Serbia’s Novak Djokovic accused tennis of lacking personalities after his second round win over Radek Stepanek at Wimbledon on Wednesday.
The number one seed defeated his Czech opponent 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, but the Centre Court crowd were not just entertained by a gripping finish to the match, but also some of Stepanek’s outlandish antics.
The 35-year-old became very animated at certain times in the match, such as sinking to his knees and praying on match point when Djokovic challenged a passing shot that had been called wide.
Stepanek was also frequently remonstrating when using the Hawk Eye challenge system, throwing his arms in the air when correctly calling a challenge in the fourth set.
It has become less common for players to act in such an outward fashion on a tennis court, and Latvian world number 10 Ernests Gulbis caused controversy in 2013 when he called the world’s top players “boring”.
Djokovic, who is aiming to win the tournament at SW19 for the second time, understands that it is difficult for players to relax on court, but that character is lacking from the game.
When asked if there are too many antics on court, the world number two said: “As an individual sport we have many different personalities and characters that have a different kind of approach for the match, and maybe different behaviour off the court as well.
“I think that tennis is lacking a little bit in personalities, to be honest. Because of the amount of tournaments we play. Of course importance in the value of each match, you put your game face on when you're on the court. You want to win”.
The six-time Grand Slam winner is one of the more outgoing leading players in the men’s game, but he thinks it is right for each player to have their own on-court demeanour.
"It's hard to judge for me. I understand that everybody's trying to do something to feel comfortable on the court to win the match.”
A high level of personality being exerted on court is not something that is seen regularly at the top level of tennis, particularly since the days of John McEnroe arguing with umpire calls that he disagreed with.
But Djokovic feels that it is important for showmanship to play a role in the sport to give supporters value for money, and he used the example of Gael Monfils of France, who is known for interacting with the crowd and playing shots that are out of the ordinary.
“For somebody it's better to stay focused, not talk, not show emotions, that's fine. But somebody likes to, like Gael, to entertain, to get interaction with the crowd, with his team, which is absolutely fine.
“On the other hand, it's sport. People come to support the tennis, you as a player, but also they would like to see a little bit of your personality.”
Djokovic will next be in action against Frenchman Gilles Simon in the third round on Friday, and the match is scheduled to be played first on Centre Court.
It will be the eighth meeting between the players, and Djokovic has been the victor in six of their previous seven matches, with the last of those coming in the Davis Cup final in Serbia in 2010.
The 2011 Wimbledon champion has a chance to regain his position as world number one if he wins the tournament this year, as he currently lies 170 points behind Spain’s Rafael Nadal.
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