For Nole, love means having to say you’re sorry

  Novak Djokovic at the 2010 US Open, the year before it all happened for him.

Novak Djokovic at the 2010 US Open, the year before it all happened for him.

Tennis, Andre Agassi once observed, is a lonely sport. A singles player is out there by his or her self, and has no one to blamed but his or her self when the match heads south. It can be particularly frustrating.

I was reminded of this after reading about Novak Djokovic’s triumph over Andy Murray 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-0 at the Miami Open Easter Sunday. It was the third time that Nole’s pulled off the difficult double of wins at Indian Wells and Miami. He’s 25-2, a start that echoes the fantastic beginning to 2011, when he first became No. 1.  

But what some will remember about the April 5 final in Miami is the way Nole shouted at his entourage after losing the second set to Andy and grabbed a towel from the startled ball boy. This was uncharacteristic of Nole, who’s tender with children. He knew it and he apologized.  

"Also I want to reflect on a bad moment that happened in the final against Andy when I lost the second set. I yelled to my camp and my box in frustration," CNN quoted him as saying. "I saw the replay. Unfortunately a ball boy was in the middle of it and I really, really feel sorry and regret that he was there. There was absolutely no intention whatsoever to hurt him or scare him in any kind of way. I sincerely hope he forgives me. I really apologize."

The irony is that Nole is particularly sensitive to children as a new father (of baby Stefan, who is traveling now with Dad and mom Jelena).

"I do care about children a lot right now and I look at it in a much different way," he said. "So I want to apologize to his parents for this situation as well. As a father I wouldn't wish that something like this happens to my son. Again I sincerely hope you can forgive me and that we can move on. Unfortunately, sometimes the emotions get the better of you.”

Hey, we’re all human. And there’s nothing more frustrating, particularly for a perfectionistic like Nole, to drop a set – even to a superb hard-court player like Andy. But we can’t take it out on others, whether they be part of our intimate team or (especially) some kid who’s probably thrilled merely to be standing out in the hot sun waiting for the star to need the ice towel.

My debut novel “Water Music,” about four gay athletes – two tennis players, two swimmers – and the way their professional rivalries color their personal relationships with one another, considers the effect that pressures and expectations have on the quartet. Yet one thing they never do is take the resulting frustrations out on family, friends or even the media. (Perhaps because I have always lived by the credo that others aren’t responsible for my problems and thus deserve nothing less than my good attitude.) My characters do, however, take out their frustrations on one another and on themselves. Sometimes we are our own whipping boys.

Let’s end on an up note, shall we? Nole also used his post-match comments to send best wishes to Andy, who’ll marry longtime love Kim Sears this Saturday.

Andy and Kim, Nole and Jelena, Roger and Mirka (Federer):

Your serve, Rafa.