It’s 7 a.m. here on the East Coast, and Novak Djokovic just earned his first-ever Grand Slam title with an enormous win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.  And though Djokovic is a great guy with a great story, and a hell of a player to boot, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a group of people turn against someone like the fans in attendance at Rod Laver Arena did this evening.

The drama started early in the match, when Djokovic’s family caused a stir by getting security to sit near some rowdy Tsonga fans located too near the family box.  The crowd, already in favor of the underdog Tsonga, seemed to take that as a slap to the face.

Things didn’t get better for him when Tsonga pointed out to the chair umpire (repeatedly) that he had a sporadic, often annoyingly long pre-serve ritual of bouncing the ball, sometimes ten or more times.  Late in the fourth set, when it seemed as if the only thing the men could do was hit massive serves, one set of bouncing went on for so long that a fan screamed at Djokovic to stop.

After winning the next point, Djokovic didn’t help his case when he screamed at the fans and then spat.  For the first time in any tennis match I’ve ever seen, the entire arena booed him as he changed sides.  Even after his eventual win a few points later in the tiebreaker, the Aussies gave him nothing more than a polite golf clap.

Did I expect them to suddenly fall in love with Djokovic?  Of course not, but they certainly could have been polite tennis fans and given the man the ovation he deserved for winning his first Grand Slam, one of many that we’ll see in years to come.

There was something in the Melbourne air tonight that made this match special, in a way I’ve never seen tennis before.  There was anger, in the players and their families and the fans.  There was a rage that you just don’t see when Roger is in a final, like these people wanted to win so badly that it was making them crazy.  And that fire is what makes sports so fun to watch.  so for the sake of the game, we need more finals like this, between hungry young players in front of rabid fans.

 Other Stuff:

  • Dick Enberg is awful at pronouncing names.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (thats SONG-guh) was, by the fourth set, shortened to “Joe Willie Zonka.”  He must have said it a dozen times, and it never made any sense.  Although my brother did point out that he might be confused and thinking of “Willie Wonka.”
  • How long before we’re all sick of these stupid Tsonga puns?  If you watched the match tonight, you should be already.  Really, his name sounds like the english word “song?”  I’d have never figured it out if not for Mary Joe Fernandez’s quick tongue!
  • On the positive side, have you ever seen two guys pound forehands at each other like that?  People were worried that a final without Federer would be a letdown… but even Roger can’t crush a ball like these two bruisers.
  • Jo-Wilfried looks just like a young Ali.  I know, ESPN jammed it down our throats tonight, but it’s just so true.
  • When you think about it, we really only get to watch tennis for 8 weeks a year.  That’s 44 weeks that almost everyone on Earth doesn’t get to watch any tennis.  Isn’t that a shame?  I know, there are tours and stuff, but I’ll be damned before I watch Indian Wells.
  • Joe Willie Zonka!