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The passion has only weakened a bit in the past 10 years, when the power balance of the tennis sport has been tilted towards Djokovic. Before Djokovic was crowned at the Rod Laver Arena on January 30, 2011, he had only one Grand Slam. Federer then had 16 Grand Slams while Nadal had online 9. After the victory over Thiem, the gap was narrowed with Federer 20, Nadal 19, and Djokovic 17.
Djokovic’s success is good for the competition and development of men’s tennis, but after all, people don’t want that to happen. The day Djokovic was still firmly in third place, as the spoiler Federer and Nadal, he was praised and encouraged after each failure.
In the period of 2011 – early 2012, he continuously defeated Nadal on every surface, everything was fine. “Djokovic will prevent Nadal from catching up with Federer,” many people thought. When Djokovic was close to the 2015 Roland Garros title but lost to Stan Wawrinka in the final, the audience gave him a long round of applause that touched him to the point of tears.
But when Djokovic was Federer’s biggest obstacle on the journey to increase the number of Grand Slams, and sticking to “Express Train”, fans began to feel uncomfortable. The more major titles he won, the more lonely Nole became on the field.
But why is only Djokovic hated when he defeated Federer, while the first major opponent of Swiss tennis player Rafael Nadal? It was Nadal who struck Federer’s Grand Slam record for most of his career. But the Spaniard was welcomed even when he won on Federer’s forte. Nobody forgot the tears of Nadal and Federer at the Wimbledon final in 2008. A classic and romantic coronation, something Djokovic did not get even though he won many great titles.
Alex Pattle explains that Nadal is feared by his passion on the field and his philosophy of counter-attacking Federer. These factors make the “Express Train” fans more likely to accept defeat than when their idol loses to Djokovic, whose style is similar to Federer’s but more cruel and less flowery.
Another tennis journalist, Alex Palmer said that the cause lies in two factors. One is that Djokovic emerged after Federer and Nadal, who are from two opposing schools, owning a typical play and not as vague as Djokovic. The other is the behavior on the field.
The success of Novak Djokovic is necessary for the competition of tennis, but many people do not want that to happen.
A tennis fan said so to Independent journalist Alex Pattle, after Djokovic beat Federer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open 2020 last week. Another, after admitting Djokovic as his favorite player, said he believed Federer would still be the greatest player of all time, and wanted that reflected in the number of Grand Slams at the end of his career. Not just them, the majority of tennis fans in the world want that to happen.
Boris Becker, the former world number one who once led Djokovic, revealed that “Nole” was always disappointed that he was left in the race to win the hearts of fans, compared to Federer and Nadal. Before the 2019 Wimbledon final against Federer, Djokovic even felt insecure outside the field – something different from his stubbornness and resilience inside the pitch
When Djokovic won his fifth championship at the All England Club, after saving two match-points and beating Federer in Wimbledon’s first super tie-break series, disappointment spread across most tennis clubs, sports bars or Family living rooms around the world.
They don’t care about the fact that Djokovic is the all-round tennis player and the best tennis player in the past decade. For many fans, if not Federer or Nadal, that person is not to be applauded.
Even in the Australian Open, where Djokovic is the most beloved of the four Grand Slams, the admiration for him is not as great as the fear that he will surpass Federer’s 20 Grand Slams. Possessing a record seven-time championship, but when confronted with Federer in the semi-finals, Djokovic was still under great pressure when the audience mostly cheered for “Express Train”.
Federer is the most favorite tennis player of all time, that is the truth. Suggesting to the crowd that Djokovic deserves the same popularity, after all his efforts, is futile. Federer is considered the ambassador of this sport, with the standard of elegance and beautiful style as in textbooks.