Haters, it's been a while since Novak Djokovic has had a really good I Hate Tennis moment, because he's been loving tennis so much. The Serb is 10-0 since losing to Andy Murray in the US Open final in September. He leads the ATP World Tour with 70 match wins and has, along with the US Open crown, trophies from the Australian Open, Sony Open in Miami and the Rogers Cup in Toronto sitting on his mantel.
But that was all forgotten when he blew this lengthy, thrilling point at the Shanghai Rolex Masters today against Murray, who was seeking his third consecutive Shanghai title. Murray breaks him to serve for the first set at 6-5. No smiles for the Djoker, who seems intent on pushing his racquet through the surface of the court.
What's amazing and admirable is that Djokovic regrouped to win the title. He took the second set, fighting off Murray who, at one point, was serving for the set at 5-4, 30-0. Two more points, and the match was his.
Here's how ATP World Tour's website described the Djokovic comeback: The Djokovic fightback began in the following point. He hit a ‘tweener to claw his way back into an exchange that Murray was winning and clinched it with a drop shot. Murray had his first match point at 40/30, but a forehand winner from Djokovic thwarted the Scot. Murray then hit a forehand long on a break point for Djokovic to surrender his advantage.
A pulsating tie-break followed, with Murray squandering four more match points at 6-4, 8-7 and 10-9 before Djokovic converted his fourth set point with a forehand winner to send the contest into a deciding set.
Murray fended off a break point in the fifth game of the third set, but could not keep Djokovic at bay in the seventh game as the Belgrade native engineered a 4-3 lead. Murray saved two match points on serve down 3-5, but Djokovic converted his third opportunity to claim a memorable victory.
So, is this an example of a "healthy" meltdown, one where Nole demolished his racquet and then put the first set behind him? Is there such a thing? Sometimes I hear commentators giving players kudos for showing their emotions on the court. Other times, they sniff and stiffly say they should bottle up their emotions and focus on the next point.
I think tennis hate is universal. There's no getting around the frustration of missing a shot you should have had, or making the same mistakes over and over again, even though you tell yourself you should know better. But I, for one, can't afford the luxury of smashing my racquet. I'm not getting them for free. I also find it too difficult to surf the rage wave and transition quickly back to calm, tranquil mental waters.
But Djokovic? He apparently knows how to swim with the sharks. Swing away, Nole, swing away. And keep racking up those broken racquets and titles.