Nothing like the BNP Paribas Masters final in Paris between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray to bring out the haters and the opinionaters – as well as a few wits – on the Internet.
Nole won 6-2, 6-4, which left plenty of people unhappy about oh, gee, just about everything – Nole dominating tennis, Andy’s service problems, Nole’s supposedly “robotic” play, Andy’s seemingly fatal attraction to the net, Nole’s shouting, Andy’s cursing, their “boring” baseline rivalry, even the winner’s trophy, which looked like a small metal tree that could take out a few eyeballs. (More on that in a bit.)
For the haters, Andy is British and not Fred Perry. Nole is, well, Nole and not Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The Net’s cloak of anonymity allows posters to voice opinions that in another era would’ve been defamatory and libelous, to say nothing of vicious. Wishing Nole would break an ankle or implying that he owes his success to steroids without any proof is stupid, mean and downright unbalanced.
And extrapolating from a tennis tournament the massacre of schoolchildren in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996 that had a 9-year-old Andy hiding in a closet at his school and the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia that had a 12-year-old Nole and his family hiding in his grandfather’s basement closet is something of a stretch. But then, sport is never far from politics, is it? (That’s a theme of “Water Music,” the first novel in my series “The Games Men Play.”)
And the Internet is hardly a subtle brain trust. If it were, spectators would see beauty in Nole’s crosscourt winners and mitigating circumstances in Andy’s sometimes lack of focus. (He’s come back from an injury, gotten married, is about to become a father and is fighting to win the Davis Cup for Great Britain. That’s a lot for a young public figure.)
Whereas Nole, who went through his own transition with marriage and a first child last year, is clicking on all cylinders – happy home with wife Jelena and baby Stefan, fulfilling work on the court (becoming the first man to win six Masters titles in a year with his victory in Paris) and off (the Novak Djokovic Foundation and its mission to provide the underprivileged with early childhood education, a commitment he shares with Jelena). When you have great work and love, life is good.
And when you’re in the indoor season and arguably the finest indoor-court player of your day, life is especially good. It all bodes well for Nole for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London Nov. 15 through 22.
And then it’s on to the Davis Cup to close the season. I’ll be rooting for Nole, Andy and Rafa to do well in London and for Britain to take the Cup. Meanwhile, I got a chuckle from the comments about the Paris Masters trophies, with one wag noting that Andy was playing for the toaster while another said Nole could hang some lights from his trophy and save money on a Christmas tree this year.
In truth, the runner-up trophy was a lot better than the winner’s.
Hey, sometimes it’s better to be No. 2.