Novak Djokovic's Olympics tantrum showed the true difference between how he and Simone Biles handle pressure
- Novak Djokovic threw a tantrum after losing the bronze-medal match at the Olympics.
- Djokovic then dropped out of mixed doubles, forcing his partner to miss a chance at a medal.
- Earlier, Djokovic said he no longer allowed pressure to get to him.
Novak Djokovic had a bad weekend.
The top-ranked men's tennis player in the world had entered the Olympics hoping for gold, and with it, the chance of becoming the first men's player to complete the "golden slam" - winning all four Grand Slams and an Olympic gold medal in the same year.
On paper, the Olympics should have been the easiest win on Djokovic's path to a golden slam, with many of the best players in the world skipping the event.
But it wasn't meant to be for the Serbian superstar: Djokovic fell to Germany's Alexander Zverev on Friday in the semifinals.
It was just the start of his disappointing weekend
On Saturday, Djokovic was stunned in the bronze-medal match by Spain's Pablo Carreño Busta.
Djokovic showed signs of frustration in the third set, throwing his racket across the court and into the stands.
Later, Djokovic slammed his racket against the net and received a warning from the umpire.
Djokovic lost the match in three sets, leaving Tokyo without a medal of any color.
After his outburst, Djokovic dropped out of the mixed doubles bronze-medal match, citing an injury - a move that left his teammate, Nina Stojanovic, without the chance to compete for the bronze.
Just days before his meltdown, Djokovic said 'pressure is a privilege'
Djokovic's show of emotion was especially awkward given his comments about performing under pressure earlier in the week.
Asked about how he handles the pressure of chasing the golden slam, Djokovic said, "Pressure is a privilege."
"Without pressure, there is no professional sport," Djokovic said, Reuters reported. "If you are aiming to be at the top of the game, you better start learning how to deal with pressure. And how to cope with those moments on the court but also off the court, all the expectations."
Djokovic went as far as to imply that pressure no longer affected him, having dealt with high expectations for so long in his career.
He said: "All that buzz and all that noise is something that I can't say I don't see it or I don't hear it. Of course, it's there, but I've learned, I've developed the mechanism how to deal with it in such a way that it will not distract me and will not wear me down," Reuters reported.
With fellow Olympic superstars such as Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka bringing the mental health of athletes to the forefront in Tokyo, it's not hard to see Djokovic's comments as a dig at those he believes can't handle the heat of elite competition.
But after Djokovic's actions on the court, it's clear that he doesn't know how to handle himself when the going gets tough.
Simone Biles handled the pressure a bit differently
Biles made headlines earlier in the games when she stepped aside in the middle of the team all-around competition after getting lost in the air in her first vault.
She later explained that she was "having a little bit of the twisties" - a phenomenon that can leave even the most experienced gymnasts lost in the air.
After stepping away from the moment she had trained toward for five years, Biles didn't spiral into a rampage. Instead, her first course of action was talking her teammates up.
"I'm sorry - I love you guys, but you're gonna be just fine," Biles told teammates Sunisa "Suni" Lee, Jordan Chiles, and Grace McCallum in a clip shared by Axios Sports' Kendall Baker. "You guys have trained your whole entire life for this, it's fine."
"I've been to an Olympics, I'll be fine," the 24-year-old added. "This is your first - you go out there and kick ass, okay?"
-Kendall Baker (@TheKendallBaker) July 27, 2021
Biles and Djokovic faced immense pressure, and only one handled it well
Biles was the American face of the Tokyo Games, with entire packages at NBC built around her greatness. This Summer Olympics was supposed to be her final bow, one last moment to appreciate the GOAT of gymnastics.
On the biggest stage, she realized her head wasn't there. Biles could have chosen to compete, risking both injury and potentially costing her teammates a medal. Instead, she bowed out, supported her teammates, and gave them a chance to contend.
Conversely, when Djokovic was not playing to his usual standards, he threw a fit, broke his racket, and walked off the court in disgrace.
Where Biles' decision served to help her teammates take home a medal, Djokovic stole that chance away from his countrywoman and partner on the court.
Djokovic didn't have it easy at the Olympics, saying earlier in the week that the playing conditions were the toughest he'd ever faced in his 20-year career. But in the face of that adversity, he faltered and dropped out of the Olympics in an embarrassing fashion.
In Djokovic's own words, pressure is a privilege. If you aim to be at the top of the game, you better start learning how to deal with pressure.
At the Olympics, Djokovic showed that despite his words, he still has plenty of work to do in that regard.
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