AMBASSADOR: Djokovic played for his fellow Serbs

Last Sunday morning I bagged trying to come up with something to write about for this column and decided to watch the men’s Australian Open tennis final instead.

As it turned out, my viewing was more than just a bit of light entertainment because by the time Novak Djokovic had captured the trophy a few hours later, I was trying to sort out how much of what I’d just witnessed could be worked into this blurb.

My first thought was to talk about the need to be different and the need to conform.  You see, soon after the final point Djokovic took off his shirt and shoes and threw them into the crowd along with his racquet, towels and sweatbands and expressed his individual identity by celebrating on court in just his socks and shorts. A few minutes later, however, when he received the silver trophy, he gave it a big old kiss for the cameras just like every other champion has done for the past 20 years.

I also thought I might question the wisdom of patting yourself on the back too much, especially in public.  I’m not referring to anything the players did here, they were very gracious, I’m referring to the comments one of the tournament sponsors made during the trophy presentation.  He kept referring to the Australian Open as the greatest of the grand slam competitions, and it really irritated me the same way the US Open officials and sponsors do year after year when they use their microphone time to claim that New York based event is the greatest tennis grand slam. For me, all that self promotion comes across as evidence of an inferiority complex.

The fact that the French Open and Wimbledon organisers don’t waste any time promoting themselves strikes me as evidence that the French and the British are each already convinced their respective tournaments are the best.  Hey, here’s a thought that might come in handy: maybe the intended advertising message is not always the one that is received.

Then there is the importance of finding a positive motivation.  Now I can’t say this for sure, but it certainly seemed runner-up Andy Murray was weighed down by public pressure to break Britain’s 75 year run without a grand slam champion.  Sure he wanted to win, but he really, really, really didn’t want to lose and I think that prevented him from putting in his best performance.  If you’re not a tennis fan but do follow the football, you might be able to relate this condition to Arsenal’s recent below-par efforts against Leeds, Ipswich and Huddersfield in their quest to break a six year trophy drought. If you’re not a tennis or football fan… well, it probably doesn’t matter too much since you’re probably not here anymore.

Anyway, Djokovic appears to have put his fear of losing to bed and he claims he is now playing for all the people back home so that Serbia can be seen in the best light possible after years of bad publicity related to ethnic and religious conflict.  That means winning isn’t the most important thing any more for him, the important thing is to always give his best effort and to come across as a decent person; and that’s really handy as the first one we don’t have total control over whereas the other two we do.