Novak Djokovic caught in 'secret note' controversy at Australian Open

The Serbian tennis star's coaching staff were spotted passing him a note during a match at the grand slam.

Novak Djokovic's coaching staff, pictured here passing him a note at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic's coaching staff were spotted passing him a note at the Australian Open. Image: TikTok

Video has emerged on social media appearing to show Novak Djokovic being passed a secret note by his team at the Australian Open. The video, filmed by a spectator and uploaded to TikTok, shows a member of Djokovic's coaching staff attaching a piece of paper to a drink bottle before handing it to the supervisor to be passed to Djokovic during his second-round match.

Djokovic can then be seen reading the note before drinking the contents of the bottle. While the note might simply be instructions on how the drink should be consumed, it has raised questions about whether Djokovic was receiving illegal coaching.

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Coaching during matches was previously outlawed, but a recent change to the rules allows for coaches to communicate verbally with players while at the same end of the court, as well as use hand signals while at the opposite end. However there is nothing mentioned in the new rule about using written instructions.

The change was illustrated on Sunday night during Stefanos Tsitsipas' clash with Jannik Sinner on Rod Laver Arena. Tsitsipas has been pinged for receiving coaching a number of times throughout his career, including at the Australian Open last year when a Greek-speaking official was placed below his coaches' box to pick up communication between him and his father Apostolos - who is also his coach.

However on Sunday night it was Sinner who took advantage of some mid-match coaching, with the Italian benefiting from some advice from the box on how to deal with Tsitsipas' serve. Sinner dropped the first two sets but sent the match to a fifth set after his coaches (including Australian Darren Cahill) were shown telling him to move back in the court while receiving.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here being handed the drink bottle by the tournament supervisor at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic is handed the drink bottle by the tournament supervisor at the Australian Open. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

"He's just been instructed by his coaching staff on second serves from Tsitsipas, to stand back," Jim Courier said on Channel 9. "I'm pretty confident that the next time he sees a second serve, he's going to be standing back there as well.

"And guys, I don't know what you think, but I think it's a good move for him. They just told him to go back. Coaching in play here."

Todd Woodbridge commented: "A good decision by the coaching staff. They've got to be feeling really good."

Speaking previously, Tsitsipas commended the move to allow coaching, saying it was going on way more than anybody realised when it was banned. "My coach has not been as discreet as other coaches, but it has been always happening," he said last year.

"Trust me, it's happening with almost every single player. The fact that it's legalised now is going to make tennis a bit more peaceful, make players concentrate more on the game, less on different kind of nonsense."

Novak Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic, pictured here during his win over Enzo Couacauo at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic (L) looks on during his win over Enzo Couacauo at the Australian Open. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Latest controversy over Novak Djokovic drink bottle

Meanwhile, the fresh controversy over the Djokovic note passing comes after another furore erupted late last year over the contents of a drink bottle. Members of Djokovic's entourage were spotted blocking the view of cameras while preparing a drink for the Serbian star at the Paris Masters in November.

Aussie veteran John Millman said it was 'ridiculous' to suggest Djokovic and his team were doing anything untoward, while the Serb's wife Jelena also slammed the suggestion. Millman said: “Too much attention on a team member mixing sports drinks.

“A proper ridiculous notion that something is up, stadium full, cameras everywhere, drinks mixed in players box ... I mean use a little logic here, maybe just maybe they don’t want to give the edge to anyone.

“To add to that, inside a locker room you see a players team always making drinks, in unmarked bottles and put in the fridge. Training programs, supplement intake etc is trade secret.”

Djokovic has been battling a hamstring injury at the Australian Open and said on Saturday night that he very nearly didn't play at all in Melbourne. The ailment will be put to the test on Monday night when the 21-time major winner takes on Aussie star Alex de Minaur in the fourth round.

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