Tennis Prose



My Question To Djokovic in Miami

By Scoop Malinowski

Novak Djokovic got through his third round duel with Federico Delbonis, needing three sets to subdue the Argentine lefty.

After the match, Djokovic did a press conference which attracted only six reporters including a local new guy who did a five minute one on one.

With so few journalists to combat for the microphone with the IMG interns pass around, I got the okay from ATP media boss Nikola and asked Novak this question.

“Rafael Nadal said in Doha that you were the one who played the best tennis against him that he ever saw. Who would you say played the best tennis you saw ever played against you?

His response was interesting.

“Well I will return the favor. Nadal and Roger. I mean, these two guys. And Stan I think also
couple matches that we had in Grand Slam finals, he played some amazing tennis. Yeah, because of those rivalries that I had with them, I was forced to dig deeper and understand what it takes,
what I need to do to improve my game even more. When you get smashed on the court, obviously it
doesn’t feel great, but it does make you really address your game more than I guess any other moment. It’s not like I’m inviting to get smashed on the court, but when I have been, then I really had to rethink the game and it made me improve.”

Australian journalist Craig Gabriel had a strong follow up question.

We know you’re a very determined person. You’ve just been touching about Rafa, Roger, Stan,
I guess Andy as well. Do you think you would be as good a player as you are now if those guys were not around?

Djokovic replied: “Well, I understand you’d like to get an answer on that question. I understand your question. I don’t like to usually talk about what ifs. I am obviously part of this group of players. I’m grateful for that. At the beginning of my career, I was probably frustrated to have Nadal and Federer in the same era because they were winning so much, they were so dominant. They kept being dominant. I just managed to up my level and start winning against them on the
biggest tournaments, start getting some major titles. Yes, I do feel like these guys have helped my game tremendously. I did say that many times before. I really don’t know what would happen if I was in a different era. It’s difficult to say really. I am grateful that I am part of this group.”

It was surprising so few of the media came to talk to Djokovic, compared to Naomi Osaka who filled fifteen seats.

And an ATP rep said Caroline Wozniacki had zero media at one of her press conferences and she was world no. 1.

Djokovic will play Roberto Bautista Agut in the round of 16.



  • catherine · March 25, 2019 at 3:20 am

    Scoop – I’d like to think few press people are there because they’re all out watching matches and not sitting around in the media centre picking up transcriptions of interviews and keeping an eye on tv 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 8:04 am

    I have not seen many reporters out viewing the action Catherine, it was a surprise that five media crammed into room five to ask Wang some questions.

  • Doug Day · March 25, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Scoop find out whats behind Kerber dissing Bibi Andreescu. Cant believe the MTOs are enough to rattle a seasoned champ. Could be the use of that many weapons inside a week?

  • catherine · March 25, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Doug – don’t know what Scoop will say but to me it was a combination of playing Bianca so soon after IW, injury to Kerber’s thigh (not drastic but distracting), fear that Bianca will pass her and she can’t beat her, general sense of getting older – all those things. The MTOs are minor. Angie’s used them herself. She also has a history of blowing up although this isn’t publicised. Also use of occ has increased – she calls out Schuettler more than she ever did Benz or Fisette. Significant I think. In one word I’d say – fear.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Doug, it’s more than the medical timeouts, it’s her superior play, superior arsenal, superior mental game. My educated guess is that Kerber is trying to latch on to the one area she can verbally attack, the medical timeouts. And by exploiting that area maybe she thinks she can get into Andreescu’s head. But I think the kid is too smart and too mentally tough to be bothered by that.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Catherine, agree, Kerber is panicking and desperate to avenge Andreescu any way she can, and verbally and the sour grapes routine is her only option right now.

  • Hartt · March 25, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Catherine, knowing how closely you follow Kerber’s career, I was interested in your comments.

    I agree that the MTOs are minor. Bianca took one when she was leading 4-1, so it looks like she did feel it was necessary, because surely she did not want to disrupt her momentum at that juncture. She said she has been having problems with tightness in her shoulder, so it did not sound very serious, but you can understand why she wanted to do something about it. Along with the 1 MTO, Bianca had treatment on that shoulder twice during changeovers.

    I am not a fan of how often players use MTOs these days, but what Bianca did seemed well within the norm.

    I was surprised how critical some reddit posters were of Bianca. I watched the match pretty carefully and did not think she did anything to warrant Angie’s comment.

    I think your suggestions about what is really bothering Kerber make a lot of sense.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Andreescu is definitely a clever player who seems to create drama and fake drama and smokescreens of such things as feigning to be tired in the first set then playing strong tennis in the third set. I first noticed this in australia. It’s understandable how the other players will begin to revolt against her. We have seen this pattern before.

  • catherine · March 25, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Beltz of course. And maybe fear/anxiety in Angie. Any target will do to lessen that. Bianca fears injury and she has good reasons, so she’s not faking.

  • catherine · March 25, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Scoop – don’t agree with you there. I think Bianca will settle down as she matures. With her history I think it’s quite reasonable how she reacts. She knows other young players have had their careers cut short.

    Lots of players seem so tired or injured and then speed ahead and win. It’s an acceptable tactic. Simona’s good at that.

  • catherine · March 25, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Hart – I’m really surprised you follow reddit. I’m afraid I find most online commenters extremely annoying and I dont want to contribute to the founders’ profits. A lot of posters really don’t know much about the game or they’re rabid fans of one or other player. I think Angie was wrong here and that’s it. And she compounded the mistake with her grovelling tweet. She should have said sorry to Bianca privately.

  • Doug Day · March 25, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    Verdict: Bibi fears injury, Angie fears Bibi.
    Both are right but only one can show it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Catherine, you may be right. But consider the case of Guillermo Coria. He was a major gamesmanship player when young, he loved to play mind games in juniors. Then as he developed into a top junior, he still couldn’t resist doing it and kept playing mind games and making fun of opponents. He continued this behavior as a pro to the top of the atp. He was a hated player. We will see if Andreescu keeps playing it HER WAY.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Catherine, just curious, what parts of Facing Steffi Graf did you find most interesting? We are in rain delay here at Miami Open, Kvitova up on Garcia 6352. Dimitrov lost another bad match losing to Jordan Thompson 75 75.

  • Hartt · March 25, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    I don’t think Bianca was feigning tiredness. Given all the tennis she has played, and with no real break between IW and Miami, the surprise would be if she weren’t tired. She is such a fierce competitor that she fights through it, and may increase her aggressiveness to try to end points quickly.

    In any case, she retired from her match against Kontaveit in the 2nd set. I think she is wise not to take any chances with her shoulder, and she must be beyond exhausted. She said before Miami that she would have a 2-3 week break after this tourney. So she should come back refreshed.

  • Hartt · March 25, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Catherine, I find that the posters on reddit vary dramatically in their knowledge of tennis. Some are silly or just super fans of one player, but others have thoughtful, interesting comments. I just skim the comments to find the ones worth reading.

    Also, I have been grateful to receive links from posters to streams for WTA matches that I can’t access. I am getting very frustrated in my attempts to find a reliable source for WTA matches.

  • catherine · March 25, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Hartt – just had a look and saw Bianca had retired. As you say, a very wise move. I was afraid she’d overplay and do some real damage. It’s a shame she’s so vulnerable to injury. Hope she comes back refreshed.

    I find streams wherever they crop up on youtube. They vary a lot in quality and sometimes get cut off when someone tracks them since I assume they’re all illegal.

  • catherine · March 25, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Scoop – I enjoyed the whole section on Steffi since I saw her when she first started but wasn’t able to follow her career to the end. I think I enjoyed the press interviews with Steffi a lot since they covered a time I wasn’t around. The whole section certainly brought back some memories. Did you see a note I wrote on an earlier post on a German documentary being made, or has been made, about her ? Featuring a certain AK, naturally.

  • catherine · March 25, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Doug – Angie fears what Bianca represents. That’s my view.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you Catherine. I did not see that about a Steffi documentary but am interested to see it for sure. Hope they do it well.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    Andreescu finally ran out of energy, it’s about time. After all she played, its a wonder it didn’t happen matches earlier. Hsieh wins again, downing Wozniacki who she had not beat before either, like Riske. She is at her career best now at 33. Go figure.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    Catherine, you will like this story I learned today from the very good German journalist Jannik Schneider of German Tennis Magazine, we have been lucky to have him sit by us and we have shared many good conversations with him. He knows a lot about the Germans, he said Kerber was about to quit in 2011, but Petkovic had a long phone talk with her and drove hours to meet with her and train together in Offenburg and it sparked her career and changed it. Shortly after she made semis at US Open and the rest is history. She was about to quit but Petko talked her out of it.

  • Doug Day · March 25, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    Yeah but where’s the drama in that?

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 25, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    Doug, perhaps they all will try to label Andreescu as the “drama queen” now and try to get in her head with this, as they did with Seles by criticizing her grunting which affected her play.

  • catherine · March 26, 2019 at 3:02 am

    Scoop – thanks for that story. I knew Angie and Petko were friends, very close a few years ago, they played doubles together and there are some clips on Youtube where they seem a comedy duo, they have such good rapport. Andrea also talks about her in interviews but all in German I’m afraid. She posted a couple of amusing tweets when Angie won W’don. She was obviously thrilled for her. It’s possible they aren’t quite so close these days because people get older and their lives drift apart but it would be nice to think Andrea could be a similar support now if Angie needs it. She’s a very bright mature woman and I get the feeling someone you could completely trust. Without going into specifics I believe Angie had some difficult times early on in her career and her family situation wasn’t the easiest. But she’s reticent about her private life and we should respect that.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 26, 2019 at 10:51 am

    Catherine, you really learn at these tournaments how much more action and news actually happen beneath the surface of what we see from afar and the media narratives. Lots of stuff happening such as Marcelo Rios daughter being thrown out of the tournament for some kind of bad behavior, she had her credential revoked. German journalist pursuing the story that Federer Godsick and Team 8 are poaching top players to manage them, such as Zverev. And I’m actually beginning to re-think my stance on Gimelstob and how he was manipulated and provoked by his wife and former friend Kaplan, major provocations to the point that maybe he was set up and we need to hear the FULL STORY. Myself and Dan spoke with one of his closest friends who was at his wedding and knows some interesting details. Sure he blew up and lost his cool and self control — but just what the heck was it that provoked his anger? And how did this guy Kaplan manage to count exactly 50 punches? I’m curious and suspicious.

  • catherine · March 26, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Actually that’s something I really missed when I left our magazine – sitting around and hearing all these stories – about 50% usually turn out not true but the rest, probably. Of course we couldn’t print some of the best for fear of our Learn’d Friends as we say here.

    I wondered about the Gimelstob attack – who stands there and counts precisely 50 punches ? A human punchbag ?

    What’s going on with Zverev ? Is Lendl in Miami ?

    Sounds like Rios’ daughter is a chip off the old block alright.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 26, 2019 at 11:40 am

    Maybe she’s worse! A princess diva spoiled brat is not a healthy mix. Yes I suspect there could be a deep pocketed conspiracy to take down Gimelstob, very possible.

  • Doug Day · March 27, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    First, no more unbearably cliched match commentation, ever. Then we call off the conspiracy.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 27, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Doug, Gimelstob is not a cliche machine analyst, he’s a solid, very strong analyst IMO, one of the better ones. He reads a match well and makes you understand what is going on.



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