Novak Djokovic has been spotted playing street tennis with some young fans in Serbia in the latest example of why the 17-time grand slam champ deserves more respect.
Just as tennis writer Ben Rothenberg pointed out after Djokovic was booed in the Australian Open final, he arguably puts in the most effort and time with fans as anyone on the tour.
‘OUT OF CONTROL’: Tennis players in extraordinary on-court altercation
Video emerged on Tuesday of Djokovic making some young fans’ day with a hit on the street in Belgrade.
“It was spontaneous, first time I saw someone playing tennis in the neighbourhood,” he said at a press conference for his foundation afterwards.
“I saw someone recording, but I didn’t know it’s out there.
“We marked the lines and I promised them the net. These are the moments one lives for, my heart was full.”
Djokovic is frequently spotted putting in extra time to make fans happy, making it unfathomable that he is so unloved while playing at grand slams.
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’.
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 True, Nole has at times withdrawn mid-match due to injuries.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
Disgraceful Attitude by Rod Laver Arena crowd vs Djokovic— Socrates (@Socrate90000750) 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
World’s media baffled by Australian crowd’s treatment
Afterwards, 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.
“While Djokovic may not get much crowd support in big matches, he's reliably the best with his fan interactions,” he wrote.
“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.
Djokovic addressed the controversy later on Tuesday, saying he doesn’t hold any ill-will if fans want to barrack for his opponent.
“I’ve read a lot of stuff suggesting that I am disliked but I really don’t have that impression, especially off-court,” Djokovic said.
“Even if that was true, why would I want to add fuel to the fire? I don’t want to stir up negative emotions — hatred and anger.
“I have no ill feelings for people who don’t support me. Having said that, I am not proud of my occasional reactions on the court as my passion gets the better of my self-control at times.
“If I invest my energy in those stories that I am not loved, that story will keep growing and why would I want that?
“Of course you always want for people to cheer for me, but I don’t want that negativity. Those are not the kind of flowers that I want to grow in my garden.
“It is a fact that most fans support Federer and Nadal against me but that’s due to what they represent in world tennis.
“It doesn’t mean that fans hate me and it certainly doesn’t mean that I need to turn Serbia against the rest of the world just because fewer people support me in grand slam finals.”
Djokovic on stories that “noone loves him” based on crowd supporting his foes 👇 Insightful. pic.twitter.com/viX91wvpOW— Saša Ozmo (@ozmo_sasa) February 18, 2020