Entries in Novak Djokovic (50)


Wimbledon may be just what a chaotic Britain needs

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — Chaos anyone? Sorry, I meant tennis anyone. Yes, another Wimbledon, with fans queuing overnight and swallowing strawberries and cream. But really not another Wimbledon.

This is the first Wimbledon after, against the best advice, Great Britain waved goodbye to logic and the rest of Europe, voting itself into isolation and, some warn, economic disaster. Brexit was the clever phrase about the not-so-clever move out of the European Union.

It’s been like threatening to leave home when you’re 13,” the novelist Howard Jacobsen wrote Sunday in the Observer about the vote. “You hope it will scare the living daylights out of your parents. But only the insane actually do it.”

So perhaps the return of the All-England Championships for a 130th time is specifically what the battered, shattered non-united kingdom needs to remind itself that all is not lost, unless like poor Englishman James Ward on Monday you had to face Novak Djokovic and were dropped 7-0, 7-6 (3), 6-4.

As always there is change. The newsstand next to Wimbledon’s first aid office has closed, another blow to journalism. Ah, but the shuttle cabs from Southfields station on the District Line — “Alight here Wimbledon tennis,” advises a disembodied voice — still cost two pounds, 50 pence. Even though, because of the pound’s devaluation, the dollar cost is less than it was last Friday, something like $3.23 as opposed to $3.60.

And Venus Williams, who turned 36 a week and a half ago, still plays capably, despite the years and the anti-immune syndrome from which she has suffered. On this very memorable first day, Venus, a surprisingly high eighth seed, beat Donna Vekic of Croatia, 7-6, 6-4.

“I still feel 26,” said Venus, who won women’s singles in 2000 — 16 years ago for heaven’s sake — and three other times. “I don’t know if anyone feels older. You have this infinity inside of you that feels like you could go forever. That’s how I feel on the court. As long as I can get my racquet on the ball, I think I can make something happen.”

Younger sister Serena (who will be 35 in September) is defending champion. Yet Serena, favored at the subsequent U.S. Open in an attempt to win the true "Grand Slam" or all four majors in a calendar year, was upset in the semifinals. Serena then lost in the finals of both the Australian Open in January and the French, three weeks ago.

She plays Tuesday as tradition holds: the women’s champ returning the second day, the men’s, the seemingly unbeatable Djokovic, the first day. “The first part of the match,” confirmed Djokovic of his play against Ward, “was almost flawless. So I’m very pleased with the way I started Wimbledon.”

Djokovic, of course, is from Serbia, which is waiting to be accepted into the European Union. Well, there’s an extra space now, isn’t there? One country wanted out, another wants in. Seems like a good swap, knowing the way the British majority voted.

“I’m just curious to see what the future holds for Britain and for the European Union,” said Djokovic when quizzed about the loss of money from Wimbledon due to the pound's decline. “I’m not in a position to more profoundly discuss this matter.”

Nor would he speculate on whether he can do what Serena in 2015 could not, win a Grand Slam, last accomplished by a male player by Rod Laver in 1969 — who also won all four in 1962 as an amateur.

The only other Grand Slam winner was Don Budge, in 1938. Budge, who grew up in Oakland where the courts he learned on are now named for him, wanted to be a baseball player. Joe DiMaggio, who grew up across the bay in San Francisco, told Budge he had hoped to play tennis. The second choice wasn’t bad for either.

Djokovic, 29, beginning with last year’s Wimbledon, has won the last four majors, a “Novak Slam,” if you will, but he’s still only halfway to the Grand Slam, needing victories here and in September at the U.S. Open. Serena, hesitant last summer to ruminate about her chances, is very willing to do so about Djokovic’s this summer.

"He has every opportunity to do it," she said. "I think he'll get it easy. So he should be fine."

Not to be the skeptic, but didn’t the experts predict the Brits would choose to stay in the European Union? We all make mistakes. Especially, we’re told, the British electorate.


Palm Springs Life: Novak Djokovic Is the Whole Package

By Art Spander
Palm Springs Life

He is the best in the game right now, No. 1 in men’s tennis, a ranking earned, not bestowed, which perhaps is the reason Novak Djokovic seems less intimidated by the position — you know the adage, nowhere to go but down — than invigorated by it.

“My thinking, my approach,” he said in response to a question of what should we expect, “is not that I have to win this, I’m supposed to win this, but I’m going to believe in myself, and I carry the confidence that has brought me to where I am at this moment.”

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2016 Desert Publications. All rights reserved.


Bleacher Report: No End in Sight to Novak Djokovic's Dominance After Career Year, US Open Title

By Art Spander
Featured Columnist

NEW YORK — He’s a man in full flight, at the top of his game, athletic, resolute, a champion whose future is no less beautiful than his present. Novak Djokovic had a rare year in tennis, a winner of three Grand Slam tournaments, a runner-up in the fourth.

But it’s not so much what Djokovic has done—adding another U.S. Open championship to his collection of titles with his win Sunday over the man who was the gold standard of the sport, Roger Federer.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2015 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 


Bleacher Report: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer Battle a Dream Finale for 2015 US Open

By Art Spander
Featured Columnist

NEW YORK — This is what tennis wanted, and the sport will have it on Sunday in the U.S. Open men's final: the best against the best, No. 1 against No. 2, the great server against the great returner.

It’s the dream match — the latest version of a recurring dream.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2015 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


New York: Federer, Serena, Pinsanity and the Pope

By Art Spander

NEW YORK — Roger Federer and Serena Williams are here (and still winning), the Pope’s en route and the heat won’t leave. Late summer humidity clings to this place like the vagrants the police commissioner is trying to chase out of the city, in what the New York Post headlined as a "BUMS’ RUSH."

Everything’s here. The tennis open, the traffic, the heat, the misery, the delight. Everyone’s here, or was here. Or will be here. Or is just down the road. “The party’s 15 minutes away,” says the billboard to the right of the Long Island Expressway just out of the Midtown Tunnel. Right around the bend at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

It’s what the Post said about the Yankees' win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night: “Pinsanity,” a play on pinstripes, which along with “Bombers,” as in Bronx Bombers, is how the tabloids refer to the Yanks. New York is a big city, the biggest, the wildest, masquerading as a small town.

In California, seasons are judged by the weather. If it’s foggy along the coast, it must be summer, right? Back east, they adhere to the calendar. Swimming pools open Memorial Day and are drained on or about Labor Day.

It says September, so unpack the winter clothes. The New York Giants (“Big Blue”) and Jets (“Gang Green”) are ready to begin the NFL season. Fortunately, unlike Levi’s Stadium, their shared home, MetLife Stadium, has an overhang.

They’re in the process of building a roof at the tennis complex. The superstructure has been erected, like some enormous spider web. The idea after so many washouts was to play matches during rain, which was something that might have been welcome when the temperature hit the 90s Tuesday and Wednesday.

It was only in the mid-80s Thursday, but oppressive enough. Jack Sock, the 22-year-old from Nebraska, collapsed during the fourth set of his match against Ruben Bemelmans and was carried out. His was the 13thth early retirement in four days of this U.S. Open.

On Wednesday night, around midnight, defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic became so sweaty he planted his hand in a small pile of sawdust — and still couldn’t grip his racquet tightly enough to keep from double-faulting on a serve. He did win his match.

So, Thursday, did Stan Wawrinka, who’s won a French and Australian Open. Wawrinka was a 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 winner over Hyeon Chung, a 19-year-old Korean. The match lasted 3 hours 2 minutes, and Wawrinka, 30, said the conditions “were really tough.”

But he followed with that eternal comment regarding weather, good or bad, to wit, “I don’t know what we can do about it.”

There’s not much we can do about the New York tabs except enjoy them. As someone said long ago, they don’t have stories in New York, they have incidents.

Whether it’s the poor manner in which Jets GM John Idzik drafted in 2014 (“DIRTY DOZEN,” according to the Post) or the refusal by U.S. Tennis Association president Katrina Adams to keep the guest of a big tournament supporter from her private box because the guest wasn’t dressed properly (“Open warfare over jeans”).

You know the line from the Kander-Ebb song, the one linked to Sinatra: “If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.” The Open has made it in New York because it’s so much a part of the city — noisy, dramatic, newsworthy. There are stars on the court. There are celebrities in the seats. Derek Jeter, who used to spend his days fielding grounders at Yankee Stadium, spent Tuesday in a private box at Ashe Stadium.

If Wimbledon is the example of English restraint and subtlety, the Open is a boisterous adventure into American free expression. There’s nothing subtle about it, but how could there be when it wants to get noticed and admired in New York?

The other night, after Djokovic’s ridiculously easy victory, a man was brought out of the stands onto the court and began to dance as music poured of the loudspeakers. He waved a towel at Djokovic, who grabbed it and, in good nature, danced along.

Then the guy pulled out an “I Love New York” T-shirt and pulled it over Djokovic’s tennis shirt.  Great theater. The Pope, who’s scheduled to be here in late September, will have a difficult act to top.