Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal — currently playing in the Rolex Paris Masters, with Djokovic challenging Nadal for the number one ranking — are taking a wait-and-see approach to playing the King Salman Tennis Championship in Saudi Arabia Dec. 22.
The exhibition match, a year in the planning, was announced after the revelation of the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi hands in Istanbul, putting pressure on Nadal and Djokovic to withdraw.
“I don't like to involve myself in any political exchange or situations. And it's unfortunate that we are both drawn into this right now,” Djokovic was quoted as saying on the BBC website.
"Right now we just don't have obviously enough information, and we have to look into that a bit more and then we'll make our decision soon."
Nadal added: "Of course I'm aware of all the situation. But I had a commitment since one year ago to play there. And my team is talking to them, to analyze the things. That's it.”
No, Rafa and Nole, that is not it. A man has died a brutal death for no other reason that Saudi Arabia found him to be an inconvenient truth, but that death should not count for nothing. Yes, it is unfortunate that you have been drawn into this. But then, we are all drawn into situations not of our making. It is called life.
And while it may be noble that you honor your commitments, there are things in heaven and on earth that transcend such commitments.
Let’s be fair: Both men come from countries that have totalitarianism in their histories, which I’m sure they’d rather forget. Fascism in Nadal’s native Spain lasted from 1939 to ’75. In Djokovic’s case, I think it’s clear that he has been psychologically scarred by his native Serbia’s role in the Kosovo War, which ultimately led to the NATO bombing of Serbia. He also got into trouble early in his career for saying that Kosovo for him would always be part of Serbia. And his Instagram account has been hacked in the past by Albanians, who make up the majority in now independent Kosovo. (Albania is almost 60 percent Muslim. Serbs are predominantly Orthodox Christian.)
Since then, Djokovic has said he wants to represent all the countries of the former Yugoslavia. His foundation is committed to early childhood education in Serbia. He has spoken out for refugees. Nadal, too, has his charitable interests. It’s only human that they should want to be let alone to do what they do best.
Jamal Khashoggi wanted to continue being a journalist and marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who is now in London. He never got the chance.
America and the rest of the world are locked in a struggle between medievalism and modernism, dictatorship/demagoguery and democracy. It’s not a battle that any of us in the resistance have chosen. Rather, it has chosen us.
Just as it has now chosen Nadal and Djokovic. Analyze all you want, gentlemen. But I think you both have enough information.
And I think you both know what must be done.
The ball, as they say, is in your court.