And I suspect that we also assign players personalities based on their behavior on court, which may or may not be fair. A bunch of our readers have lambasted Roddick for his behavior toward the line judge in the match he lost, which confirmed for them that he’s a classic American boor. Tennis writers say that’s not true, that he’s amusing and wry — which, again, isn’t to trump the outsider view, or to excuse how he belittled the judge. It’s merely to point out that we make unconscious associations that we think are purely tennis ones. I’ve seen Federer berate umpires, curse and mope, and after losing at Wimbledon he gave a notably sour and petulant post-match news conference. But no one accuses him of being a Swiss boor, because he has an image as a gentleman.
Anyway, I agree with you that we ultimately root for players with whom we can, however dimly and distantly, identify, or whom we dream of being like. Like you and a lot of other fans, I just can’t relate to Djokovic either. But man, I would love to own his ground strokes and ability to scoot around the court.
This is the first and last time I’ll ever link to something related to tennis, but I’d guess that this applies to all sports. As fans, we don’t REALLY know what the players are like; all we have to go on is their behavior on the field and what we read about them. Sometimes we probably get it wrong.