Novak Djokovic in Australian Open furore as tennis fans blast Chris O'Connell move

TV viewers were up in arms over Channel 9's decision regarding O'Connell and Djokovic.

Chris O'Connell and Novak Djokovic, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Chris O'Connell was shafted once Novak Djokovic's match at the Australian Open started. Image: Getty

Aussie tennis fans were left spitting chips on Sunday night after Channel 9 shafted Chris O'Connell in favour of Novak Djokovic and Jason Kubler at the Australian Open. O'Connell scored an incredible five-set comeback win over Christian Garin, making him the first Australian into the second round of the Melbourne Park grand slam.

But TV viewers were left seething that they didn't get to watch the nail-biting final stages. The majority of O'Connell's match had been shown on Channel 9, but they ditched him at 7pm when the coverage switched to Djokovic's clash with Dino Prizmic.

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Djokovic was put on the main channel after the 6pm news, and Kubler's clash with Daniel Elahi Galán was shown on 9Gem. That meant anyone who was watching O'Connell had to switch to the online streaming service.

The decision came at the worst possible time, with social media users up in arms that O'Connell's match was taken off the TV deep into the fifth set. The Aussie went on to win 3-6 7-5 4-6 6-1 7-5, but not many got to see it.

"Channel 9 shows the whole O'Connell match until it gets to a deciding set," one person complained. Another commented: "Australian Chris O’Connell serving for the match and Channel 9 pull the game for Joker!!! One of your best Channel 9. No surprises!!!"

A third wrote: "I don't want to watch Djokovic playing some complete unknown when O'Connell, an Aussie player, is taking his opponent to a 5th set. Very angry about your coverage of the AO!!"

Chris O'Connell prevails in Australian Open marathon

The first few rounds of the Australian Open always provides headaches for broadcasters, and plenty of viewers would have wanted to see Djokovic. But taking O'Connell off altogether at such a critical juncture in the match went down like a lead balloon.

O'Connell broke Garin five times in the last two sets in a performance he rated better than his straight-sets win over 13th seed Diego Schwartzman in the second round at Melbourne Park in 2022. "This one felt a lot better," the 29-year-old said. "Cristian has been an unbelievable player. He may even have been in the top 20 at one point.

"Doing it over five sets, yeah, just feels a little bit better, even though it's tougher. It was more straightforward against Diego a couple of years ago but, yeah, that felt awesome out there. I'm feeling unreal. Amazing feeling. I've had so many good memories on that court, but I've just added another one."

Chris O'Connell, pictured here after his victory over Christian Garin at the Australian Open.
Chris O'Connell celebrates after victory over Christian Garin at the Australian Open. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic survives huge scare from unknown teenager

As for Djokovic, he was taken to four sets by unknown Croatian teenager Prizmic, who stunned the tennis world with his level of play against the World No.1. The 18-year-old qualifier, playing in his first grand slam ever, appeared to have Djokovic in trouble before the 24-time grand slam champ secured a 6-2 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 6-4 victory after four hours.

"Just amazing performance for someone that is 18 years old, had never had an experience of playing on a big stage," Djokovic said afterwards. "He deserved every applause, every credit that he got tonight, he's amazing player, I must say, so mature for his age.

"He handled himself on the court incredibly well. This is his moment, honestly. He could have easily been his match as well. He made me really run for my money for sure."

Novak Djokovic and Dino Prizmic, pictured here after their match at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic praised Dino Prizmic after their match at the Australian Open. (Photo by MARTIN KEEP/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

Djokovic admitted that he wasn't feeling his best physically, later clarifying in the press conference that he had been unwell. "I am a bit under the weather, the last four, five days," he said. "You can probably judge by my voice. It is what it is, you just have to try to deal with it and get over it and accept the circumstances and try to make the most of it."

with AAP

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