Roddick: Tennis Fans See Djokovic As “The Guy That Wants To Shoot Bambi”

Novak Djokovic didn’t mean to hit a line judge at the U.S. Open, but his lack of accountability in that moment could stick with him for quite some time

Reiter Than You
September 09, 2020 - 4:46 pm
Novak Djokovic

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Novak Djokovic defaulted from his fourth-round match at the U.S. Open on Sunday, this after striking a ball in anger and hitting a line judge in the neck.

It was not a good look for Djokovic. Nor was his lack of accountability in the moment.

“Listen, it’s pretty clear: if you fire a ball and it’s in anger, [anything can happen],” former top-ranked tennis player Andy Roddick said on Reiter Than You. “He fired a ball, he got a serve broken – he was obviously upset. He had already fired a ball into kind of the side fence earlier in the match, and it’s super unlucky. If you fire a ball and it glances off her shoe, I don’t know that he gets defaulted. It hit her in the throat, and she’s down like a sack of bricks. Super unlucky, but he put himself in a position where he was inviting bad luck into the equation by doing that. There’s no walking out of it. Everyone who kind of knows tennis a little bit [knows] it’s over, it’s done. They had a conversation that was probably 20 minutes longer than it needed to be.”

Djokovic immediately checked on the line judge to make sure she okay. It seemed, however, that he fully expected the match to continue.

“If I’m Novak in that situation, as soon as the referee walks out, I go, ‘Is there anything I can say or do to affect this in any way?’” Roddick said. “They most likely would have said no. If I’m him, he should have been on the microphone where people could hear him going, ‘It’s my fault, it’s my responsibility, I’m very sorry, and I understand your ruling,’ and just walked off. I think that would have maybe done more for him than the histrionics and referencing that ‘This hit isn’t going to make her go to the hospital’ and ‘Are you really going to make this ruling with my career and the Slam hunt and all this?’ I thought that might have been a bad look.”

Djokovic, 33, has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles and is one of the greatest players of all time. Bill Reiter wonders if this PR debacle could impact Djokovic’s play on the court, but Roddick doesn’t think so.

“The last six months for him has been a PR debacle,” he said. “He came out and played unbelievable in Cincy. I would have taken him against the field without even thinking twice at the U.S. Open. At this stage in his career, because everyone has been so in love with Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer] for such a long time, he’s kind of been the villain. He’s the guy that wants to shoot Bambi in a lot of tennis fans’ eyes.”

As Roddick reiterated, Djokovic did not mean to hit the line judge, but his lack of accountability in that moment could stay with him for quite some time.

“This was an accident. It wasn’t full of intent,” Roddick said. “The parts about it that bother me are the 20-minute conversation afterwards, the kind of not seeming overly concerned about the lady’s throat or whatever – and then skipping press afterwards – that rubbed me probably the wrong way more than the actual action. I think it was just bad luck for the action and obviously you invite that in, but there was zero intent. He obviously wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. I got angrier eight times more per match than he did in that moment, so I’m not judging him on the actual action. But in the fallout, I just think you have to take accountability.”