The Novak Djokovic meltdown highlights how differently men can act under pressure compared to female athletes like Simone Biles
Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time and all-around badass, cemented her legendary status when she disclosed she would be withdrawing from some 2020 Tokyo Olympics events to focus on her mental health. Despite her courageous move (or perhaps because of it) many have criticized Biles for not behaving how they believe an Olympic athlete should. As if us mere mortals could even attempt a tuck jump, yet alone Biles’ famous landing of the Yurchenko double pike. Please. Not going to happen.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic did some mansplaining about the importance of athletes performing well under pressure and only days later, threw a big fit on the court after losing a match.
While it’s unclear if his comments were directed at Biles, a Reuters reporter mentioned how she had backed out of Olympic events and asked: “Novak, you would’ve heard about Simone Biles yesterday talking about mental health and the pressure of performing. You are in this position going for the Golden Slam, you know, there is no more pressure on a tennis player than you currently. Can you speak a bit about it?” He replied: “Pressure is a privilege, my friend. Without pressure there is no professional sport. If you are aiming to be at the top of the game, you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments, on the court and off the court.”
During gameplay at the Tokyo Olympics, Djokovic lost control of his emotion; then lost the bronze-medal match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. The tantrum came after Djokovic lost two straight matches on Saturday. Pressure must have gotten to him, because the tennis player flung his racket into the stands, baby man-style; (The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Djokovic would have been ejected, or even arrested for tossing his racket into the stands under usual circumstances, but as there were no spectators in the stands in Tokyo, it was deemed a non-issue). The Chronicle went on to report that Djokovic smashed his racket into the net pole during a changeover, then threw the mangled piece of equipment into the photographers’ pit.
After the disaster, Djokovic took the time to reflect about his remarks. Just kidding. He went on to mansplain that his feelings mattered.
“We’re all human beings,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to control your emotions.”
In an interesting turn of events, after his meltdown, Djokovic withdrew from the mixed doubles bronze-medal match, claiming he had a shoulder injury. By withdrawing from the event he left his partner, Nina Stojanovic, without a way to compete.
Fans of Djokovic claim that the tennis star was simply quoting another tennis great: Billie Jean King. King went on the record to support Biles’ decision to withdraw from events.
King tweeted, “I’ve been thinking about #SimoneBiles all day. So very sorry she wasn’t feeling her best. She showed true leadership in taking herself out of competition in order for her team to have a chance to medal. Sending her and the team love & support.”
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