Novak Djokovic may win more grand slams than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal but he'll never be loved like they are.
The Serbian tennis star has won 17 major titles and is hunting Nadal (19) and the Fed Express (20). Djokovic has made no secret of his desire to overtake Federer as the all-time grand slam leader in men's tennis, and also wants to surpass his record for the most weeks spent as world No. 1 (310 weeks).
Djokovic's reputation has copped a hammering in 2020. From ignoring social distancing regulations during his ill-fated Adria Tour to starting a breakaway players association to being disqualified for hitting a lineswoman at the US Open — the 33-year-old has only hurt himself.
It's not like he was Mr Popularity to begin with, either. That much was evident when he was ruthlessly booed on Centre Court during last year's Wimbledon final against Federer, and again during this summer's Australian Open decider.
Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt said it must be "frustrating" for Djokovic to accept the fact no matter how many wins he clocks up, he will never have the same widespread appeal as his two biggest rivals.
"Obviously he's in an era now where those two guys are so well loved globally, and it's really hard for Novak to share that love with a lot of the other spectators of the sport," Hewitt told news.com.au.
"That's the tough thing. Roger and Rafa have been, certainly in my generation, the two greatest ambassadors you could have ever hoped for, for our sport.
"So for Novak to come in, I'm sure that's frustrating for him because he feels like at times he is the greatest player.
"His record against those two guys, especially in big tournaments, what he's been able to do in the slams (is brilliant) … but that crowd support I don't think is ever going to change for Roger and Rafa."
Djokovic must surely know he's no chance of hitting the same heights as Federer and Nadal when it comes to global admiration — especially not after the year he's had. But Hewitt said it's important he doesn't fall into the trap of trying to copy those two.
"Novak's going to go down as one of the greats and physically-wise he's going to have a lot more chances to pass the other two in grand slams in the next five years or so," Hewitt said.
"He's just got to be himself. There's no point trying to copy other people or try and take fans away from Roger and Rafa because that's not going to happen.
"He's just got to be himself, be original. We all know what a great tennis player he is."
If anyone knows a thing or two about redemption, it's Hewitt. The backwards-cap wearing icon was a brash youngster who rubbed some people the wrong way as his competitiveness was interpreted by critics as a lack of humility.
But over time he matured into an athlete his country could be proud of. A fighter who never gave up, Hewitt became a symbol of everything Aussies love in their sportsmen and women.
It's why the two-time grand slam champion has been selected as one of five candidates on the ballot for the International Tennis Hall of Fame's class of 2021, alongside: Juan Carlos Ferrero, Lisa Raymond, Jonas Bjorkman and Sergi Bruguera.
Hewitt is the first Australian to be nominated since wheelchair great David Hall was inducted in 2015, and said it's flattering to be considered for such a prestigious honour.
"It would be a dream come true to be inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame," Hewitt told news.com.au. "It's something as a junior player you don't really think about, that you could possibly be in there one day.
"The actual Hall of Fame in Newport in Rhode Island was always a special place for me.
"It's something you don't really think about too much but obviously it's a great honour to be nominated."
From next month fans can vote on the Hall of Fame nominees at vote.tennisfame.com.