Uncovering the News Media’s Shadow Game and Novak Djokovic’s Fight against unfair media coverage among his contemporaries
Novak Djokovic’s unfair treatment by the media compared to players like Federer, Nadal, and Williams sisters has been a recurring theme in modern tennis. Djokovic himself acknowledged this bias in February 2021, admitting that it affects him despite trying to make peace with it. On multiple occasions, he has chosen to stand against the status quo and call out those who benefit from maintaining a biased narrative against him.
His refusal to be vaccinated in January 2022 was a huge controversy leading to his deportation from Australia sparking a 10-day legal battle and a long political drama while in the same year, Australia’s Tahlia MacGrath was allowed to play in the Commonwealth Games women’s cricket final despite testing positive for Covid. Djokovic confessed, “The media has picked on me big time for several months and not on a positive note.”
One of the recurring aspects is the lack of objectivity in media coverage when it comes to the “Big Three” of tennis: Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer. A prime example of this bias occurred during the Australian Open. In 2020, the world watched in awe as Roger Federer produced the ‘Miracle of Melbourne’ to defeat Tennys Sandgren despite carrying an injury. It was a superlative performance and was rightly hailed by all tennis experts, commentators, and the news media. In 2021, It was Novak Djokovic’s turn to do the same against Taylor Fritz, but this time, it was met with an air of suspicion and accusation. Djokovic frequently experiences an excessive crossing of the line into unfairness, a phenomenon that occurs far too frequently and uniquely affects him.
In the Australian Open, Federer’s injury was accepted without any visible evidence or signs of discomfort, while Djokovic’s visibly evident injury was met with skepticism and allegations of faking. This double standard raises concerns about fairness and bias in the media’s coverage of injuries. Djokovic’s refusal to disclose specific details about his injury led to headlines that rankled his camp and fans, highlighting the unnecessary demand for sensitive medical information. On the other hand, Federer’s injuries were not subjected to the same level of scrutiny or demands for scan results. Contradictory opinions from medical professionals regarding Djokovic’s injuries shed light on the bias he faces. While one doctor praised Nadal’s tolerance for suffering, comments regarding Djokovic’s injuries were dismissive and questioned their severity.
French doctor Olivier Rouillon, who was the doctor for the French Golf Federation, questioned the severity of the injury “If he had a major tear, no more pain after two or three days, despite the “miraculous” techniques you told me about, that seems unlikely. You may have a squeaky hamstring with minimal injury“, Rouillon has said. The comment did not go well with the fans of Djokovic.
Earlier the same doctor commended Rafael Nadal for his ‘extraordinary tolerance for suffering.’ These contradictory opinions clearly reveal the bias against Djokovic when it comes to injury.
A comparison between Federer and Djokovic’s achievements at the Australian Open further highlights the media bias as the recognition they received differed significantly. Federer was praised and credited with a miraculous performance, while Djokovic was openly suspected of faking his injury. These accusations were made without any explanation as to why Djokovic would choose to feign an injury and jeopardize his chances in a Grand Slam tournament. The comparisons of Federer’s achievement at the Australian Open against Sandgren in 2020 with Djokovic’s against Taylor Fritz certainly shine a very revealing light on the media.
The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, has particularly targeted Djokovic with fanatical vilification and character assassination. The paper consistently publishes articles that portray Djokovic in the worst possible light while giving other players like Nadal a free pass. The biased coverage and fanatical hatred exhibited by the Daily Mail towards Djokovic are difficult to comprehend.
There are parallels to be drawn with smear campaigns witnessed in the boxing world, where certain fighters were targeted to discredit them and protect established fighters who were inferior to them. It is possible that an organized media manipulation agenda exists against Djokovic, but the motives behind it can only be speculated upon. Back in the ’90s, popular skater Michelle Kwan was ‘worshipped’ by the media, while newcomer Tara Lipinski (who was just a couple of years younger) was always given short shrift by the media. That’s why it was so great to see the conceited Kwan knocked off her “pedestal” at both the 1998 and 2002 Olympics.
Negative articles about Djokovic’s vaccine status and personal interests published by Golf Digest and ESPN further exemplify the biased treatment he receives. The headlines and content of these articles clearly show a negative portrayal of Djokovic based on factors unrelated to tennis.
“How Novak Djokovic got far and away the easiest run of ANY Australian Open star this year as ‘unprecedented’ favoritism for Serb superstar comes to light,” “Novak Djokovic’s 10th Australian Open win was ‘the least watched men’s final in a DECADE’ in the USA as his straight-sets victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas attracted an average of just 439,000 viewers on ESPN” are some of the many headlines covered by the Daily Mail. Golf Digest in its February 2021 article published an article with the headline “Is it still possible for a normal person to like Novak Djokovic.” ESPN published “Novak Djokovic is a profile in selfishness, and sports leaders are failing us all” on account of his vaccine status.
A study by World Sports Network revealed that Djokovic received the most negative attention on social media compared to other tennis players. Approximately one-fifth of tweets about Djokovic were unkind, highlighting the overwhelming negativity surrounding him.
It’s not recent when in April 2023, Novak Djokovic‘s fans lashed out at sports journalist Ben Rothenberg for sharing non-tennis related news on the player on Twitter, in an attempt to evoke hate against him. Ben Rothenberg had reshared a tweet on Novak attending a lecture on Energy secrets hidden in ancient civilizations by Dr. Semir Osmanagic. This incident was especially blown out of proportion as Djokovic attended the session in between the Banja Luka Open. Misrepresentation by ESPN regarding Djokovic’s tournament ban fueled outrage among his fans, as the ban was actually a result of his deportation from Australia rather than his vaccination status that comes with an automatic three-year ban. Moreover, he was deported because of fears that he might incite an anti-vaccination sentiment among people.
In conclusion, Novak Djokovic has consistently been subjected to unfair media coverage compared to other top tennis players. The biased portrayal of his injuries, achievements, and personal interests raises questions about the motives behind this targeted treatment. The discrepancy in recognition between Djokovic and other players for similar achievements highlights the lack of objectivity. The negative attention and character assassination he faces, particularly from popular media news outlets only further contribute to the unfair treatment. Djokovic’s fans have been vocal in expressing their discontent with the biased portrayal of their hero, particularly on social media platforms. The recurring patterns of bias against Djokovic warrant reflection and examination of the underlying motives driving such treatment.
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