Tennis Elbow: Talking to Novak

December 24, 2012 · Print This Article

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon takes a minute to talk to his favourite player.

Let me talk to you, Novak.

How are you? I bet the time off from the grind of the season must be great. You post on your Facebook page that you’ve traveled to Rio de Janeiro, or to the Necker Island, or to London, and I think to myself that this must be tiring.

But then again, being tired from traveling abroad is probably what they call a good problem, right?

Let me talk to you, Novak, and explain to you who I am.

I’m a columnist for Tennis Connected but today, I write as just a fan. I’ve been a fan of yours for the longest time, honestly. I remember watching you play when you first turned pro–the year must have been 2005 or around that time, and I want to say that the tournament was Key Biscane or Indian Wells. You wore a hat, and already had the pre-serve routine that you’ve become infamous for. I remember Hélène Pelletier, analyst at the French-speaking RDS, explaining that you had all the shots to break through emphatically to the top, or near the top, of the ATP World Tour rankings.

You won that first match–maybe. I can’t remember, and it truly doesn’t matter. At the time, you were an alternative to other players. King Roger was at the height of his power, or just about, and Rafael Nadal had stopped trying to fool us into thinking that he was nothing more than an amazing clay-court player.

I think I became a fan of yours in part because no one really was, and that’s what I’ve always been–I was one of the few non-Australians to cheer for Patrick Rafter over Pete Sampras at the 2000 Wimbledon final. Everyone cheers for Sampras, or Nadal, or Federer–so where’s the fun in cheering for them?

It made sense to cheer for you, but it wasn’t always easy. Tennis is still only so popular here in Canada, but it was worse five or 10 years ago when only a few tournaments were televised each year. Because it took you a few extra years to finally make a name for yourself, I didn’t see you play many matches.

Let me talk to you, Novak, and let me tell you about 2008. That’s when my fandom was rewarded because you took home a first major title, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open final. Was it just a fluke, a win over a fellow unknown player? Regardless, I was thrilled–but the successes didn’t follow. Though you were entrenched at No. 3 in the rankings, it never seemed like you threatened Nadal and Federer above you.

That is, until the end of the 2010 season. It turns out that in order for you to start winning the most important matches, you needed to first win the ones that don’t matter. Leading your Serbian squad to the 2010 Davis Cup title convinced you that you could beat anyone on Tour.

For the 2011 season, that’s just about what you did. Soon, you had won 41 matches in a row to start the year and only a vintage effort from Federer could overcome you in the semifinal of the French Open. You finished that year with a 70-6 record and 10 titles, including three Grand Slams. I had never witnessed such dominance, sealed by a 10-1 record against Nadal and Federer.

As an encore in 2012, you could only lose because there was no way that you could top the 2011 season. Still, you came this close of getting multiple major titles, and you ended the season as the alpha male after having entered it as such.

I’ve had more fun following tennis in the past two seasons than I have at any other point, and it’s in large part because of you.

Let me talk to you, Novak, and explain to you what it was like to watch you win the 2012 Australian Open. Watching you battle Nadal for five hours and 53 minutes remains my single favourite memory related to tennis. I wrote about the match extensively here and here, but let me recap because I’m not sure you have read it yourself.

I came home around 3:30 a.m. that night, just in time to watch the match. I thought this final had the potential to be a classic, and it delivered just that. Soon enough it was 7:30 a.m., and you were still playing. It was inspiring, tiring, and beautiful all at once to watch you two hit tennis balls long after this would have stopped making sense for us mere mortals. When Nadal forced a fifth set, I realized that I wouldn’t sleep, and I was thrilled. At the time I wrote that, “Never has not sleeping felt so energizing.”

But you already know that, I bet. I can’t be the first one to tell you all of this, so enough talk about tennis. Novak, man, how are you? That’s how I first started–I bet you’re good, because you sure seem to be enjoying your life.

Let me talk to you, Novak, and let me tell you why I’m such a big fan. It could be for what you do on the tennis courts, and it definitely plays a role. It might be because you’ve gone for the timeless Sergio Tacchini and the up-and-comer UNIQLO rather than the established Nike or Adidas. I admire how fearless you are–you embrace and see every challenge as another opportunity to succeed. I’m still working at that.

Let me talk to you, Novak, even if you don’t know me. We’ve never met, but I feel like you’ve let at least one side of your personality shine. There’s more to you than your tennis skills, and that’s why I’m a big fan.

Pundits say that you don’t have the seemingly eternal class (i.e. whatever that means) of King Roger, the fire and drive of Rafa (i.e. ditto) like this is a bad thing. That’s looking at it all wrong. You’re just you. You enjoy the moment, enjoy the spotlight, and enjoy life.

Let me talk to you, Novak. On behalf of your entire fan base, I’ll say that I appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions on video via UStream. I’ll also say this–hold on tight to Jelena Ristic, but you already know that because you’re that dude. You two are great together, and you have done well for yourself in the same way that she has for herself. I tend to prefer brunettes, but I can’t say anything against her. I’m sure you’d say that she’s your driving force and that she keeps you calm and stable, because that’s the sign of a smart man–and you’re a smart man.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll write this column again for 2013. And maybe, just like it happened this season, I will receive a media pass for the 2013 Rogers Cup in Montreal. And if you make it to Montreal for the tournament, then let me talk to you.

Let me talk to you, Novak.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG

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2 Responses to “Tennis Elbow: Talking to Novak”

  1. Tennis Elbow: Talking to Novak : Tennis Connected on April 1st, 2013 9:16 am

    [...] I wrote in December that, “You’re just you. You enjoy the moment, enjoy the spotlight, and enjoy life.” There’s bound to be some facets of your personality that you don’t quite show in public, but it doesn’t feel like it, and you don’t feel guarded. You’re genuine, charistmatic, funny, and that’s a lot like me. [...]

  2. Tennis Elbow: Novak Djokovic is putting a ring on it : Tennis Connected on September 30th, 2013 11:44 am

    [...] above anyone else understand this. I’m not stupid enough to think that you listened to me, but here’s what I said when I first wrote to you last year. “Hold on tight to Jelena Ristic, but you already know that because you’re that dude. You two [...]

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