embrace the evil

Novak Djokovic, I Can Make You Loved

It's not your fault you're by far the best player on the planet right now, Novak, nor that people can't beat you – but it doesn't help us love you.

by David Whelan
Feb 1 2016, 2:44pm

PA Images

Novak Djokovic, you are brilliant and wonderful, but you are not loved. People do not think of you while they write love letters or sexts. People respect you the way they respect the road system: you're fantastic at what you do, but also sort of boring because you're the same everywhere you go.

It's not your fault you're by far the best player on the planet right now, nor that people can't beat you – but it doesn't help us love you.

Andy Murray, the world number 2, is a wonderful tennis player, one of the greatest of all time, but you are a different monster altogether. And you are a monster, Novak. You are Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end. When you play at your peak you are less tennis and more anti-sport. Your brilliance is a black hole that devours all around you.

You are ruining our narratives. You are forcing us to rewrite the records. You're making us watch you crush our heroes over and over, and that's not fair. Not at all.

Do you not know that there's a "big four" not a "big one", Novak? You're making a mockery of that. You're making all of us fans look stupid. You're allowing the 'two weeks a year at Wimbledon' crowd to look smug by saying things like, "But doesn't Djokovic always win? Why support anyone else?" You are a raging fire in the library of tennis history, burning it all down. And you should be proud of that; immensely proud.

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But this is the problem: you exude a desire to be loved that turns people off. Your need to be accepted as the true great you are is the reason people can't warm to you. There's a queasiness about your character, as if you are aware that not many people love you as much as they should.

The way you shush crowds when they're not supporting you, the manner in which players like Nick Kyrgios openly tweet about supporting Murray against you, the family spats the Nadals talk about. I've never seen a champion as great as you consistently be the lesser-supported player. It's not fair, Novak. And here's my remedy.

Novak Djokovic, you don't need to be loved. You have almost everything except our hearts. You don't need fans to continue your unstoppable path to tennis immortality. Because, let's be honest, when you're at your best you are the opposite of love: you enter Wall Mode and never make errors. You show up the flaws in the opposition. You prove that humans are fallible.

Djokovic now leads Murray 4-2 in Grand Slam finals between the pair and, tellingly, has a much nicer shirt | PA Images

You need to be hated – and I think you have it in you to revel in that. There will be some who say you should rise above it, Novak, but I am not one of them: you should embrace being the villain. If the crowds still want Roger Federer – even though you have surpassed him, even though your game is now untouchable – then let's give them Roger Federer. And to a cacophony of boos you will beat Roger Federer. Over and over again.

Unless you do this, Novak, our hearts will never be yours. If you cannot be the hero, become the villain. There is no way people are ever going to love you in your pomp. It's time you embraced being the bad guy. I know you're a lovely fella with a lovely wife and you give to charity, sure, and you fight for your country and seem, genuinely, to be an alright dude. But look, Nole, people loved Jimmy Savile, and he was an awful human being. You could be the opposite of that. You can be hated but fundamentally a decent, nice guy. You could do something Federer never did: you could be the first tennis number 1 in history who says it how it is. You are the best. Own it.

People often compare tennis with boxing, and yet, as far as the characters go, they couldn't be more different. Tennis players are bland, silent figures while boxers are glorious tunnel-visioned gobshites who actually believe they are the centre of the entire world. Boxers are probably the rudest, messiest and most compelling of all sports stars – loathed and loved in equal measure for their tiny, skewed worldview. Winning everything before you and smiling isn't going to get people on your side – you already do that, Nole – so how about you try calling yourself the Greatest of All Time. Why not speak in the third person and say that Andy Murray's overrated. Tyson Fury is loved despite the fact he's a racist, sexist, end-of-the-world-mongering nutjob. You may be wondering why: it's because people like frank talkers, people enjoy Tyson Fury's unfiltered ramblings because everyone is, deep down, ashamed of their own opinion.

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Someone you could look to as a mentor in your image reshuffle is Bernard Tomic. Tomic is a bad guy. He openly disses Roger Federer in press conferences. He calls out his own Tennis Federation for being shitbags.

Now you're on a Totally Different Tennis Planet to Everyone Else you can say whatever you want, because you're never going to lose. If you say you're better than Federer and someone disagrees, simply direct them to your semi-final match up in Melbourne, where you played so well some joker presumably edited Roger's Wikipedia page to add a "Time of Death".

Be more like Bernard Tomic, Nole. Tomic says whatever he wants and he is a far, far worse player than you. Imagine what you can do with all that power. You've already recreated the sport, now you have the opportunity to rebuild the circus around it in your image. Remember when you first burst onto the scene and you did funny impressions of all the big name players? Well, now, imagine going into a match against Nadal – who is terrified of you, who is certain he is going to get beaten – and wearing his exact outfit. Imagine playing that match, speaking in your very worst Spanish accent and doing his whole ass-twitch ball-bounce routine before every point. And then winning 6-4 6-2 6-2. It'd be wonderful, don't you think? Some people would hate you for it, but a lot more people would love you.

Right now, you're friends with Niall from One Direction. You are hoping that the Directioners support you. They never will. The Venn diagram intersection of Directioners and tennis fans is ridiculously small. I want you to get Danny Dyer, Rob Ford and Dick Dastardly in your box. I want people to see you smoking a fag outside the press room. I want you to drunkenly tweet David Ferrer that you don't actually think he "deserves" to win a Slam. I need you at a Stormzy show in a backwards cap and Reebok classics

That's how you find love, Nole, in this bland tennis world. Not by being the undisputed best (you've done that, for years) but by embracing the dark side that propelled you here. So, Nole, when the dust has settled on your latest triumph, do me a favour: give Bernard Tomic a call and see if he fancies a few beers. He will.

@MrDavidWhelan