World No 1 Novak Djokovic now has a problem that is not exactly Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. It’s his father. In a long tradition of fathers making life difficult for tennis stars, Srjdan Djokovic has launched into Djokovic’s rivals: Nadal lacks sportsmanship, Federer may be a great tennis player but he is a terrible human being and both are jealous of his son’s success.
Djokovic can get tips from players past and present on how to deal with Daddies Without Control. Bernard Tomic may not be the best person to go to however. John Tomic assaulted Thomas Drouet, a former player and Bernard’s former hitting partner. Tomic senior has been banned from attending matches by the ATP and more recently, Wimbledon refused to allow him to buy a ticket.
Bernard has been pleading daddy’s case although he has also been seen applauding umpires who have asked disruptive daddy to leave the
stadium. John Tomic is not the worst daddy around though. Steffi Graf’s father recognised her talent and steered to her phenomenal success. But his supposed liaison with a former Playboy model which led to blackmail and extortion threats and a child derailed her successful run for a while in the early 1990s.
Some years later, Peter Graf was also jailed for tax evasion involving his daughter’s earnings. Steffi’s husband Andre Agassi has discussed his painful relationship with tennis and the pressure he faced from his father in his autobiography, Open. Maria Sharapova’s father used to be her coach but she has moved on. Marion Bartoli, trained by her father which may account for some of her quirky moves, is now coached by Drouet (of Tomic fame) and they have won a Wimbledon title together.
But the prize for worst father on the tennis circuit must go to Damir Dokic, father of Jelena Dokic. His physical and mental abuse on his very talented daughter destroyed her career and although she has tried several comebacks, her past has taken its toll on her. But his torment and torture of his daughter aside, Damir Dokic was also jailed for threatening to blow up the Australian embassy in Belgrade with a hand grenade.
Djokovic is lucky in that case that his father is just a motor mouth. In 2008, his mother had declared, “The king is dead, long live the king”, referring to Federer’s imminent collapse since Novak had won the Australian Open. Federer declined to collapse to suit the Djokovic family’s idea of sportsmanship and Novak apparently asked his family to tone it down. Nadal has suggested that Novak deal with his daddy appropriately this time as well. F
ederer has been silent although the internet is abuzz with this terrible human being’s superb treat to a teenage cancer survivor. And meanwhile, Andy Murray – dubbed a proper sportsman by Srjdan – is a little surprised that he is considered Novak’s “bestie”. Without taking recourse to clichés like songs by Boney M, it might be a good idea if Novak takes Nadal’s advice and gets his father to, well, cool it.