COMMENTARY | Consider if you will…
For all his wonderful talent, it may be all over for Novak Djokovic.
He's had a great run as one of the world's very best tennis players, winning six grand slam titles and reigning as No. 1 for more than two years. But today we're suggesting he threw it all away last week with an announcement he made on Facebook.
Novak Djokovic got engaged. Is that a collective "uh-oh" I hear?
The lucky woman is Jelena Ristic, his longtime girlfriend. There is no date set for the nuptials, but that's really irrelevant to our discussion. The point is he will be joining in wedlock in the not too distant future. Today, we are broaching a theory that his career has had it because…
Drum roll please.
Love and tennis success don't mix.
Let's examine this theory more closely, shall we?
Caroline Wozniacki became the No. 1 women's tennis player in the world in 2010 and held that position for more than a year. Along the way she began dating professional golfer Rory McIlroy, who was on his way to becoming the top player in his sport. Since their romance blossomed, both have taken backward steps in their respective careers.
It's been suggested rather recurrently in the media that their relationship can be blamed as a distraction to their respective professions. In fact, it's been suggested to each of them personally several times. Opponents such as Serena Williams and Tiger Woods might have had a little to do with their declines, but clearly in the minds of some who subscribe to our theory that love has to be conquering all, including their athletic talents.
OK, Caroline and Rory aren't married. They're not even engaged. But the way the paparazzi seeks them out every time they're in the same place and the badgering they get in press conferences when they've had a bad day at the office, they may as well be.
It even feels like they're married, doesn't it?
Anyway, we have other historical precedents.
Roger Federer was virtually untouchable in the men's game between 2004 and 2008. Then he got married to Mirka Vavrinec in 2009 and eventually became a father to twin girls. Jimmy Connors married Patti McGuire in 1979. Bjorn Borg married Mariana Simionescu in 1980. John McEnroe married Tatum O'Neil in 1986.
All of these great players were never the same. What do they have in common?
They got hitched.
Of course, naysayers are likely to point out that much like Novak and Jelena, Roger and Mirka were together for years. So were Bjorn and Mariana. Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert were engaged when they were both No. 1 tennis players in the world. John McEnroe dated tennis player Stacy Margolin for years before Tatum O'Neil came into the picture. Those relationships didn't seem to deprive us of these fantastic tennis players along the way.
Not until they got married, anyway.
OK, so we'll give you that one and amend our theory a little. If you're a professional tennis player, your game is fine until you get married. The exception is when you date somebody who is as famous as you. Then the media is all over you to the point where it feels like you're married anyway and your game suffers. That's got to be it.
That's when love makes tennis success go south.
That is, unless you're Kim Clijsters and Evonne Goolagong.
They are two great women players who actually had the audacity to win grand slam championships after they got married and had children. In fact, it can be argued they played their best tennis after becoming moms.
So where does that leave our love and tennis success theory?
We'll get back to you.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime tennis follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards.
- Family & Relationships
- Novak Djokovic
- Caroline Wozniacki