From bushfire smoke to lớn the treatment of Navratilova & McEnroe to lớn Djokovic’s meltdown in the final, tennis bounced from one truyền bá disaster lớn the next in Melbourne


Few sports guard their image with as much diligence as tennis. For a fortnight the pretty face of the gentle game took a battering in Melbourne, bouncing from one public relations disaster to lớn another, và the bruises will last.

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The image meltdown began with the reluctance of the Australian xuất hiện to acknowledge with sufficient speed và clarity what everyone in the đô thị – everyone in the country & around the world – knew about the choking effects of bushfire smoke. It then moved on to the similar impact the twisted moral rectitude of Margaret Court had on everyone not born in the 19th century, most publicly Martina Navratilova và John McEnroe, who objected lớn the 77-year-old legend’s hardwired homophobia and almost forgotten apartheid apologia. Holy smoke, indeed.

Novak Djokovic says he did not overstep mark when touching umpire's shoe
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Presentation is everything. While the cheerleading television companies covering the first slam of the season for a worldwide audience of many millions could hardly ignore what their viewers saw through the yellow/brown haze on the screens, most dramatically the on-court coughing collapse of Dalila Jakupovic, it took the tournament days khổng lồ satisfy the curiosity of the truyền thông media và the inquiries of worried players and spectators about what constitutes safe air in Melbourne Park.

The pollution eased; Court got guarded semi-apologies from Navratilova and McEnroe, but she did not reciprocate. The tournament và TV pretended, risibly, that Navratilova và McEnroe had broken hitherkhổng lồ unknown “safety protocols” – not what they actually did, which was to embarrass Court. Navratilova talked khổng lồ TV & McEnroe put out a statement, agreeing.

But there was one exclamation mark left to lớn put on the sentence of embarrassment. It arrived at the kết thúc of the ninth game in the second phối of the men’s final on Sunday evening when Novak Djokovic had his Seremãng cầu Williams moment. He was enraged, with minor justification, that two violations for slow serving had shredded the steel grip he normally has on his emotions. So, with all the assurance of an entitled champion, he tapped the foot of the chair umpire, Damien Dumusois, &, to lớn borrow from Australian argot, “gave him a serve”.

When he should have sầu “let it go through to lớn the ‘keeper”, Djokovic had “a nibble outside off” & exploded. “You made yourself famous in this match,” he said to lớn the dignified Frenchman. “Great job. Especially in the second one. Great job. You made yourself famous. Well done man.”

The damage was done. Again. Because he is playing tennis from Mars (albeit via Hades), Djokovic recovered lớn beat Dominic Thiem, cast in the Naomi Osaka role here (except, unlượt thích the Japanese player in the 2018 Flushing Meadows final against Williams, the Austrian lost, and that matters in this tale). In the euphoria of Djokovic’s eighth Melbourne victory, the moment was briefly parked, khổng lồ resurface only when the winner remembered his obligation khổng lồ put a sheen on the event. Correctly again, he apologised for his crassness. Sort of. Trying lớn patch up the image thing with a smile, he said: “For touching his shoe? I mean, I didn’t know that’s completely forbidden. I thought it was a nice, really friendly touch.”


John McEnroe và Martina Navratilova prochạy thử against Margaret Court. Photograph: Channel 9It was not a good look, for himself & for the tournament that had just made hyên ổn A$4.2m (£2.1m) richer. Because he is charming và intelligent, he reckoned he’d pulled it off. However, like the fire smoke, there was a lingering whiff of something being not quite right. The headlines were awful. Someone looked up the rules. He could be fined A$30,000 for that sort of thing – like Williams, who had to pay a little less in the kết thúc.

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So on Monday, when he should have been glorying in his victory, he apologised again. “Sometimes you vị things that you’re not happy with and you go through different emotions. You go through ups và downs. Of course, I’m not happy that I touched the chair umpire. And I’m sorry if I offended him or anytoàn thân else.” Put khổng lồ bed. Done. Move sầu on. Image saved. Or maybe not.

Court will regard her visit as a triumph, honoured on the 50th anniversary of her Gr& Slam, with her eponymous stadium still in place – despite Navratilova’s campaign lớn have sầu it changed lớn Evonne Goolagong Aremãng cầu.

Court will be baông chồng, saying whatever she wants. So will Djokovic. Will Navratilova? Will McEnroe? They were backed into lớn a corner lớn stop rocking the bloody boat, guys. Maybe they won’t bother khổng lồ make the trip next time. It’s a long way to go lớn be humiliated when you know you’re right.

The odds are Djokovic will win the men’s title again. At his best, notoàn thân can touch him, except Rafa Nadal on clay if fit. Federer couldn’t beat hyên ổn with two match points at Wimbledon last summer. Nor could he protect a 4-1 và 5-2 lead in the first mix against Djokovic in the semi-finals.

Djokovic, on 17 majors now, could add two of the remaining three slams in 2020. So, this time next year, if he won a ninth Australian Open, he could sit alongside Federer on 20 career majors – with Nadal, if the Spaniard wins in Rol& Garros this summer. All three of the Big Three sharing 60 grand slam titles, equally & nervously, each wondering which of the other two will leave the các buổi tiệc nhỏ first. That’s some image.

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And it’s some tiệc nhỏ. For all the nonsense of the past fortnight, tennis continues lớn amaze. If only it would lighten up a little. If only it would say in public what it says behind closed doors, lượt thích Navratilova & McEnroe – và, probably, Djokovic.

Chuyên mục: Tin tổng hợp