What makes Novak Djokovic a champion also may make him less likeable to tennis fans across the globe. More so than probably all of the top players on the Men's ATP tour, fans either love or dislike Djokovic. Why? He has amazing skills, conditioning and mental toughness. Novak wins when he should and has proven himself to be a champion. He also has been gracious in defeat. Djokovic should be considered a proven champion with the likes of Nadal and Federer.
Detractors of Djokovic will tell you that their dislike started early in his career. They talk about tanks, breathing problems, medical timeouts for less than appropriate reasons, and cockiness as evidenced by his post-match emulations of tennis stars' routines prior to serving. Certainly Djokovic taking a medical timeout prior to Murray serving out this year's US Open will only add fuel to their opinion.
But I say this opinion is full of flaws. Djokovic is not the only professional tennis player to have dealt with breathing problems on the court. And he seems to have overcome this issue. The guy played 6 hours of Grand Slam finals tennis against the toughest player on the planet - Nadal at the Aussie. Give him some credit!
Then there is the issue of medical timeouts. I really do not see Djokovic using these timeouts more than other players. In fact, I find Djokovic to be far better conditioned than almost all players on tour. In my humble opinion the Djokovic Detractors pick on those moments where he does call for a trainer to reinforce their faulty perception, but dismiss all of the times where he grinds out five sets of grueling backcourt tennis.
The cockiness issue; it is hard to counteract this argument. Novak has swagger and cockiness about his game, no doubt about it. However, I believe it is Djokovic's great self-belief and slight cockiness that has allowed him to break through Fed-Rafa stranglehold on the Slams. When Novak was still in pursuit of is first Slam many thought he would never win one. Then, when he beat Tsonga at the Aussie people used that as an excuse. He did not beat Fed or Rafa in the final. Since then Djokovic has proven himself to be a great champion. How was Novak able to believe that he could become #1 in the world when many players on the tour, let alone fans, believed that no one could overtake the Top 2? Self-belief bordering on cockiness. You have to have strong self-belief to envision yourself to be #1 in the World. This was especially the case for Novak coming out of war-torn Serbia. No Serb had won a Slam or been #1 in the world. Djokovic broke the ceiling and rewrote history because of his great self-belief.
So, dislike him if you will because he likes to have fun and has the confidence of a champion. Maybe sometimes it borders on cockiness. At other times he has been an agitator of the fans and media when he feels he is not getting his proper due and respect. Hey, he is not perfect, but wouldn't you do the same? It is time for even the detractors to respect the game and the man that is Novak Djokovic. He is mentally tough. He does show respect for his opponents in post-match interviews. Stop cherry-picking detractors of Djokovic. He is here to stay and will many more Grand Slams because of his great self-belief bordering on cockiness.