It’s easy to be gracious in victory. This holds true at all levels of the game. A serious amateur I know plays doubles versus a man who when he is winning enjoys making friendly jokes, both to his partner and opponents. But if the score is reversed, the climate goes dark, the humor stops and the last thing anyone will do is make a joke at the triumphant comedian’s expense. And don’t expect him to make eye contact at the handshake stage.
But, yes, adversity is where so much is learned. Which leads us to the case of Novak Djokovic and his behavior following his quarterfinal defeat at the hands of Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals of the Alberto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco. Here is what Djokovic had to say in his post-match press conference:
Q: How do you feel?
Djokovic: Not great.
Q: Novak, sometimes you seemed upset with Nick. We know he’s an irreverent player.
Djokovic: He has a big serve. He deserved to win. Congrats.
End of press conference. Brutally perfunctory.
Yet again, another tough loss for Djokovic, who had entered Acapulco at the last minute as a wild card. But if it’s one thing to lose a match – and Djokovic has lost his share these last eight months – it’s another to behave so rudely.
Djokovic now enters a rich period of title defenses – Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Roland Garros. His success inside the lines has often been the result of his ability to create large margins for his groundstrokes. But as he tries to navigate the thin margins that separate victory from defeat, it will be intriguing to see how he continues to conduct himself outside the lines.