• Andrew Starc

Why do people hate Novak Djokovic?

17-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic desperately wants to be loved.


We see it in his smarmy post-match interviews, where he tries a little too hard to win over the crowd. With on-court gestures like cupping his hand over ear, beckoning cheers and applause.


Most of all, we see it with his insufferably cringeworthy "boob-throwing" celebration.



Djokovic, who boasts as close confidant a spiritual guru known for touting the benefits of "extremely long hugs," describes the celebration in characteristically new age terms.


'It's God himself smiling inside of me and on the sky. So I'm trying to share that love and that light and divine energy with all the people."


"It's quite nice to see the reaction of the people to it, and I have received a lot of nice comments about it. So I'm glad the people feel that."


Even fellow tennis players attest to the Serb's longing to be loved.


“I just feel like he has a sick obsession with wanting to be liked," said perennial heel Nick Kyrigios on the No Challenges Remaining podcast.


"Like he wants to be like Roger (Federer). I just can't stand him. This whole celebration [the 'boob-throwing'] thing he does after matches, it's so cringeworthy."



What makes Novak Djokovic so unlikeable?


Despite the Serb's stellar accomplishments and his best efforts to become a fan favorite, he's routinely booed, criticized, and denied the adoration heaped on rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.



There's undeniably some quality, or lack thereof, that makes Djokovic unlikable to tennis fans.


Some point to his seemingly forced, affected off-court persona, behind which appears to lie a more calculating, brooding personage. Others chafe at his icy, robotic on-court demeanor.


Many simply dislike the Serb for his singular role in spoiling the fierce yet bromantic era of Federer-Nadal rivalry. Djokovic has routinely beaten both, denying fans the matchup they long for.


Some fans don't even know why they dislike him. Their vague sense of distaste for Novak can be backwards rationalised by even his most innocuous qualities, like the Serb's uncanny resemblance to TV's Screech from 90's teen sitcom Saved By the Bell.



So routinely do fans cheer his opponent, yet remain in stony silence when Djokovic plays well, that the Serb resorts to a mild form of self-induced psychosis as a coping mechanism.


"If you have the majority of the crowd on your side, it helps, it gives you motivation, it gives you strength, it gives you energy. When you don’t, then you have to find it within," Djokovic said following his 2019 Wimbledon victory over Roger Federer.


"I like to transmute it in a way. So when the crowd is chanting ‘Roger’ I hear ‘Novak’. It sounds silly but it is like that. I try to convince myself that it’s like that."


It seems Djokovic, no matter how hard he tries and how much he wins, a fan favorite like Federer and Nadal he will never become. Almost effortlessly, however, does Novak mire himself in controversy, courting the ire and ridicule of fans.


Djokovic and his spiritual gurus – Chervin Jafarieh and Pepe Imaz


Novak Djokovic has long embraced all manner of new age quackery.


The Serb is an enthusiastic acolyte of hedge funds dealer-turned preening Insta "wellness guru" Chervin Jafarieh a man who claims to live in righteous service of “a higher and divine order rooted in the only truth, love."


Among many loony beliefs, Jafarieh boldly asserts one can render toxic water drinkable with the power of the mind. His influence has rubbed off on Djokovic, who in an Instagram Live session with the guru, declared his ardent belief in the miracle.


“It’s the connection that you’re talking about, the innate connection and really being present and being conscious of the moment and being conscious of the fact you’re drinking water,” gushed Djokovic.


“I’ve seen people and I know some people that, through that energetical (sic) transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they manage to turn the most toxic food or the most polluted water, into the most healing water."


“Because water reacts and scientists have proven that, that molecules in the water react to our emotions, to what is being said."


Jafarieh, glowing with pride at his student's grasp of master's teachings, responds with peak new age gobbledygook, invoking grotesquely pseudo-scientific terms like "geo-prisms" and "sacred geometry."


“They saw if you had specific thoughts, specific emotions onto the water, if they were happy thoughts, if they were good thoughts, they created a molecular structure that had a geo-prism based on sacred geometry meaning there was symmetry and balance.”



Jafarieh isn't the only quack Djokovic has held as close confidant. Tennis player-turned spiritual guru, Jose "Pepe" Imaz, was once an integral part of Novak's coaching team.


The Spaniard, whose best grand slam performance was reaching the second round of the French Open, unapologetically claims credit for the Serb's success.


Imaz is the divine inspiration behind Novak's "boob-throwing" celebration.


The guru famously runs sessions wherein his adoring followers engage in extended group hugs. It was on Pepe's advice, and the learnings of these group love sessions, that Djokovic begun his post-win ritual of effusively gesturing to the crowd.


Novak's belief in telekinesis and telepathy is a product of his tutelage under Imaz. The Serb calls the extrasensory phenomena “gifts from this higher order, the source, the god, that allows us to understand the higher power and higher order in ourselves.”


It was also Imaz who turned gluten-intolerant Djokovic onto a plant-based diet.


In his memoir Serve to Win, Novak describes a scientifically dubious, likely Imaz-inspired method of testing his intolerance to gluten.


"Standing in the kitchen, I held my right arm out straight while my wife applied pressure and tried to push it down. It was easy for me to resist and keep the arm straight. Then I held a slice of white bread against my stomach and held my right arm out again. When my wife applied pressure this time, my resistance dropped more dramatically than Rafael Nadal's world ranking."


Djokovic takes controversial stance on COVID-19 vaccine


Perhaps it was true to form that in April 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic reached fever pitch, Novak Djokovic came out as an anti-vaxxer.


During a Facebook Live session with fellow Serbian athletes, Novak declared that he “wouldn’t want to be forced by someone” to take a COVID-19 vaccination.


Amidst a storm of criticism, he later clarified his position on taking a vaccine.


“Personally I am opposed to the vaccination against COVID-19 in order to be able to travel. But if it becomes compulsory, I will have to make a decision whether to do it, or not. This is my current feeling, and I don’t know if it will change, but it really influences my profession."


“I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to chose what’s best for my body. I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research on this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.”


Weeks later, Jelena Djokovic did her husband no favors by sharing a 10-minute video to her 500,000 Instagram followers that claimed 5G caused the coronavirus pandemic – a widely-debunked conspiracy theory.


Novak Djokovic hosts tennis tour during the height of COVID-19


Literally no one:


Novak Djokovic: Let's hold a tennis tour, with full crowds, at the height of a global pandemic.


In June 2020, with the world in COVID-19 lock-down, Novak Djokovic decided to host his own tennis exhibition tournament – the ill-fated Adria Tour.


One can assume hosting the tour with ill-regard for the danger of the coronavirus stems from Novak's obsession with new age medicine. It's proponents are loudly sceptical of conventional medicine's claims – COVID-19 and its dangers prime among them.


Held in Zadar, Croatia and Novak's native Belgrade, Serbia, the inaugural Adria Tour invited some of the world's best to compete for the chance at silverware and a case of COVID-19. The likes of Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Gregor Dimitrov eagerly signed up.


It came as no surprise that the Adria Tour turned into a coronavirus cluster (fuck).


Djokovic, his wife Jelena, and their kids were diagnosed with COVID-19. So too Gregor Dimitrov, Berna Coric, and Victor Troicki. Novak's coach, Goran Ivanisevic, also tested positive.

On Instagram, Djokovic chronicled the alarming lack of social distancing on tour, with players taking group photos and playing basketball. Full crowds were also permitted, at a time when most professional sports (except the UFC) dared not even host events, let alone one packed with spectators.


Video also emerged of Djokovic casting off all social distancing inhibitions at a packed Belgrade cabaret club. Joined on stage by Thiem, Zverev, and Dimitrov, the Serb was seen doing the limbo and the Macarena, before showcasing his singing skills in a duet with a piano man.


In stark contrast to Novak, rivals Federer and Nadal's concerns of contracting COVID-19 saw them forgo the US Open – the first major tournament since the COVID-19 outbreak. Perhaps Djokovic should have followed suit –for other reasons, however...



Djokovic hits line judge, gets disqualified from US Open


Novak Djokovic's forehand has won him countless titles. Never did we think, in September 2020, it would earn him disqualification from the US Open.


So widely-broadcast was the moment that, despite 17 Grand Slam victories, it may prove the most watched of Novak's career.


Between serves in his semi-final match-up with Pablo Carreno Busta, Djokovic casually hits the ball towards the baseline, without looking. Seconds later, a female lineswoman collapses to the ground in a writhing heap, clutching her throat.


So dramatic was her reaction that, if you told me she was hit with a bullet, rather than a tennis ball, I would have believed you.



The Serb, who was the tournament's top seed, was summarily defaulted from the match for "unsportsmanlike conduct."


Djokovic spent minutes pleading his case for a lesser point or game penalty, highlighting that the lineswoman would not need to go to hospital. Referee Soeren Friemel, however, would have none of it.


“In the end, in any code violation there is a part of discretion to it, but in this instance, I don’t think there was any chance of any opportunity of any other decision other than defaulting Novak, because the facts were so clear, so obvious,” said Friemel.


“The line umpire was clearly hurt and Novak was angry, he hit the ball recklessly, angrily back and taking everything into consideration, there was no discretion involved.”



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