On L’Affaire Djokovic, Precedent and Waking Up With Fleas

Random cranky tennis fan thoughts about the Djokovic mess, fan reaction and the media/social media coverage:

Precedent doesn’t matter. One of most annoying things about the reaction to Djokovic’s default is all the talk about other infamous tennis episodes, as if they were relevant. And usually it has something to do with Serena. The Grand Slam Rulebook isn’t a court of law, and there’s no stare decicis. It’s exhausting to hear all the examples of offenses from the past that were either worse or not as bad as what Djokovic did. Yes, in the history of tennis, people have done more and been punished less, or done less and been punished equally or more. So the eff what? John McEnroe committed all sorts of offenses more than 30 years ago that probably weren’t adequately punished. What does that have to do with Djokovic? The tournament referee had to make a decision based on what Djokovic did, what happened to the lineswoman and what the rule book says. That’s it. He wasn’t basing his decision on what Serena did in the 2009 U.S. Open, or Guillermo Coria in the 2003 French Open, and he’s not supposed to abide by some ruling from the past that might have been wrong.

Show the rule. Though I’m generally a fan of ESPN’s tennis coverage, the network should have shown viewers the rule long before it did. There was a lot of talk and opining for what seemed like 20-30 minutes before they discussed what the rule says. What good is anyone’s opinion on whether Djokovic should have been defaulted unless that opinion is based on what the rule states?

Enough with the crazed fandom. As it was all going on, I received an email from a friend saying I must be happy because I’m generally a Federer fan. My response was: No, I’m pissed off. I like Federer, but I’m a tennis fan more than I’m a fan of any player. I’ve been a tennis fanatic since 1973, long before any current players were even born. I had sat down Sunday to watch a tennis match. I wanted to see if Djokovic could figure out Carreno Busta and get his game in gear. I was curious if he would rebound from that shoulder injury (which by the way has been almost completely forgotten). Frankly, I wanted to see him play Medvedev. This might be the most naive thing ever written, but it would be nice if more people could put aside their moronic fandoms and just root for good tennis.

It wasn’t a fluke event. It’s not rare for Djokovic to hit balls in anger. He did it once earlier in the set, in fact, and James Blake astutely commented on ESPN that it could get him in trouble. Djokovic has been asked about it before, for example during this 2016 press conference, and treated the question and questioner derisively. If you’re playing on a court lined with linespeople and ballkids, and you occasionally fling balls around in anger, it’s only a matter of time before you hit someone. Rather than it being a fluke, I think you can make a case that it’s surprising this didn’t happen sooner. What’s surprising is that Djokovic does it at all. He’s so meticulous about his preparation and so detail-oriented, it’s hard to believe that he has been so willing to take the risk of default.

Waking up with fleas. The lineswoman has received death threats online. Some of the threats may have come from hardcore Djokovic fans, but some almost surely came from those who had bet on Djokovic to win the match or the entire tournament. It’s just a little reminder that if tennis wants to encourage gambling on the sport, it’s willingly inviting these people into its house.