Will the central public necessarily support the “nice Nadal” against the “nasty Djokovic”?

at Roland Garros,

We know someone who must have been happy when the schedule for the quarter-final game between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was announced on Tuesday. We are, of course, talking about the Serbian player himself. Not only is his opponent more vulnerable at night, the world’s number 1 can also hope for an audience that is more divided in his encouragement than he would have known in the afternoon. The nightly sessions attract a different, younger audience, who like provocation and roughness. And therefore not necessarily committed to the “nice Rafa” in his fight against the “nasty Djoko”.

It is not for nothing that the Serb experienced “the best moment” of his career at Roland last year in the semifinals, against the same opponent and in the same night conditions. There was, of course, the gigantic intensity of this encounter, but also, for the first time, the impression that he was being supported at the height of his status. He had said after his victory in the final how much these encouragements had touched him. This lack of popularity compared to Nadal and Federer is a recurring and sensitive subject for Djokovic. Hard to know if as he says he has fully integrated it and is living with it or if he is still running after everything despite everything.

This is where we remember a particularly interesting conversation between the world No. 1 and Stan Wawrinka during a live on Instagram hosted by the Swiss during the first incarceration, in April 2020. The two men had come to talk about this story. “I thought it was unfair, Djoko admitted. When I arrived, I said I wanted to be number 1. People said, ‘Who is he to challenge Rafa and Roger?’ It was me against the rest of the world.” Wawrinka then had this brilliant response, which sums up the situation perfectly: “In a movie you can’t have three good guys, you have to have someone against it. So go for the role of bad guy

“He knew how to move forward in adversity”

That’s how the Serb was built. “He loves it when the public is against him. It motivates him, it wakes him up, it brings out the fire he has in him,” said former 8th global player Marcos Baghdatis, who crossed over Monday at the Legends launch. tournament “I still remember a Wimbledon final against Federer [en 2019] where the audience chanted “Roger, Roger” but in his head he heard “Novak, Novak”. It is true that he needs it,” Henri Leconte adds. Djokovic went on to explain that he had won “the mentally toughest match” of his career that day. “It may seem bizarre, almost perverse to you. But it is. I tried to convince myself that she was yelling at me. It’s a mental exercise,” he said.

But are we still at this level of hostility today? From a tennis point of view, no. Everyone eventually recognized his brilliance, in a style that was certainly less flashy than the other two, less colorful, but damn effective and most importantly flawless. As for the sympathy rating, that’s something else. His incredible expulsion from Australia at the start of the year didn’t help matters, as have his stances against the vaccine since then. But beware, this is also what motivates the people who admire him. Not on the vaccine itself, but on this assertive side, less polished and model learner.

“So where are the haters?” – MARTIN DESK / AFP

In the call to our readers launched on our site to find out if they would “rather Nadal or Djokovic” it was nearly 50-50 in the answers. “And to think that some whistle the best player in the world, Rachel, for example, regrets. Not offensive to many, Djoko is an intelligent boy and so atypical. “He deserves more attention and respect,” Céline agrees. We also deliver verbatim the rich and well-argued testimony of Luke:

“Although I have great admiration for Nadal, I prefer Djokovic. In the first place because he has managed to find a place for himself among the three tennis monsters of the last 20 years, and sometimes even surpasses them. For the past 15 years he has played legendary matches against his two rivals that will mark me for life. I also have to admit that I like his “bad boy” side (very cartoonish and cartoonish, because if you dig the guy looks as good as Nadal or Fed), who knew how to get ahead in adversity (hostile public, sporting or extra-sporting hardships) and nurturing in difficult times. I find it fascinating about him. In good or bad times, he cannot leave anyone indifferent. †

“Nadal respects his opponents and health regulations”

On the side of the many pro-Nadal, the great classic. The Spaniard is loved “for his kindness, his humility and his exemplary behavior on the pitch”, Cédric sums up. “Rafa without hesitation: simple, combative, he has embodies the tennis legend for years,” says Julien. “He respects his opponents and the health rules”, Jean-Marc criticizes in mirror image. Before Tuesday’s meeting, we should all remember that the King of Roland was mistreated for years by the audience of the same tournament, when he was seen as the one who would prevent ad vitam the handsome Rodgeur to reach Porte d’Auteuil.

“The Parisian public is stupid,” Toni waved even after his cousin’s defeat to Robin Soderling in 2009. “I’m used to hearing the names of my opponents come off the stands when I play, commented the ‘interested’ “It’s true that it’s a shame that in a tournament where I had so many great moments, the public never had a gesture towards me. Yes, Nadal once said that. But the Spaniard was finally able to reverse this kind of French tradition , who wants us not to like those who win too often.

Everything is open to the shock that we hope will live up to expectations tonight. In fact, the behavior of the spectators will certainly depend on the scenario. One of the most likely is where Nadal, with sore feet and heavy legs after his five sets against Auger-Aliassime on Sunday, soon finds himself in trouble. “The public can be an extraordinary asset to Nadal, because he will need that, Henri Leconte projects. Anyway, I think the Centrale could burst. Who will open the breach?