The world’s media has reacted to the furore surrounding the Australian Open crowd’s treatment of Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic went into the Australian Open final against Dominic Thiem as a seven-time champion, yet he still couldn’t command the lion’s share of support at Melbourne Park.
As we’ve seen a number of times throughout his career, fans in attendance at Rod Laver Arena appeared to be baying for a Djokovic loss.
Despite the Serb being the Australian Open’s greatest-ever champion, fans were right behind Thiem as he attempted to upstage the 17-time major winner.
And it got even worse when Djokovic blew up at a fan for calling out during a rally, telling them to “shut the f*** up.”
Fans could be heard booing Djokovic as he complained to the umpire to control the crowd.
Some said it was simply because Aussies love supporting the underdog, yet you never see Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal treated the way Djokovic is.
Others found the treatment of Djokovic to be ‘disgraceful’ and ‘embarrassing’.
The blatant disrespect towards Djokovic is embarrassing.— TCTH (@hamsiktcth) February 2, 2020
Djokovic will hate this. Despite being a 7-time champion at Melbourne Park the crowd is massively pro-Thiem.#AusOpen— Phil Inn (@AFLsportsman) February 2, 2020
Disgraceful Attitude by Rod Laver Arena crowd vs Djokovic— Socrates (@Socrate90000750) February 2, 2020
Never understood it either. True, Nole has at times withdrawn mid-match due to injuries. But so has Nadal. And no one has ever held that against him. Nadal has even dropped out of tournaments at the last minute--for mysterious reasons. Again Nadal remains beloved by the fans.— George Szamuely (@GeorgeSzamuely) February 3, 2020
Another biased anti Djokovic crowd— Takudzwa 🐃 (@ProphetTaku) February 2, 2020
World’s media dissects lack of Djokovic love
Meanwhile, Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times exposed the great travesty in the dislike of Djokovic - highlighting how he always goes above and beyond to show his love for fans yet rarely receives the same back.
Rothenberg retweeted some photos he’d taken of Djokovic signing autographs in Cincinnati last year, writing: “While Djokovic may not get much crowd support in big matches, he's reliably the best with his fan interactions.”
“In my experience observing Djokovic and others at tournaments all over the tour, no top singles player takes more time to make sure that people who came to see him get as positive an interaction with him as possible.
“He consistently gives quality, even without getting quantity.”
Of all my tweets that got into four-digit range in RTs, didn't see this one coming at all.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) February 3, 2020
But in lieu of a Soundcloud, please know that while Djokovic may not get much crowd support in big matches, he's reliably the best with his fan interactions. https://t.co/OP9So3hjrr
In my experience observing Djokovic and others at tournaments all over the tour, no top singles player takes more time to make sure that people who came to see him get as positive an interaction with him as possible.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) February 3, 2020
He consistently gives quality, even without getting quantity.
Alex Pattle of The Independent also wrote a piece on Monday labelling Djokovic “the player men’s tennis desperately needed but never particularly wanted.”
Pattle pointed out that Djokovic will never be as universally loves as Federer and Djokovic.
“Perhaps Djokovic should have rolled over on Sunday and let Dominic Thiem - already 26 - become the first of the ‘NextGen’ to win a major,” Pattle wrote.
“Maybe that would have gone some way to improving his standing in the estimation of a large portion of tennis fans around the world, even the majority in attendance at Melbourne Park — who Djokovic loves more than any other group of supporters, but who were audibly very much pro-Thiem.
“One can’t help but assume who fans would have been rooting for if it had been Federer standing across the net from the Austrian, though.”
Dipankar Lahiri of the Indian Express said Djokovic didn’t fit into the narrative of why most fans love to support players.
“Federer (is) the ‘artist’ with the ‘precision’ of a ‘Swiss watch’. Nadal the ‘warrior’ with the ‘strength’ of a ‘bull’.
“Pit these two extremes against each other and you get a sporting contest to be talked of for ages.
“Djokovic’s emergence and his subsequent rate of winning titles has gone against this script. The Serb, who grew up playing tennis in swimming pools ravaged by war, is an outsider to this ‘artist vs warrior’ narrative.”
As for Jon Turner of The National, he thinks Australian fans are just sick of Djokovic’s dominance.
“Djokovic’s dominance in Australia – he has won seven of the past 10 titles at Melbourne Park – is all becoming rather boring, in the kindest way possible,” Turner wrote.
“He exerts an understated brand of brilliance that struggles to capture the tennis public and the ease with which he is accumulating these trophies is starting to take the spark out of the men’s tournament in Melbourne.
“The 17-time Grand Slam champion is simply far too good.”