By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — While leaving the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing on a rainy Sunday, we paused for a while and wondered: “Are American fans biased against non-American sounding names of sports icons?”
Or was it because of the political affiliations and backgrounds of Novak Djokovic and Anatoli Karpov why the Yankees apparently have no love lost for them?
In spite of his sterling performance in the 2015 U.S. Open Tennis Championships men’s final against Swiss star Roger Federer on Sunday evening in Flushing Meadows, world ATP No. 1 Djokovic had to cope with occasional boos and shouts from a partisan crowd on several occasions during his service motion.
Although he bundled out world ATP No. 2 Federer, 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4, the 28-year-old Serb, who now resides in Monaco, could not appease the pro-Federer fans that included celebrities David Beckham, Hugh Jackman, Leonardo DiCaprio and Blake Griffin at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
What many Americans probably think when they hear the word Serbia is the Bosnian Genocide masterminded by Serbian General Radislav Krstic, who played a major role in the Srebrenica massacre, an “ethnic cleansing” that claimed the lives of estimated 100,000 people in 1995.
What some of them don’t know is that Djokovic adheres to Eastern Orthodoxy in the Serbian Orthodox Church and is a member of the “Champions for Peace” club, a group of famous elite athletes committed to serving peace in the world through sport, created by Peace and Sport, a Monaco-based international organization.
The rivalry between Djokovic and Federer, meanwhile, reminds us of the great rivalry between chess’ Garry Kasparov and Anatoli Karpov.
Having met 42 times, Federer and Djokovic are tied 21–21. Many experts have included their rivalry as one of the best rivalries in the Open Era.
Karpov was the dependable Soviet Union hero who adhered to Communist ideology, while fellow Soviet and flamboyant Kasparov was part of the new brigade open to change starting under Mickhail Gorbachev.
The two chess super Grand Masters produced more epic wars with future politician Kasparov edging out Karpov in four more encounters from 1985 to 1990 including a drawn FIDE title match in 1987.
It was believed that the rivalry between Kasparov and Karpov led to a big change in world dynamics and ushered in a new era.
It’s probably a coincidence that Roger and Garry are American-sounding names and both darlings of New York sports fans, while Novak and Anatoli sound like perennial Cold War era villain characters.