Novak Djokovic: “I’m Not A Robot, And I Will Keep Expressing My Views” - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic: “I’m Not A Robot, And I Will Keep Expressing My Views”

The world N.1 is in Belgrade to play in the opening weekend of the Adria Tour exhibition series, and was interviewed for a local podcast to discuss some of the accusations that have been made to him over the last few weeks.

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Novak Djokovic is back in his hometown and training for his debut in the Adria Tour, which will start in the Serbian capital on Saturday before journeying all over the Balkans. The Australian Open champion took some time off to join a podcast, “Wish & Go”, owned by Sportklub, a Serbian website. He spoke for almost an hour and covered several subjects, particularly the controversy surrounding his lockdown comments on social media about vaccines and more. 

 

Firstly, Nole highlighted his awareness of the status he enjoys:

“I am in a very privileged position, because my success in a global sport allows my thoughts to travel long distances – I have a powerful megaphone. Not many athletes are in this position.” Then, he was asked if he had any explanations for his “non-conventional” stance on a few themes, to which he replied: “It’s very common in society. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to deal with all kinds of controversial subjects. People always refer to the responsibility I have, and to the fact that every bit of information I share has a resounding impact in terms of how far it reaches and of how many people are exposed to it. I’m not saying I’m blameless in this regard. Sometimes I say some things and when I think about them afterwards I realise that I shouldn’t have phrased them as I did. I’m human, and I have no problems to admit when I’m wrong. However, I’m not a robot, and I can’t spend my life in a bubble or a shell, that’s just not who I am. I don’t feel superior to other people, and I don’t criticise those who refrain from speaking up on social issues, but I’m a person who wants to highlight certain things, because I exert an influence on society and I want to be able to share things that through my experience might be useful to some people. Now, the way people react to it and appropriate that information isn’t something I can influence very much. Some groups of people, you might call them the elites, you might call them the establishment, they want some things to stay a certain way, and they want everybody to be silent and just listen to what they say. Put simply, this is something I deem unfair and undemocratic. If I think that something is fair and in accordance with God’s commandments and with the values and principles of life, then I must support it. I support the struggle for equality, respect, fair play, decency… these are the values I support and that I’m in harmony with.”    

One of the accusations made to Djokovic is that he’s been giving his opinion on matters he’s not an expert on. This is his reply:

“I don’t think someone should be prevented from expressing his opinion on something just because he isn’t an expert about it. I think this is clear from what I’ve been saying for the last 15 years. I’ll make an example to show how I apply this concept to myself: people come to me and tell me stuff about tennis, and I have used what they told me even if their tennis proficiency was inferior to mine. It’s the truth, I listen to U14 and U16 coaches, and I search for different opinions on the Internet, in person or through friends, because I believe that if you’re open-minded, then you can always learn something. You should always ask yourself, ‘Could I apply any of this to my game?’, instead of having an attitude of superiority such as, ‘who are you to talk to me about tennis?’ I could have a similar attitude, I know many people who do, not just in tennis, but in life in general, but in that way you prevent your own growth and you might miss some signals that God sent you from above through the person who’s in front of you, a person that might not have the same level of competence as you, but who is sharing some of his or her observations with you. When you look at it from this perspective, then it becomes interesting when someone talks about something, as long as he or she does it respectfully. If this is missing, then it’s not right.”

Djokovic also debunked the myth according to which he didn’t eat anything before last year’s final at Wimbledon:

“It’s not like I didn’t eat. This a very interesting point to clarify. I’d been discussing autophagy [Editor’s Note: a physiological phenomenon in which the body renews itself by cleaning out damaged cells] and fasting. When people think about fasting, they think that it means to eat nothing, but that’s not true, it just means to have extended time-lapses between meals. When you eat, you ingest liquids and nutrients that don’t burden your digestive system and that don’t deprive you of the energy you need for training and physical activity. I’m not used to eating much before matches. I don’t have four eggs with bacon for breakfast like I know some athletes do. Since the Wimbledon final was scheduled for 2pm, I only had liquids and light foods, such as boiled veggies with no condiments. To muster my strength, I had fruit and oatmeal, I believe. Sure, I drink a lot of fluids, I hydrate with vitamin supplements and sports drinks which provide me the necessary energy amount. This is true for me, though. I know many athletes who like to eat and feel full, but tennis is different from any other sport in terms of physical requirements and needs – that final lasted for four and a half to five hours. During matches, I mostly eat dates, and sometimes a small banana. I drink water and energy drinks. I strongly believe in the mental aspect of the game and in managing emotions. When you’re afraid, your stomach cramps and you can’t eat anything. Excitement, fear, nerves, motivations, and everything you feel going into a Wimbledon final, they make your stomach cramp. You just don’t think about eating. You are all in, and you know that you’ll have the energy because everything you have done up to that point will allow you to be at your best.”

Another thorny subject was then discussed, e.g. whether Nole is bothered by what some commentators say about him, and he was also asked how keenly he follows the game when he’s not playing:

“Honestly, in recent years I’ve been listening very rarely to what commentators say. There’s a few I like to listen to though: “Viska” (Editor’s note: the nickname of Nebojsa Viskovic, one of the podcast’s two interviewers, also known as one of the leading Serbian commentators), Lleyton Hewitt, who does a great job at the Australian Open, John McEnroe, and Boris Becker. There are also some I don’t really like, because they manage to make me nervous, so I turn down the volume when they’re on. During Grand Slam tournaments I mainly follow the evening matches. During the morning I stay with the kids, so I can’t do it. Generally, I watch the matches of my great rivals, Federer and Nadal, I never miss those. We follow each other, it’s normal and logical. I watch replicas on YouTube, so that I can skip some parts and watch just those I’m interested in: key moments and tipping points in the score, just to see how a certain player did under pressure.”

Djokovic came back later to the subject of commentators [Editor’s Note: the question also made reference to a survey among the readers of the site that produced discordant views about Viska’s bias towards Nole, with users saying that his comments are either too much or too little in favour of Serbia’s best] when he recounted an anecdote about something that happened to him just a few days ago:

“I was taking a walk with my wife and kids along the Sava [Belgrade’s river]. We were in a playground, and, at some point, the parents of the other kids arrived and immediately a small mob formed, when a man came to me and said, ‘do you know that I’m the only person in Serbia who supports Federer and not you?’, to which I answered, ‘I didn’t. I thought there were more, but if you really are the only one, then you’re a superhero. How can I turn you to my side?’ Then we talked a little bit and he asked if I was mad at him for that. I told him that it was one of his prerogatives to cheer for someone else. He asked me what kind of person Federer was and we kept joking around. When he left, he told me that he was happy to have spoken to me, but he was a Federer fan because of his volleys. Everybody has his favourite player or commentator. The voice, the way you speak, somebody might find it irritating, somebody else reassuring. Personally, I can’t say to anyone: ‘You must cheer for me.’ Logically, we come from the same country, so I expect you to sympathise with Serbian players, but at the same time, why should this be an obligation? You’re not obliged to do it. If you’re a commentator and you prefer Federer or somebody else, then talk the way you want. I like it when broadcasters express their personality while they’re commentating on matches, and I like it when they are authentic and take responsibility for it while remaining impartial and respectful, without crossing the limit of decency like some do.” There is a final caveat though: “In Davis Cup ties, everything is allowed.”

Translated by Tommaso Villa and Marco Tidu

 

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Nick Kyrgios Slams Thiem Over Defence Of Controversy-Stricken Adria Tour

The world No.40 has accused the Austrian of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to understand his view.

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Australian star Nick Kyrgios has continued his public criticism of the Adria Tour by taking aim at two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

 

The 25-year-old has repeatedly hit out at the exhibition event, which Thiem participated in. Organised by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, the event took place in Belgrade and Zadar before it was scrapped following an outbreak of COVID-19 among both players and coaching staff. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric all got infected. The outbreak came after the Adria Tour was criticised for a lack of social distancing and players attended various public events together. Although at the time, all of their actions were done in accordance with local regulations. Something the Serbian Prime Minister now admits was a mistake.

However, Thiem has called out Kyrgios over his vocal criticism of fellow Adria Tour competitor Alexander Zverev. The German attended a party in southern France less than a week after the COVID-19 outbreak despite issuing a statement saying he would go into self-isolation.

“It was his mistake, but I don’t why a lot of people want to interfere. Kyrgios has done a lot of mistakes. It would be better for him to come clear instead of criticising others,” Thiem told Tiroler Tageszeitung.

Continuing to defend the actions of his fellow players, Thiem also jumped to the defence of Djokovic. Who has been under heavy criticism over the event with some going as far as questioning his position as president of the ATP Players Council.

“He didn’t commit a crime. We all make mistakes, but I don’t understand all the criticism. I’ve been to Nice and also saw pictures from other cities. It’s no different from Belgrade during the tournament. It’s too cheap to shoot at Djokovic.”

The comments have now been blasted by Kyrgios, who stands by his previous criticism of players. Accusing Thiem of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to see his point of view.

“What are you talking about @ThiemDomi? Mistakes like smashing rackets? Swearing? Tanking a few matches here or there? Which everyone does?” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
“None of you have the intellectual level to even understand where I’m coming from. I’m trying to hold them accountable.”
“People losing lives, loved ones and friends, and then Thiem standing up for the ‘mistake,'” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide and some players have voiced concerns over travelling to America which has recently seen a rise in cases. On Wednesday Alexi Popyrin became the first player to say he won’t play the US Open due to health concerns.

The ATP Tour is set to resume next month but it is unclear as to what events Thiem and Kyrgios will be playing in.

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Roger Federer Eyeing Olympic Glory At The Age Of 39 In 2021

The Swiss tennis star isn’t ready to step away from the sport just yet.

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20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer has vowed to play at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo after undergoing two surgeries on his knee.

 

The former world No.1 hasn’t played a competitive match since his semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January. Since then he had twice undergone arthroscopic surgeries which is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to diagnose and treat problems with the joints. Federer announced shortly after having the procedure done for a second time that he will not be returning to the Tour again this year.

Despite the setbacks, the 38-year-old has vowed to return to action at the start of 2021 with Olympic glory one of his main targets. He is already a two-time Olympic medallist after winning gold in the men’s doubles back in 2008 followed by silver in the singles draw at the 2012 London Games.

“My goal is to play Tokyo 2021. It’s a wonderful city. I met my wife in my first Olympics in 2000. It’s a special event for me,” Federer said on Monday during the launch of ‘The Roger’ shoe with Swiss brand ON.
“I had two surgeries and I can’t hit at the moment, but I’m very confident I will be totally ready for 2021.
“I do miss playing in front of the fans, no doubt. Now, I think if tennis comes back we know it won’t be in a normal way where we can have full crowds yet.”

Federer will be 39 when he returns to action, but is yet to speculate as to when he may close the curtain on his record-breaking career. He is currently the second oldest man in the top 200 on the ATP Tour after Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic, who is 41.

Besides the Olympics, the Swiss Maestro is also setting his eye on Wimbledon where he has claimed the men’s title a record eight times. However, he hasn’t won a major title since the 2018 Australian Open. The Grass-court major has been cancelled this year for the first time since 1945 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Of course I miss Wimbledon, of course I would like to be there currently playing on Centre Court for a place in the second week,” he said.
“Clearly, one of my big goals, and that’s why I do recovery work every day and work so hard, and why I’m preparing for a 20-week physical preparation block this year, is because I hope to play at Wimbledon next year.”

Even though he is not playing for the rest of the year, Federer incredibly still has a chance of qualifying for the ATP Finals due to recent changes in the rankings calculations. Due to the pandemic, players are now allowed to use their best results at 18 tournaments based on a 22-month period instead of 12 months. Something that could enable him to remain inside the top eight until the end of 2020 depending on how his rivals fair.

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ATP Announces 22-Month Ranking System To Support Players Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Parts of the changes have been done to help support those who prefer not to or can not travel to tournaments due to safety concerns.

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The ATP Tour has revised their calculations for this year’s ranking system with the governing body admitting that the new changes could also be applied in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Players on the men’s Tour have been given a wider period where they can select their best tournaments to determine their ranking. Prior to the suspension of competitive tennis, male players were allowed to select their 18 best performances in tournaments within a 52-week period. This has now been expanded to 22 months (March 2019-December 2020). Although they are not allowed to use the same tournament twice.

In a press release the ATP says their new measures allows ‘flexibility and fairness’ with players on the tour. Furthermore, it has been designed with the possibility of the rules continuing into 2021 should the ongoing pandemic continue to disrupt the Tour in some degree. Outlining their objectives, the ATP says one of their goals is to protect those who ‘cannot or prefer not to compete in 2020 due to health & safety.’ A point recently raised by Australian player Alexei Popyrin who has voiced concerns about playing at the US Open.

“There are talks regarding the US Open but I really don’t want to go with the situation in America right now,” Popyrin said at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown over the weekend.
“But we have to see if we would be forced to go because of ranking points.
“If the ranking points won’t be frozen, then most of us would be forced to go play cause our ranking will drop and we wouldn’t have any say in it.
“But if the rankings are frozen, then I am staying here.
“I will stay in Europe where it’s safe with my family.”

As a result of the changes, it remains to be seen if this will have any effect on other players concerning their decision to play at the New York major which will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history. Some parts of America have reported a surge in COVID-19 cases with 52,228 New Cases being reported on July 5th.

Under the new calculations, no player will have less ranking points than what they currently have at present. The ATP rankings have been frozen since March 16th but will resume on the Monday after the first tournament in the revised calendar concludes.

There are exceptions to the new 22-month ruling. Qualification for the ATP Finals will still be based on 52 weeks because the event is classed as an ‘additional tournament.’ Therefore it doesn’t count as one of the 18 key events to determine a player’s ranking. Points from last year’s tournament will drop off on November 9th after the Paris Masters. The reason for doing so is to make the chances of qualifying more fair. Furthermore Challenger and ITF events will also be based on the 52-week rule because ‘events are scheduled on a one-year basis and do not have consistent spots in the calendar.’

The ATP Tour is set to resume at the Citi Open in Washington during the second week of August.

A full FAQ of the new ranking system can be read here.

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