the 2022 Australian Open last month after a long battle with the Australian government over his COVID vaccination status.
Djokovic said last year he was “opposed to vaccination”.
It’s a problem in Australia, which essentially kicked him out of the country ahead of the tournament because of his stance on this polarizing issue.
This is a problem in some parts of Europe, such as Paris and London. And in Queens, New York. And with the ATP Tour, where at least in Dallas, the mask mandate for its employees was in effect while customers weren’t wearing them while watching the games.
“It all depends on the player. For some, this is a big deal; for some it’s not,” Rodionov said when asked if this issue was a topic of conversation among players.
Then Rodionov dropped this in this mood-ruining gem:
“I don’t think it will go back to normal,” he said. “It will always be a subject. Vaccination. Fourth reminder. Sixth reminder. Are you tested? I think this will continue for a while (of time). But maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong.
“I remember being in Austria in July 2020, and the president (of Austria) telling people that after three or four months the virus would die and we would go back to our lives.”
Hmm…that sounds vaguely familiar.
The next major tennis tournament is the French Open in May. According to the laws, Djokovic may not have to “take the hit” and be eligible to play.
We are still more than three months away from this tournament, which will begin on May 22; that’s more than enough time for event organizers and lawmakers to change protocols, rules and regulations around COVID no less than 42,341 times.
It would be nice to see the best player at Roland-Garros playing in a field against Nadal, Matteo Berrettini and the others.
What Djokovic will soon learn, if he hasn’t already, is the same lesson as Tiger Woods, Naomi Osaka, etc. will eventually accept: these tournaments that made them rich and famous existed long before their arrival and will continue long after their departure. .
Tennis is better with Novak Djokovic, but he doesn’t need him.
The rules will either have to change for him to return to Grand Slams or Djokovic will have to play with them as he has finally found one that he is not above.
This story was originally published February 6, 2022 4:54 p.m.