Recent comments by former player Younes El Aynaoui have ignited a debate among fans on Big 3 sportsmanship, particularly between Fedal and Novak fans. El Aynaoui, a former Moroccan tennis professional with a career-high ranking of world no. 14, recently shared his viewpoint on the Big 3 from his personal experiences of playing against them
He asserted that despite Novak Djokovic’s superior statistics, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal exhibited better sportsmanship. One Fedal fan shared El Aynaoui’s comments on social media, with his quoted words: “Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have always accepted defeat better than Novak Djokovic.”
However, El Aynaoui’s assessment has stirred controversy, particularly among Djokovic supporters, who pointed out specific instances from the past where Federer and Nadal made unsporting remarks about Djokovic after losing their matches to him.
Roger federer press conference after the loss to Novak Djokovic at US Open 2011 and Rafael Nadal press conference after the loss to Novak Djokovic at ATP Cup 2020
— Shane Gupta (@Shanegupta22) November 28, 2023
Novak’s fan shared a video of Federer’s 2011 US Open press conference where the Swiss star stated that Djokovic had “lucky shots” even though he “didn’t believe anymore in winning.” Additionally, the footage showed Nadal’s comments during a 2020 ATP Cup final press conference, suggesting Novak’s home country’s fans didn’t understand tennis.
Another fan praised Djokovic’s sportsmanship, drawing a comparison to Federer and Nadal, stating, “I haven’t seen Federer and Nadal applauding the points of their opponents. When they lose, there is just a cold handshake at the net. Djokovic is different.” The ongoing debate over sportsmanship continues to spark discussions among Fedal and Djokovic fans.
Stefan Edberg’s ATP Sportsmanship Award tells a different story
The coveted Stefan Edberg ATP Sportsmanship Award, which is conferred annually, is voted on by players themselves from the chosen nominees put forward to the ATP by leading tennis experts and sports journalists. While there could be certain biases, the historically long history of this award cannot be overlooked.
Over the years, the ATP Sportsmanship Award has seen notable recipients, with tennis legends such as Arthur Ashe, Mats Wilander, and Yannick Noah among the early honorees. The Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award was introduced in 1996 and named after the Swedish tennis great Stefan Edberg, who himself claimed the award multiple times.
When examining the past awardees, Roger Federer’s exceptional sportsmanship is showcased by his 13 wins, an unprecedented record in the history of this award, and Rafael Nadal has also received the award 5 times, emphasizing his commendable conduct. Notably, Novak Djokovic’s name is absent from the list, which has already sparked discussions among fans when the Serbian name went missing again in the nominees for 2023.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) December 21, 2020
The historical absence of Novak Djokovic’s name among the winners of this award adds another layer to the ongoing debate within the tennis community about the Big 3. While the ATP Sportsmanship Award is voted on by players themselves, differing opinions and controversies surrounding the Big 3’s conduct continue to fuel discussions by fans as well as former players like Younes El Aynaoui.