Novak Djokovic lashed out over the quality of the clay court for Serbia’s Davis Cup tie at Belgium this weekend.
“I had only one practice and this is definitely the worst court that we ever played in our lives on,” the world No. 1 said Thursday. “And this is an extremely dangerous situation for all of us. I came here from Australia yesterday. I’m supposed to play my match tomorrow on totally different conditions. And I’m putting my own health and we are all putting our own health at stake here for the rest of the season. We tried to slide a few times, play a few points yesterday, our feet stayed half a meter underground.”
Djokovic later elaborated on his concerns in a Facebook post to his fans:
“We are both very careful and taking extra care about my body because the conditions for play are quite dangerous not only for me and my team, but also for the hosts. I am certain that clay court had to be better, although I do believe that people from organization did their best. Unfortunately, sometimes that is not enough and now we are all facing a very tough challenge ahead of us – how to avoid getting injured. Health should be everyones [sic] priority and I am sad that this weekend we will not be able to perform a good quality tennis for the people who looked forward to this tie and bought tickets.”
Meanwhile, Belgian press report that the court was checked and approved.
So were the shoddy court conditions laid down on purpose by the Belgian team in order to discourage Djokovic from playing the tie? I’m not sure I buy that, though I also don’t think the Belgians are going to be losing sleep over Djokovic’s complaints, either. The most likely explanation is the home team tried to lay down a heavy court and overdid it, a common mistake when building a temporary indoor clay court. We saw something similar last year in the U.S.-Switzerland tie in Fribourg, where a slow and uneven clay court did the home team no favors as the Swiss suffered a surprising defeat to the big-serving Americans.