Dubai: The past week in the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open — which culminated in world No.1 Novak Djokovic winning his fifth title here — had all the hallmarks of another masterclass in ruthless efficiency from the Serbian.
However, has Djokovic’s triumph made him any dearer to the tennis-loving crowd here? The answer is anybody’s guess.
It’s a curse that Djokovic has come to terms with during his illustrious career - starting from his first grand slam triumph in the 2008 Australian Open — that he has never enjoyed the fan following of the peerless Roger Federer or the king of clay Rafa Nadal.
This, despite being second to none among the ‘Big Three’ and always playing the role of the people’s champion.
Just take the semi-final here on Friday against Gael Monfils as an example.
The hugely talented Frenchman, who seemed to have hit a purple patch with two back-to-back titles before coming here, had taken the first set 6-2 and was asking all kinds of questions of Djokovic and an upset seemed on the cards.
The owner of 17 grand slams saved three matchpoints against Monfils and was slowly clawing back into the game — but the crowd was wholeheartedly chanting: ‘‘Monfils, Monfils.’’
A situation rather imaginable if Federer — a darling of the crowd here — would have been struggling in a similar situation.
The mental srength and class of Djokovic had helped him fight the odds time and again — as he said after prevailing in that five-set epic against Federer in the Wimbledon final last year.
“When the crowd calls Roger, I hear Novak,” came the brilliant repartee from Djokovic when asked how he managed to win the “away game” on the sacred lawn to win.
“That may sound silly, but I am convinced that it is so,” says Djokovic.
What is that has failed to endear him the crowd round the globe — like his two other peers? Some say it’s his implosive nature on court - which leads to frequent outbursts could be one.
Djokovic has had a lot of heated exchanges with the fans and the umpires as he sometimes gets carried away in the heat of the moment.
Nicolas Almagro, a former top 10 player. had once offered an unique explanation for this. It was a two-horse race between Federer and Nadal, who had already fought epic battles and dominated the scene for years when Djokovic rose to the top of the world.
“Novak has broken the unique rivalry between Roger and Rafael,” said the Spaniard. “It can be a reason that he’s not so popular.”
At the end of the day, the cliche works best about him - love him or hate him, you can’t keep Novak Djokovic down!