Novak’s Quest

I tend to be very wordy on this blog, especially when talking about my favorite athlete, Novak Djokovic. But today I have a thought that won’t leave my mind, and I feel like shouting it from the rooftops. Hopefully it won’t be quite as wordy as usual! Here goes:

Novak Djokovic does not need to win Roland Garros this year. He WILL win it before he retires.

This, of course, is opinion, not fact. I could be wrong. But deep down, I don’t think I am.

Just look at his career. Need I remind you that he came of tennis age in the era of arguably the two greatest tennis players of all time? And he wasn’t alone, either. He had with him the Jo-Wilfried Tsongas and the Tomas Berdychs and the Richard Gasquets and even the Andy Murrays and Stan Wawrinkas. All of these players are just as talented as Novak. But only two of these have won Slam titles, and even they have won not nearly as many as has Novak.

All of these men, aside from Novak, Stan, and Andy, would probably say, “Well, I was unfortunate to play during the era of the greatest of all time.” (And it could be argued that Stan felt this way at first and was able to successfully overcome it as well.) But only one mounted his own challenge and achieved what many probably thought was impossible: achieving the #1 ranking in the Fedal era.

Novak’s career is all the more impressive when you see that he has actually needed to mount new challenges three times already. The first challenge was to win his first Slam title, which he did as a 20-year-old in 2008. The second challenge was to achieve the number one ranking (and win another Slam, and win Slams other than the Australian Open), which he did in 2011. The third challenge was to regain his mental edge and start winning Slam finals again, after a painful series of finals losses, which he was able to do in a very big way in 2015.

Is it possible that Roland Garros is just the kind of challenge that Novak must feel excited to overcome? I think that’s very possible. Because one characteristic that has typified Novak’s career is his determination. When he faces an obstacle, he is willing to do whatever he can to overcome it.

I don’t really know what took Novak from US Open finalist in 2007 to Australian Open champion in 2008. It could have been as easy as “my time has come,” but I doubt that, especially considering that Novak had to take out Roger Federer (his conqueror in New York, don’t forget) in order to win that championship. I think it’s more likely that Novak just needed to climb over that barrier of belief, to become fully confident that he really could defeat the mighty Fed.

We all know, of course, what led to Novak’s glorious 2011; the one-two punch of a whole new diet (expunged of troublesome gluten, among other things) and a new confidence borne of his assistance in winning Davis Cup for Serbia at the end of 2010. It sounds easy enough in retrospect — change your diet, regain a winning edge — but if you’ve ever tried to lose weight, or had to cut an allergen from your diet, or had to change your diet for some other reason, you know that it isn’t the easiest thing to do. I imagine that for someone who has to travel the way Novak does, it would be even more challenging.

Then there was the next couple of years, when Novak won a Slam a year but missed out on a whole lot of other Slams in which he reached finals (or, at the least, semifinals) but couldn’t seem to claim the big prize. He lost his #1 ranking a few times (once to Federer, once to Nadal), but overall he was #1 more than he wasn’t. When he hired Boris Becker at the end of 2013, a lot of fans and experts couldn’t understand why. There seemed to be nothing wrong with his game, he was still winning Slams and reaching finals… why would he make a change?

The reason is because Novak is a perfectionist. His career results had shown him that he could overcome any obstacle. And he wasn’t satisfied with being #1 a lot of the time and winning a Slam a year. He thought he could do more and win more. He believed he had ceded mental ground in losing so many Slam finals, and he was willing to do whatever he could to change that. So hiring Boris, as we all now know, had to do with regaining his mental edge.

What does all this have to do with Roland Garros? A couple of things. Number one, in my opinion it goes against a rapidly spreading assumption that Novak will “never have a better chance” to win it than this year, what with Nadal out of the tournament. I actually think Novak might have had a better chance of winning, had Nadal been in it still, because he would have been ready to mount the challenge of beating the King of Clay.

(I’m not saying Novak has no chance of winning this year, of course. Just that Novak seems to be at his toughest when he feels the challenge is greatest.)

Number two is related. Novak’s path may seem easier with Rafa out of the tournament, but the idea that Novak will never win it if he doesn’t win it this year is ludicrous. Is Novak suddenly going to become terrible on clay? Is Novak going to give up trying to win RG if he doesn’t win it this year? No, and no. Yes, Novak is getting older, and yes, traditionally he is approaching that magical age in which male tennis players find it very difficult to win Slams. But Novak has proven he is not the typical male tennis player, in many ways. He is determined, focused, a perfectionist. He takes scrupulous care of his body and has done a decent (to say the least) job of staying fit and healthy.

All this is to say that there is no Novak quite so dangerous than a Novak on a quest. And I cannot imagine Novak Djokovic retiring without having achieved a quest that he set his mind and soul and body into achieving. And that is why I believe that Novak Djokovic will win Roland Garros… someday.

A Prayer for Easter

Thank you, Jesus.

Just: thank you.

Thank you for coming to Earth.

Thank you for opening your arms and inviting us all to come.

Thank you for showing that no one is hopeless.

Thank you for making the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the outcasts Your greatest priorities.

Thank you for looking into our hearts, knowing what lay within, and loving us anyway.

Thank you for being perfectly obedient. Even unto the greatest humiliation and abandonment. Even unto death, the cruelest and most horrific death imaginable.

Thank you for not staying dead.

Thank you for defeating death, for winning the final victory, for offering all of us hope for all eternity.

Thank you, Jesus.

Just: thank you.

Raymond Moore, Novak Djokovic, Equal Prize Money and the Beauty of Sports

So this morning, I have thoughts. I’ve tweeted those thoughts here and there sporadically, but I feel like I need to have one place to coherently pull together those thoughts. I also feel like I need to take some time and hash out those thoughts, as well, or else it’s going to become a disjointed mess.

I’m going to start off by saying that frankly I’m incredibly annoyed that I have to have these thoughts at all. I want to kick Raymond Moore (CEO of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells) in a very sensitive spot for opening this can of worms in the ugliest and nastiest way possible in the first place.

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“A Boost from the Evangelicals”

On December 7, presidential candidate Donald Trump announced that he believed the United States should ban all Muslims from entering the country.

An hour or so later, a broadcaster named David Brody said the following on Twitter: “Expect the Donald Trump statement on USA Muslim ban to give him a boost with evangelicals.”

And I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m going to put this out there very clearly: I believe that a ban on Muslims entering the United States places us on a very slippery slope that will send us straight into fascism. Go ahead and explain to me how banning Muslims from entering the U.S. is any different than Nazi Germany rounding up the Jews to get rid of them. Go on, I’ll wait.

Or, let’s take another approach. Tell me how this is any different from the Islamic State – also known as ISIS – telling Christians that they need to a) convert to Islam, b) pay a hefty tax, or c) leave, or they’ll be executed.

You might say, “Well, no one’s calling for Muslims to be executed.” That’s true enough. But do we really think this will end with banning them from entering the country? Do we think they won’t be rounded up and interned like Japanese-Americans were during World War II? We’ve already had certain politicians saying we should do with Muslims like FDR did with Japanese-Americans, talking like that was a really good idea that FDR had (never mind that it’s since been roundly condemned as one of the worst things the U.S. has done).

So anyway, that’s how I feel about this whole ban-the-Muslims thing. I think the idea that the United States, a country founded in pursuit of religious freedom, would try to prevent one religion’s adherents from entering is repugnant.

But I want to delve a little deeper. I want to tackle David Brody’s comment that this pronouncement of Trump’s will “give him a boost with evangelicals.”

I’ve never really identified with the term “evangelicals,” maybe because while I was growing up, it seemed to be synonymous with 700 Club-ers who declared that you couldn’t be a Christian and be a feminist. But digging deeper into the term, I found that it refers to a Christian who believes in the good news of Jesus and desires to spread it. Which, yeah, that refers to me. So I guess I’m an evangelical.

… can I just keep calling myself a Christian instead? Thanks.

I’m not totally sure if David Brody means Christians like me when he refers to “evangelicals.” But I don’t think that the general non-believing public differentiates between “evangelical” and “Christian.” I think most people put the two terms together.

Regardless, I’m horrified that such a stance could possibly give Trump a “boost” from people who believe in Jesus.

Do you remember those “WWJD” bracelets that were so popular in the late 90s and early 00s? They were supposed to help us remember “What Would Jesus Do?” And I’m wondering… would Jesus support a ban of an entire religion from entering a country that, ostensibly, is a refuge from the horrors of the rest of the world?

The Jesus I learned about in the Bible was a man who consistently reached out to the same people the rest of the world wanted to leave behind and ignore. Tax collectors. Prostitutes. General “sinners.” Women – including those of ill repute, those who were sick and suffering, and even, horror of all horrors, a Samaritan woman.

The Samaritan woman is of the most interest to me because, in my opinion, Jews and Samaritans kind of parallel Christians and Muslims. Jews and Samaritans shared a common background, but Jews were what you might consider “pure-blood” (to use Harry Potter language – sorry!), while Samaritans were more “half-blood.” Christians and Muslims are quite similar. Both religions believe in Jesus, but what they believe about Jesus differs. Christians believe Jesus was the Son of God. Muslims believe Jesus was a great man and a prophet, but not quite God.

So I think I can be relatively confident in saying that, were Jesus walking on earth today, he would reach out to Muslims and minister to them, just as he did the Samaritan woman.

The biggest reason I have been drawn to Jesus half my life, the biggest reason I am to this day head over heels in love with Jesus, is because of his tremendous love. Jesus’ compassion was extraordinary. He did not seek to be king even when the people around him wanted to force him into kingship. Instead, he spent his entire short life on earth serving, teaching, caring for others. He healed. He fed. He loved.

There was one group of people that earned his scorn, and one group alone: the religious leaders in power who wanted to exclude the very people Jesus invited into his presence. And even these people, Jesus didn’t hate. He loved them! But he also was upset with them because they continually hindered people’s access to God through their love of burdensome rules and back-breaking rituals.

And because I am more drawn to Jesus’ life of love than anything else, I am heartbroken that Christians have this reputation for hatred and intolerance.

Please don’t get me wrong. Of course I don’t want Muslim terrorists entering our country. But terrorists are a very small fraction of the Muslim population of this world. And I don’t understand why we – and by “we,” I mean Christians, the people who are supposed to be known by our love, according to Jesus himself – would be willing to shut out huge portions of the world, many of whom are trying to escape the same terrorist Islamic group(s) that we hope to eradicate, on the tiny possibility that we’ll allow a terrorist into our country.

Lest we forget: one of the two shooters in San Bernandino was born right here in the United States.

And should we want to continue having a target on our backs, we – and by this “we,” I mean all of us Americans – ought to go right on ahead condemning all Muslims and referring to all of them as terrorists. If you’re a terrorist organization like ISIS and hoping to recruit non-extreme Muslims to your cause, you’re hoping and praying that the United States continues to do just that.

So I’m going to stand up for once and say, as loudly as I can, “Mr. Trump, you’re wrong.” We should not seek to ban Muslims from the United States. We should, of course, vet them thoroughly (just as we should do with everyone wanting to enter, not just Muslims) and do due diligence to prevent those with terrorist links from entering.

But the only way we’re going to – to completely pervert Mr. Trump’s own words, thank you very much – “make America great again” is with love. Not with fear, and not with hate.

What I Learned from “Inside Out”

Today I watched Pixar’s Inside Out via Amazon rental, at my younger daughter’s insistence. (She watched it with her father yesterday while I was chaperoning a band trip with my older girl.) I expected an enjoyable movie; I did not expect the movie to affect me the way it did.

[If you haven’t seen Inside Out yet, a word of warning: I may very well drop spoilers here and there. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and want to, you probably should hold off on reading the rest of this until you’ve seen it.]

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Graham Colton at Overholser Mansion, Oklahoma City, August 1, 2015

I wasn’t sure I was going to write a recap for this show. I’ve written SO MANY Graham Colton concert recaps, and I think the only people who read them consistently are my husband and my mother. (Love you guys.)

But here’s the thing. Eric (the aforementioned hubby) took a bunch of terrific photos. And I thought, what’s the best way to display those photos? I could put them on Facebook, but then people would have to navigate Facebook in order to see them, and I know that’s not always the nicest prospect. I could put them on Instagram, but then I’d be flooding Instagram with photos.

I considered putting them on Photobucket and then posting a link to the album everywhere I could on social media – mostly because I’m really proud of the photos Eric took, and I’d love to let everyone see them.

Then I had a thought. I could just post all these great photos on my blog. Then I could also share a little bit about each photo, and tie them into the show itself.

Well, lookie here. Looks like I’m writing a recap after all.

This will just be a different sort of recap than the lengthy story-hour posts I usually write. Maybe more folks will read it this way, anyway!😀

This was a Fanswell show. If you want to know what Fanswell is, it’s basically a platform to match up artists who want to book private house concerts with fans who are willing to host them. Graham is actually a co-owner and founder of the company. When I hosted Graham at my house about a year and a half ago (good grief, has it been that long???), it was through Fanswell. It’s a terrific platform, and I encourage everyone who thinks this would be a really cool thing to do to check out Fanswell and register.

Our $35 ticket included dinner, an open bar (more or less – it just had a couple kinds of wine and beer, but still – basically all the booze you wanted to drink), and of course Graham’s show. For an extra $5 you could also tour the mansion, which we didn’t do, but I might have to do it at some point. Maybe if Graham has another show there. The mansion is apparently haunted. If I’d known that before, I might have begged Eric to spring for the tour. Ha!

This was our view as we walked up to the Carriage House, where the show took place, and also the location of the open bar (which was basically one fantastic lady handing out drinks). Minus Graham talking to someone in the lower-right hand corner, that is.

Carriage House at Overholser Mansion

Carriage House at Overholser Mansion

Here’s what we saw inside the Carriage House: lots of cool bits of the history of the mansion.

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Here’s where we had dinner. Well, under one of the trees. It was really great weather, and the trees made such a cool backdrop.


Oh my gosh, you guys. THE DINNER. It was seriously one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It sounds really simple – available were sliders, both burgers and Caprese (tomato, mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinaigrette), pasta salad, potato salad, house-made potato chips, green salad, and cupcakes. But I am not joking when I tell you that every. single. thing. was. ridiculously. delicious. (Well, I don’t know about the burger sliders. I didn’t have one. I just had a Caprese slider. But Eric liked his burger slider.) But the pasta salad and the potato salad were the BEST I have ever tasted. Ditto the chips. And the CUPCAKES oh my gosh they were out of this world. I had a blueberry and a strawberry cupcake, and a small bit of Eric’s chocolate cupcake. They were little slices of cupcake heaven.

I loved dinner so much that I made a point of seeking out the chef – Chef Eric Smith, who I’m told has two restaurants, VZD’s and Sara Sara Cupcakes – and telling him how much I enjoyed it.

Honestly, after that dinner, I felt like our $35 ticket was an absolute bargain.

I also will admit right up front that I probably had too much wine. I had 2 glasses of red wine (a blend) and 1 glass of white wine (no idea what kind it was, but it wasn’t sweet). I should have probably stopped at the red. Oh well, live and learn. The dangers of an open bar…

I really loved this cute little sign at the bar, though.


I also had a Dr. Pepper after the show because I needed a little caffeine boost. I probably should have had what Eric had, which was a Vanilla Float. I had a 10-calorie Dr. P instead. … not a fan. Sorry.

This was Graham’s little stage setup. Cozy.


I just realized there’s a guitar missing. Where did the guitar go??? No idea. Oh well.

Ah, here’s a photo with both guitars in view.


Leaving the Carriage House again, after dinner they brought chairs from outside into the Carriage House. We were given the option of just “hanging out” or touring the mansion. Again, we chose to keep our money in our pockets (sigh) and hang out. Even without the tour, there was plenty to see. Like this cute carriage (which I assume was once kept in the actual Carriage House).


I confess to hearing “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” in my head every time I looked at this carriage. For obvious reasons.


I can only imagine what the mansion looked like on the inside. The outside was stunning.

DSC03536_DxOHere’s another look at the outside of the Carriage House, a slightly closer view. If you look carefully (toward the back of the photo, right in front of the house and next to the black-covered table) you’ll see me chatting with my friend Brittiany, whom I met at a previous Graham show.


Finally it was time for the performance. Jen of Cellar Door Music (the host of the show) introduced Graham, although he needed no introduction. (According to her. I, of course, agreed.)


A word about our seats. I don’t know if Eric had to zoom in to get this photo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t. The seats were put into place from the back of the room forward, which meant that basically if you waited long enough before you sat down, you would probably get a pretty good seat. In fact, Eric and I got what we believed were basically the best seats in the house — we were each sitting right in front of Graham, without anyone in front of us. This is probably the opposite of how most shows work, lol, but hey, it worked for us!😀


Yeah… I’m pretty sure Eric didn’t use any zoom. This is basically what I remember seeing from my seat.

Graham confessed to being a little nervous because “all my friends are here” and “we’ll know if he messed up.” (Whatever, Graham, like we care…) And he added that he planned to play some very new songs along with “more obscure” songs. We have a long-running joke that I know pretty much every song he’s ever written, probably better than he does at this point, and so I jokingly rubbed my hands together and said “ooh, what song can I request…” He shot me a look out of the corner of his eye and muttered, “You’re going to be the death of me.”

hee hee hee


(No, that’s not Graham giving me a death stare. I just thought that was an appropriate spot to drop this photo.😉 )

So the first song Graham performed was a cover that I have never heard him perform before. In fact, I don’t think he’s ever performed it live before, period! I am so sorry I didn’t get the beginning of the song, but he really caught me off-guard with this one.

Do you recognize it? Yeah. It’s the Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” Holy crap, was this an amazing cover. You’d think after I’d followed Graham for the past 5 years he wouldn’t surprise me anymore, and yet…

Graham was truly in fine form regarding “obscure” songs. He also dropped this gem, again surprising me, because when he starts talking about his Mamacita’s roots, I always assume he’s going to perform “Cellophane Girl.” (I’m not saying Graham is predictable, I’m just saying I’ve attended a ton of his shows!) But this time he performed “Summer Stars,” which you can actually hear on the very first CD he ever cut. Assuming you can get your hands on it. It’s that obscure.

Fortunately, Eric was quicker than I was, and he got this video.

He performed three brand-new songs tonight, two of which I had heard because he’d uploaded them to Soundcloud, but one of them I had never heard before ever. I’m pretty sure this one, called “If He Makes You Cry,” is probably his very newest song. To my knowledge, he has not released it in any way, shape, or form. I’m incredibly happy to have grabbed it.

The song that most everyone knows, even if they’ve never heard of Graham Colton, is “Best Days.” For some reason, I’ve heard him perform this song at the last 3 or 4 shows I’ve attended. I do know he doesn’t make a habit of performing it, but I still found it amusing when he introduced it by calling it “a song I don’t perform live much anymore.” Just a funny coincidence.

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I didn’t take video of this song because you can probably pull up about 2,000 performances of it on YouTube. But this seemed an appropriate spot for these really nice photos Eric took.

He performed it right after “Born to Raise Hell,” which he joked that he was changing its name to “There Once Was a Story,” since that’s what it was: a story about a troubled boy who grew up to become a serial killer. I understand why he called it “Born to Raise Hell” (after one of the serial killer’s tattoos), but I also understood Graham’s point. I also thought it was funny when he called it the song in which he’s “constantly having to explain himself.”

A couple of other songs he sang that I haven’t heard him perform in a while were “Love Is Landing,” from his Sooner the Sunset CD, and “Hold on to My Heart,” from Pacific Coast Eyes Vol. 2. They are both songs that I know and love very well, but given the sources, they are definitely two of his more obscure songs.

One of the two other new songs he performed, currently available only via Soundcloud I think, were “Little One” — written about his daughter Collette but released only after the birth of his second child, his son William — and a truly gorgeous would-be country song called “Lightning in Bottles.”

I didn’t capture video of it, but he also performed my current favorite Graham song called “Hands Untied.” And I’m glad because if he hadn’t performed it, I would have demanded that he had. Hahaha.

This seems like a good place to pop the last of Eric’s terrific photos of Graham performing.

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After the show, we chatted with Graham on and off while he greeted his adoring public. We might have spent more time hanging out than Graham actually spent performing.

In between chats, I amused myself by picking up stray drink cups I found lying abandoned under the chairs. I also danced to the music wafting over the loudspeakers.

Eric, of course, just HAD to take photos. Why am I posting them here? Because I have no shame, that’s why.

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I’ve mentioned before that one of the things I love most about being a fan of Graham is that he, in very short order, makes you one of his friends. I’ll never forget how Graham sought me out for a hug at only the second show of his I ever attended, just because I had come even though I was very sick.

Once upon a time, I would have felt a little awkward hanging around after his show, just waiting for a few minutes of his time to talk. These days, I would have to have a very good reason NOT to do just that, if only because Graham would probably be upset with me if I didn’t! (I’m not joking.)

Quick story time. At one of his shows last year (one of the few I didn’t recap), I didn’t hang out at his merch table after his show because my daughters were dying for food, and there wasn’t a good place to sit near his table to eat. This show was at a fair-type of festival, I think in Norman. Or Edmond. One of those OKC-type suburbs. Anyway, we were at the opposite side of the park from his table. I kept an eye on him as we ate, and I was kind of silently going, “Don’t leave. Don’t leave. Please don’t leave.” Hahaha.

Well… then I saw him packing up his merch and I realized he was going to leave, and soon, and I hadn’t had a chance to say more than a couple of words to him before he performed. I was very torn. Part of me thought, “gosh, if I don’t at least say goodbye to him, I’m going to be so upset. And, he might actually be upset.” On the other hand, I was a very far distance from him. To catch up with him just to say goodbye, I was literally going to have to run after him.

Are you conjuring up images of Beatle-crazed fangirls chasing rock stars? Because I was!

But again, I had no choice. I had to run after him if I wanted to tell him goodbye. So I did. I ran after him. Oh my gosh, I am so embarrassed just admitting this! Feel free to laugh at me. I still do.

Even more embarrassingly, I didn’t catch up to Graham until he was in the parking lot. And I had to shout to get his attention.

(Right about now you’re probably realizing why I never recapped this show. And I’m wondering why I’m telling the world this story. I swear I have a point.)

My point is his reaction. He stopped, turned, and when he saw it was me, he came out of the parking lot, gave me a hug, and said, “I was looking for you!” And he stayed there and talked to me for a good 20 minutes or so. He didn’t treat me like a crazed groupie. He treated me like a friend. Because to him, that’s what I am.

That incident, as embarrassing as it is to recount here, is the epitome of Graham Colton. He values his fans like friends. He treats his fans like friends. I’m not sure he even knows the difference. Or he does, but doesn’t care.

During one of our many chats after his show last night, probably after talking about the upcoming school year for both sets of offspring (Graham’s children are entering full-time daycare in the fall, while our daughters are entering 10th and 3rd grade), Graham said to us, “It feels like we’re growing up together.”

The crazy thing is, it really does.

I’ll leave you with the main reason Eric and I spent all that time hanging out in the Carriage House after the show. I wanted to get this. It’s been a while.


A Follow-up…

I wanted to share the response I have received to The Beloved Novak Djokovic. Most of it has been via Twitter, although the post itself has received a few comments.

I took the time to screencap all the responses I have received. Bear in mind, I am just a little hobby blogger, I do not have a huge platform, I am not famous. My post has gone what I would consider viral, for me anyway!

2 more...

4 more...



Carol and Cristina

























MariaRampini1 (r)


I actually received a few more responses than these, from those who are not necessarily Novak fans (although they appreciate him), complimenting the post.

Also, here’s a screencap of the number of RTs and Favorites my tweet linking to my post has received (as not everyone who retweeted or favorited the tweet responded to me):

Favorites & RTs

That’s as of this writing. 27 RTs, 42 favorites, which is coming pretty close to my record. (Okay, I don’t actually know my record. So sue me.) This also doesn’t include the number of people who have tweeted the link to my post separately (or favorited the same), nor the number of people who RT’d or favorited the very first tweet that went out when I first published the post.

I have not had to tweet the link to my post again since I wrote it two days ago, because it is continually being retweeted.

I’m not saying any of this to brag, nor are my screencaps meant to say “look at how popular my post is!” I mean, that’s nice, I won’t lie! The point of this follow-up is simply to say, again: Novak Djokovic is beloved. And his fans have been absolutely desperate to have this fact recognized.

Will I begin posting links to this and the original post to any article I see from now on wondering why Novak isn’t as beloved as Roger/Rafa, or why he should be more beloved, etc.?

… I won’t rule it out.😉