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Aug/20

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The Djokovic-Roddick Near Brawl at US Open 2008

Tensions between Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick were so heated in the summer of 2008 they very nearly came to blows inside the US Open locker room after a fierce, four set slugfest.

At the time Djokovic was no. 3 in the world, Roddick 8. Roddick, and a few other veteran players did not approve of the way Djokovic was making fun of other players with his on court imitations not to mention the Serbian’s tendency to overuse injury timeouts to stall matches he was losing.

Roddick and Djokovic played a tiebreaker at Arthur Ashe Kids Day and it was clear then to alert witnesses that both severely despised each other. Both were supposed to be having fun playing in front of kids on Ashe Stadium, both were wearing microphones to poke fun at each other. But the festivities became serious. Roddick attempted a drop shot, which Djokovic hit back nicely, then suddenly, shockingly, Roddick tried to smash a forehand at Djokovic’s head at net. Djokovic replied with a sarcastic sneer, “So that’s the way you want to play Andy?”

Djokovic won the breaker but it was evident complex hostilities existed between the two rivals. Game on.

All hell broke loose after Djokovic beat Roddick in four sets in the night match quarterfinal the following week. Djokovic made some offensive comments during the post match interview on court, which an already seething Roddick watched on the locker room TV monitor. When Djokovic returned to the locker room minutes later – without his team – a near-rampaging Roddick, according to witnesses, confronted Djokovic and verbally abused him to the point that Djokovic had “tears running down his cheeks.”

The witness stated, “If we were not there to break it up and keep them apart, Roddick would have beat the sh** out of Djokovic.”

Physically and verbally humiliated, Djokovic did not discuss the details at the post match press conference of his locker room battle with Roddick, electing to only say what was said between the two will remain private. Roddick also was mum about the near violent episode which none of the media had any inkling about.

Djokovic, who had won his first major in Australia earlier in 2008, lost in four sets to Federer in the semi 63 57 75 62. He did not win his second major until 2011 AO. It could be surmised Djokovic needed a lot of time to heal the psychological wounds administered by Roddick.

The account of this Djokovic-Roddick fight was later confirmed by a tennis figure who is friendly with both players, though he declined to offer any extra details.

Here is what both Djokovic and Roddick said in their post match press conferences…

U.S. OPEN

September 4, 2008

Andy Roddick

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

N. DJOKOVIC/A. Roddick
6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You’ve clearly ticked him off with comments about SARS and bird flu and everything. He took himself to bring it up in front of a stadium that booed him loudly and even Michael tried to steer it and he just kept it going. Is that a bad call on his part?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I mean, listen, here’s the deal: I mean, if you guys haven’t ever seen me joke in a press conference, I’d be shocked, okay?
I think you guys know it was completely meant in jest. Listen, I had four questions from each one, I had eight questions about all the other ones. Finally after 12 questions I decided to make light of the situation and it actually stopped after that. Or it screwed me up and you guys got me out of it.
I’m willing to talk about it. I don’t know if, you know — he took it as seriously. I figure if you’re going to joke and imitate other people and do the whole deal, then you should take it. Listen, if someone makes fun of me I’m most likely going to laugh. If I’m over the line I’m going to come in here and say I was ridiculous. And I was wrong. I’ve been the worst of it in the past. By no means am I sitting here trying to be holier than thou or anything like that. But I promise you that if somebody makes a joke about it I’ll probably laugh.
I’m sorry he took it that way. There’s nothing else to say. I don’t think I was over the line. It wasn’t my intention, and, you know, I’m sorry he felt that way. Maybe I did him a favor tonight.

Q. It was our comments back and forth, and to be honest with you, today I heard from five or six or seven people, I heard it on ESPN, I heard it on USA, those types of things have legs, whether you like it…
ANDY RODDICK: I should know better, but listen, I joke all the time. I don’t think anybody in their right mind takes me serious. I think it’s very clear when I give a serious answer and when I don’t give a serious answer.
Maybe that part — maybe I should know better, you know, but in my eyes it’s an innocent comment. I felt that most people found it funny and I tried to build it up — if you look at the transcript, I’m saying, I’m 3, he’s 8. It’s straightforward. I’m trying to build it up as like I’m the favorite. I said listen, if you want to go last 10 days or go the last 10 months, he’s been the best hardcourt player. I’m throwing truthful things the whole time. If someone wants to focus in on that and use it, then by all means, but especially in Novak’s case, if you’re going to dish out all the stuff, then be able to take it with a smile, is the only part that I don’t quite agree with.

Q. Have you had an opportunity to talk to him afterward?
ANDY RODDICK: Anything that’s going to be said between Novak and I is going to stay between Novak and I because I’m not going to air out private conversations in front of you guys, because I just don’t feel like that’s necessary.

Q. You were serving 5-4, it looked like it was going to go into a fifth set. You had two really good serves to start. What happened from there on?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I doubled twice, but you know what? I honestly don’t feel like they were super-tight doubles, and I’ve been going for bigger second serves kind of the whole way back because he was jumping on my second serve early. Just missed them. He had a really good shot on break point.
I’ve been playing pretty high-risk, high-reward tennis and I probably wasn’t about to stop.
Given the choice again, I’d probably go for them, you know. That’s what got me back in the match.

Q. You looked pretty nervous at the start of the match. Was there something bothering you or just the pressure?
ANDY RODDICK: I just wasn’t seeing the ball. I felt like everything was a little bit rushed, and it was unfortunate. By the time I got my legs under me he was on a little bit of a roll. The fourth set I hit the ball as well as I have this whole tournament. Credit to him on the tiebreaker, he really beared down on a couple of points where I really hit the ball well to win it. He’s great at winning those tough matches, and I’m disappointed that I spotted him a set before I actually got my feet under me, but, you know, I’m happy with the effort I made to try to come back.

Q. Matches can turn on a dime, but if you hold, going into the fifth set it’s a whole different match.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I know that.

Q. But I mean, it turned that quick for you.
ANDY RODDICK: Well, it turned that quick for me to get back into it, also. That’s tennis. It’s a service break. A service break and stuff changes. You know, especially about — I get someone who’s not going to let you make mistakes.
I probably would get out of that game against a lot of people with a serve-and-volley player and they don’t hit a topspin lob for a winner. You’ve got to give credit there. Like I said I missed those two serves but I don’t feel like I nursed them. I feel like I hit them okay.
You know, there’s not a whole lot of regret in the way I played the last two sets. The first two is another story. Like I said, I dug myself a hole that was real tough to get out of. I gave it my best shot to get out them but I think it was too little too late.

Q. Are you, you know, the way you played the way you gutted it out, if you look back, I know it’s a little bit difficult because the tournament just ended for you, but are you happy, can you look back and reflect and take some positives out of this tournament, Andy?
ANDY RODDICK: I think. I was playing like absolute crap when I got here. I mean, really, really bad. Not confident after coming back from the injuries, and it was, you know, I just didn’t feel clean with anything, and, you know, I played some good tennis here, and ended playing good tennis.
You know, it was just the front part of the match today that got me. So, you know, it’s disappointing. It’s really disappointing.
But I feel better now than I did, you know, at the beginning of the summer, like Wimbledon and then through those tournaments and Toronto where I played pretty bad and Cincy where I had to pull out. I never got started. This tournament was better than that.
I said the other day you can go in two directions, and I feel like I’m going in the better direction now than I was, you know, when we first talked in that press conference on that Saturday.

Q. Do you feel like handicapping that semifinal match between Roger and Novak at all?
ANDY RODDICK: I’m not touching anything. (laughter.)

Q. He played high level in the breaker, but anything you think you could have done differently or just the 5-All point you played tremendous defense?
ANDY RODDICK: I played a bad shot there but honestly I felt like I bested him back enough. I got with a short one a couple of times. I probably didn’t hit it. It’s probably the only shot I nursed in the last two sets. But I mean I played a couple of great points up to, and credit to him, at 5-All point he just beared down and played big. I don’t know how long the rally was but I felt like I hit four or five huge balls and he fought them off and that’s why he’s been successful.

U.S. OPEN

September 4, 2008

Novak Djokovic

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

N. DJOKOVIC/A. Roddick
6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Andy, I mean, based on the comments on the court, Andy clearly upset you, angered you with some of the comments that became public. Was that a factor? How much were you angered by those comments?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Now, look, I had a very, very tough day yesterday. Physically I was feeling very exhausted and very empty.
I wasn’t able to practice. One of the reasons was physically that, you know, I was exhausted and the other reason was that I just mentally had a lot of pressure.
Unfortunately, Andy made a statement — I don’t think it was intentional, okay. He made a joke and it was a misunderstanding, so I don’t blame it on him. Okay. I did react on the court. Maybe I reacted. Maybe I exaggerated and reacted bad in that moment. No, I apologize if I reacted like that. But this was just impulsive, you know.
I had a lot of emotions in last two days. It’s not nice when you get that from media all around the world and from players, and I never needed to make any excuses in the press. I just didn’t need — because I know that what I’m doing is right, that I have all the rights to take the medical timeout, that I’m doing it just for the purpose to make my physical condition better and just that I continue playing better.
I never made medical timeout because I wanted to distract the player, the opponent, or, you know, make the result look worse, you know.
And I just never did it. I didn’t pay attention when I took the medical timeout. I just didn’t care about it. Medical timeout is there because physiotherapist are there and doctors are there to help you out. This is what I did. I just took the medicals to help me out.
Maybe the people think that I’m exaggerating with these things, but it’s just — it’s nothing bad, nothing negative, because I just — I twist my ankle, I feel bad, you know. I get the pain in the back.
I just want to make it right, you know. Andy was always nice to me when I got to the tour, so this was just a clear misunderstanding.

Q. Have you spoken to Andy in the locker room already?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, but this is just between us.

Q. I think maybe one of the reasons you were maybe upset is he was maybe not the only one who said that? Robredo said some things, and he sounded serious, although thinks his English is not as good?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, look, Robredo had the right to say something like that if he lost, you know. Everybody has right to complain and right to say. I respect everybody’s thoughts and everybody’s opinion.
I never wanted to disrespect anybody. As I said, if I made — if I exaggerated on the court today and I made maybe a mistake saying that in front of 20,000 people, you know, in his city and his favorite tournament, okay, I do apologize, but it was — he was not bad intentions. So I just hope people understand.

Q. The crowd’s attitude also strengthened you even though they were very obviously with Andy? Did that help you coming back and putting him away in four sets?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, no, nothing against the crowd. The crowd here in New York, at least I get that feeling, liked me last year, and really, I had such a fun time last year. You know, reaching the finals and they were behind me. In most of the matches I played I have not enough words to thank them. I just don’t want this to happen in a bad way.
You know, we had this connection, and this year, of course, this match, I mean, I didn’t expect the crowd would be behind me. It’s obviously that they will be for the home player and for Andy, you know. Their biggest hope to win the US Open. This is — this is the biggest reason.
But I just, you know, I felt bad in the end.

Q. Prior to the comment, though, I didn’t think that the crowd seemed overtly for Andy. I mean, they were cheering for good tennis. You made some beautiful shots out there tonight and I thought you had tremendous sport?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course, I always take the crowd out of the match, because we have to respect them, and I have big support here in the States. I just love playing here. My best results ever were here, in the States and in the hard courts.
So whenever I come back here for me, it’s a pleasure to play in front of the full stadium, packed house, a lot of entertainment and a lot of fun. Makes emotions. So we just have fun. You could see that on the court, as well.

Q. You were saying you had so much pressure the last couple days. Why are you feeling so much pressure?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the thing is that you know in the past, as well, I got asked from the press and not just asked, I mean, the press was the one who was, you know, saying a lot of things and maybe other players, as well, saying their opinions about my medical timeouts, that I was taking too much, and they don’t believe that I’m injured enough.
So it was a little quiet now in last year or so, and now it’s coming back again.
So it’s not nice, really, when you are in the middle of something that you know that you’re not doing wrong, you know?
I mean, to be honest, as I said before, it was never my intention to distract anybody. It was just doing for my own good, so press is a part of my life, and I mean, I always try to be nice to everybody, and I never been in any misunderstandings or any fights with any of the other players.
I would never disrespect anybody, and this is just — it’s not, you know, a way…

Q. So you feel like you deserve more respect for the person and player you were?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, I just — I just think that this should be reduced. That’s all.
I mean, I’m not asking for it, you know — you guys do whatever you need to do. You do whatever you feel you need to do. But it’s just that I don’t want to make excuses, you know. There is a lot of players, you know, they come and they make excuses. I’m not one of them. I don’t need to make excuses, you know, why is my leg injured, why is my back injured. It’s not me.

Q. We can be surprised by your way of playing. One day you’re limping, the other you are not limping. So can you understand that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I can’t understand that. The thing is you don’t understand that in the middle of the match, you are trying to get yourself the best as possible. It doesn’t mean that if I’m inviting a doctor to the court or physio that I’m dying, you know?
I’m having a problem, with the ankle, okay. I felt the pain in that certain moment, and I just want to make sure that everything is all right. That’s all.
I mean, and then the big story comes out of it, and then suddenly I’m a bad guy, you know.

Q. Did you have any pain tonight? You did not call the trainer at all. Were there any moments where you thought, I’d like to call the trainer but because of all of this I’m not going to?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There were some, but just — let’s keep that — don’t talk about it, because then, you know, you get me wrong again.

Q. Looking at Roger, what do you think you’re going to have to do on Saturday to make it to the finals?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said on the court, he’s absolute favorite in that match, and for him, it’s a big challenge now to win another Slam, and to at least stay in the race with Rafa to be No. 1 player of the world and end of the year, still big chances, of course.
It’s a bit strange, though, to see No. 2 next to his name, you know. He was so dominant in last couple of years, and I lost to him here the finals last year. I took some, well, necessary thoughts, and things out of that match, so I can improve in the next challenges, and/or next encounters, and I won against him this year in Australian Open. That was my best tournament of the career, and against him, that was one of my best matches.
Hopefully I can do the same. I just need to be myself and need to be aggressive.

Q. Were you aware that if you win that match and go on to win the tournament that you will overtake Roger for No. 2?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not thinking about that in the moment, you know. I’m going slowly, step by step.

Q. The weather for Saturday looks like it’s going to be a rainout. If it is a rainout, how will the extra day off affect you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it’s going to go in my favor. Physically I’ve been struggling in this tournament, so — any extra day of relaxation and just recovery would be good for me, of course, but I would like to play soon, not wait here.

Q. Why would you say he’s such a favorite when you did play so well and beat him in Australia and showed that at your best level on hardcourts you can play with him and overcome him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not saying I cannot win. Of course I can win and I won two encounters which we had in hardcourts. But look, he was four years No. 1 player of the world, and he’s still better than me in rankings, and he has all the things under his belt, I mean, 13, 14 Grand Slams, I don’t know how many titles, 50, 60 titles. He’s very experienced, and he knows what he needs to play, how he needs to behave in the big matches in front of the big crowd and in big moments, what shots he needs to play.
I’m getting that experience slowly, but I’m still not in his, you know, level. If I play my best, yes, I think I have good chance to win, but still, I would give him as the favorite.

Q. Did you think you were going five sets tonight, Novak?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was very close. I mean, he was serving 5-4 and 30-Love, and plus staying on the better side on the court, so I really didn’t think I would get myself out of that position, but, you know, obviously I played well.

Q. Last year you really endeared yourself to the crowd through, you know, your own behavior, on court, YouTube, picking up the impersonations, us talking about it, giving it some mileage and so forth. It just sort of seems this year that things are sort of almost the other way around. There’s a lot of negative stuff. It’s not that you have changed, although I do sense you’re more guarded. You said the other day, I don’t want to be a clown, for instance. Maybe you’re not trying to, you know, get laughs or whatever. But I mean, you know, do you find yourself this year leery of exposing yourself, your emotions, or are you leery of media more than you were? I mean…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s different, you know. Once you win the Grand Slam title and, you know, win a couple more major events, you get more attention from everybody, and it’s logical.
Again, you know, I don’t want to make any impersonations more. It’s not that I don’t want, you know. This is something that people will get wrong, you know. And this is exactly the reason, and this is exactly the situation I don’t want to be in. You know, fighting with people, with the press and this is absolutely not me.
And that’s one of the reasons why I stopped doing this. I mean everybody is different. Everybody has different character, different personality, different way of seeing things on and off the court.
I always try to enjoy my life as much as I can, on the court and off the court. People who follow my career know that. And it was all from the positive side of life and just bringing the smiles on the people’s faces. Not really insulting anybody. So, you know, it just turned around now. So hopefully we can get back.

Q. You were talking about Roger’s big match experience, but tonight, very big match. You come up in the clutch. You hit the great backhand lob to break him. You played a brilliant tiebreaker, big struggle on the second to last point and a winner on the last point. You’re really showing something to yourself and everyone else game-wise?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, sure. Last three matches have been extremely difficult for me, as well mentally, you know, to survive two matches, four sets and one five-setter is very important in these kind of events. I’m maturing more and more. You know, I know what I need to play in the certain moments and important moments.
I’m really trying to push myself to be as positive as I can, you know, not to think about, you know, the things that already happened.
So this was the case today. I lost that third set, and I was a break down. He was serving, and he was just getting into the rhythm of the serve. He was serving huge. And then suddenly he makes two double faults, so I used my opportunity.

(Djokovic art by Andres Bella.)

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6 comments

  • Matty · August 26, 2020 at 8:58 pm

    About 2-3 years before this, Roddick had given Djoker a severe beat down on a day that Nole was clearly showing signs of not breathing right. Not sure if he even finished the match that day. Obviously that carried on to that fateful day at the Open. Nole never forgave Roddick for that shellacking and Roddick never beat him again…

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 26, 2020 at 10:11 pm

    Matty, After this US Open locker room fight Roddick beat Djokovic the next four times they played in 09 and 2010, all in QFs in AO, IW, Canada and Cincy. As I said, it took a long time for Djokovic to recover from being physically and verbally humiliated by Roddick. Djokovic did destroy Roddick in their final two meetings at WTF 62 63 and the Olympics 62 61. Roddick won the overall head to head 5-4.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 27, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Osaka and USTA canceling tennis because a black thug named Jacob Blake resisted arrest, disobeyed police commands and tried to get a knife out of his car. We are in the twilight zone where pop culture defends and protects criminal thugs and attack police. Michelle Malkin sums it up best.

    BLM’s perpetual fake outrage cycle

    Michelle Malkin: Like George Floyd and Rodney King, Jacob Blake ‘brazenly resisted arrest’

    By Michelle Malkin
    Published August 25, 2020 at 7:20pm

    Here we go again: Manufacture. Rinse. Repeat.

    Everyone knows the cycle. Everyone knows it ends with false and incomplete narratives eventually being debunked by actual facts. Everyone knows that the racial myth-makers and political opportunists end up with fame, wealth and glory – but never any criminal punishments or moral accountability.

    Everyone knows, yet on and on and on it goes.

    Step 1: Spread out-of-context video clip of black man subdued or shot by white cops across national media airwaves and social media platforms.

    Step 2: Riot.

    Step 3: Accuse law enforcement and America of “systemic racism,” decry police brutality and demand “justice” for fill-in-the-blank “victim.”

    Step 4: Riot.

    Step 5. Enter Al Sharpton, Benjamin Crump, Black Lives Matter chief propagandist Shaun King and the rest of the racial hoax crime brigade.

    Step 6: Persecute and prosecute involved police officers.

    Step 7: Burn, loot and maraud nationwide.

    Step 8: Demand more funding for “restorative justice,” “alternative” policing, sensitivity training and “anti-racism” programs.

    Step 9: Bury all evidence of justified police action while screaming, “Racism!” ever louder.

    Step 10: Lie in wait for the next opportunity to return to Step 1.

    I’ve been covering this self-destructive ritual in American life since the very beginning of my journalism career in 1992, when the Rodney King beating video led to the acquittal of four Los Angeles police department officers, which led to the L.A. riots…

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 27, 2020 at 8:31 am

    It will be a crying shame if tennis destroys itself over this nonsense fake news anti white politica agenda the way NFL NBA MLB and Nooscar have self destroyed. Shame on USTA and Osaka for politicizing tennis.

  • Sam · August 27, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    I see the U.S. Open draw is out–Djokovic got about the best draw he could really hope for. On the women’s side, interesting to see that Tsvetana Pironkova is back for the first time in ages. Definitely one of the more attractive players on the tour.

    “It will be a crying shame if tennis destroys itself over this nonsense fake news anti white politica agenda the way NFL NBA MLB and Nooscar have self destroyed. Shame on USTA and Osaka for politicizing tennis.”

    If it does, they’ve got no one to blame but themselves. πŸ˜‰ Yes, the USTA and Osaka’s blatant “virtue signaling” is so low. πŸ˜›

    Anyway, I’ve learned not to expect too much from tennis players (or any athletes) as people. Enjoy the show, but don’t put these folks on a pedestal. Just like everyone else, they’re just doing their jobs–doesn’t make them heroes by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 27, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    Right Sam athletes are good at playing sports which they dedicate their childhood and lives to. We shouldn’t expect Osaka to understand how the real world works and to see through all the deception and manipulation and political agendas. She knows how to win tennis matches and how to behave I the tennis world bubble which is not reality.

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