Daniil Medvedev wins US Open to deny Novak Djokovic calendar Grand Slam
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A former tennis professional player has questioned the favourable treatment he believes Roger Federer gets in comparison to Novak Djokovic. The Serbian star captured three Grand Slam titles in 2021 to draw level with Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 major wins – although he missed out on a record breaking fourth after losing in the final of the US Open to Daniil Medvedev.
However, despite his undoubted place among the all-time greats, Djokovic has long been viewed as a divisive figure by tennis fans.
In 2020, he was thrown out of the US Open for accidentally hitting a ball at a line-judge and at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, was widely criticised for his racquet abuse as he slipped to a bronze medal play-off defeat against Pablo Carreno Busta.
He also caused controversy after the ATP suspended all action during the Covid-19 pandemic, publicly stating that he would oppose any vaccination.
And now Nikola Pilic, a former Croatian professional player, has defended the 34-year-old claiming he receives inferior treatment compared to fellow legend Federer.
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Speaking to Vecernji list, a Croatian daily newspaper published in Zagreb, he spoke about Djokovic being thrown out Flushing Meadows last year: “If Federer had done the same thing as Novak, they certainly would not have banned him.”
Despite acknowledging that the incident was accidental, The United States Tennis Association docked Djokovic all ranking points he would have earned at the tournament and fined him the prize money that he would have won had the incident not occurred.
Pilic, 82, was also adamant about where Djokovic ranked in comparison to close rivals Federer and Nadal.
“Djokovic is absolutely great. Serbian journalists badly wanted from me to say in 2019 that Djokovic was the greatest player of all time. I didn’t want to say it until he won this year’s (2021) Wimbledon. The day he did, I put the numbers on the table,” he said.
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“He has the same number of Grand Slams as Nadal and Federer, he has a positive head-to-head against record against them, he is inching toward 350 weeks spent as No. 1,” continued Pilic. “I am not subjective, Novak is the best of all time,” he declared.
Pilic reached a French Open final and Wimbledon semi-final during his career, but like Djokovic, was no stranger to controversy himself.
He was the catalyst of the 1973 Wimbledon boycott, after the Yugoslav tennis federation alleged he’d refused to represent them in a Davis Cup tie against New Zealand. His subsequent suspension meant he could not enter Wimbledon and in protest, 81 of his fellow professionals withdrew from playing at SW19.
Since retirement, he’s worked as a coach to three Davis Cup teams – Germany, Croatia, and Serbia – and has set up his own tennis academy in Bavaria (Germany).
Players such as Djokovic himself, Michael Stich, Ernests Gulbis and Anastasija Sevastova have come through the academy.
He will now be keen to see the world number one win a coveted 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January, but it’s thought Djokovic’s anti-vaccine stance may put his participation in doubt.
The Victorian Government appears likely to adopt a stance of mandatory vaccines for players. Although Djokovic has been tight-lipped publicly as to whether he’s taken the jabs, he’s thought to be one of several high profile players not to have received it so far.
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