John McEnroe backs Novak Djokovic in spat with Centre Court crowd

John McEnroe believes Novak Djokovic had every right to take a swipe at the Centre Court crowd at Wimbledon.

Djokovic claimed some spectators disrespected him during his straight-sets win over Holger Rune on Monday night by repeatedly chanting the young Dane’s surname.

During a heated on-court interview, the seven-time champion said: “Well, to all the fans that had respect and stayed here tonight thank you very much from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate it.

“And to all those people that have chosen to disrespect the player, in this case me, have a gooooood night. Gooood night, gooood night. Very good night.”

Three-time champion McEnroe, who had his fair share of run-ins with crowds during his colourful career, revealed he would have told Djokovic “well done” for calling out the spectators.

The American, speaking as a BBC pundit, continued: “He’s been battling this for his whole career. And yes he feeds off the negative energy and yes I did feed off that at times. But I hated it in a way.

“Do you want people yelling against you, hoping you lose? Just because you’re so good?

John McEnroe speaks into a microphone
John McEnroe defended Novak Djokovic (Mike Egerton/PA)

“They start pulling for the other guy for no other reason than you’re so good. That’s the reason people go against him.

“He’s like Darth Vader, compared to two of the biggest class acts to play tennis, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Who can compare to them in terms of the way people love them? Nobody.

“Then this guy Djokovic has the nerve to come in and break up the party. And says ‘how about respecting me?’

“Here’s a guy who had a surgery a month ago. The odds were 10 or 20 per cent that he would even play this tournament.

“He’s thinking ‘I’m helping this tournament’, which he is, and ‘why don’t I get some love when I’m playing a guy who’s 15 in the world and who hasn’t done a damn thing’ compared to him?

“There were maybe a handful of Danish people going ‘Rune’ and I get that people want to see a good match. But you have to respect the greatness that you see.

“I admire the guts that he had to say it there. That takes something, because that’s in a way going to put more people against him.

“He doesn’t deserve that at this stage. We need him, he’s been too great for our game.”

Djokovic later walked out of a BBC interview after tiring of being questioned over his reaction to the crowd.