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A crack in the goodness: Djokovic comment irks Federer

fedToday’s tennis stars are competitive, they are career-driven, they love their trophies, they take good care of their fitness, they are great brand ambassadors of their sport – and they are also a little too … nice.

John McEnroe left behind a legacy of on- and off-court expletive-laden outbursts, Marat Safin a junkyard of broken racquets. But today’s crop of superstars – be it the men or the women – are guilty of being the ultimate sportspersons: They are gracious, to a fault.

But sometimes, every now and then, there appear moments that seem to chip away the carefully constructed facades and reveal what the players really feel. Take Roger Federer for example. The usually calm champion lost his trademark cool after his win over nemesis Novak Djokovic.

Federer had played a remarkable game of tennis, bringing to a stop Djokovic’s 24-match winning run with a sublime 7-5 6-2 demolition to cement a berth in the semifinals of the World Tour Finals. The Swiss produced an array of shots, change of pace – essentially, Federer played the perfect game.

And after the match, Djokovic said something that may result in him being called a sore loser, blaming himself for the loss.

“You have those days when you are not feeling your best, not even close to the best. Credit to Roger for mixing up the pace, giving me always a different ball. He used the slice and spin very wisely. He served very efficiently.

“I made a lot of, lot of unforced errors. I just handed him the win, especially in the second set.

“He tactically played well. Undoubtedly, he was the better player on the court. But I think I also allowed him to play and penetrate through the ball and dictate the tempo from the baseline.”

Serbia's Novak Djokovic (right) walks off the court after being defeated by Switzerland's Roger Federer (left) in their round robin game during the ATP World Tour Finals in London, Britain, 17 November 2015. (Photo courtesy: EPA)
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (right) walks off the court after being defeated by Switzerland’s Roger Federer (left) in their round robin game during the ATP World Tour Finals in London, Britain, 17 November 2015. (Photo courtesy: EPA)

And Federer didn’t take too kindly to his rival’s words.

“He handed [me] the win? Well, he wasn’t as good as in the first set. But I feel, honestly, with the way he’s played this season, you still have to put him away.

“It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s not like he played terrible. I know he can play better. Why did he play that way? I’d like to give myself credit for that, quite honestly, yeah.”

Federer now leads Djokovic 22-21 in head-to-heads. And after this riposte, he also leads the Serb in verbal duels.

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