Novak Djokovic is playing this week in Dubai, his first tournament since winning the Australian Open. He won't be the only Djokovic in the draw, as Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim explains:
But there was also Marko Djokovic, ranked No. 867, who "earned" a wild card -- a wild card, one safely assumes, that came as a condition of his brother's commitment. We can have a healthy debate here. Is Novak using his leverage in a creative way, helping to catalyze the career of his younger brother? Or does this fly in the face of fair play, depriving a far more deserving player of a spot?
Both of Wertheim's points are true: Djokovic is creatively using leverage and said use of leverage is leaving the playing field a little less level. We can agree that this isn't great for the game. But is it bad?
The job of organizers is to sell tickets and gain interest in the event. If letting Marko play is the best way to get Novak there, then the trade-off is an easy one. Dubai gets three wild cards to its field of 32.
One went to a player from the UAE and another went to 190th-ranked Sergei Bubka. Looking at past wild cards at the event, it's likely Marko took the spot of a player ranked in the mid-100s.
A first-round loss at the event, the most likely result for whoever got the wild card, lesser Djokovic or not, nets 20 rankings points. That's beneficial, but hardly a boon to a career. A player ranked No. 150 would have moved up five rankings spots with those points. (Those 20 points will more than double Marko's current total and move him up more than 200 spots in the rankings.)
It's harder to justify the denial of $12,000 to whichever wild card would have been a first-round loser. Rankings points can be gained anywhere. Twelve grand to play a match is harder to find. But it could be blessing. When you factor in a round-trip flight to Dubai, plus accommodations, the cost outlay could run nearly as much.
The verdict: Nepotism is a fact of life. Marko Djokovic getting a spot isn't fair, but it's not the most egregious thing in the world. Save your anger for a real case of family helping family. Serena Williams has been riding on Venus' coattails far too long.