John McEnroe's message to fans amid Novak Djokovic 'disgrace'

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Pictured here, Novak Djokovic lets out a roar at the French Open.
Novak Djokovic has had to contend with an unfriendly French Open crowd during his run to the quarter-finals. Pic: Getty

Tennis great John McEnroe has delivered a brutal truth to French Open fans after insisting their boos will only spur Novak Djokovic on at Roland Garros.

The World No.1 found himself at the centre of unsavoury scenes in his round of 16 win against Diego Schwartzman, as fans jeered and booed the Serb throughout the contest.

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Djokovic showed glimpses of his brilliant best to demolish Schwartzman 6-1 6-3 6-3 and secure a record 16th appearance in the Roland Garros quarter-finals.

He set up a blockbuster showdown with Rafa Nadal in the last eight after the 13-time champion beat Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 in a five-set epic.

While Djokovic was untroubled by Schwartzman, he did run into some issues with the French Open crowd.

The World No.1 was loudly booed as he walked out onto court on Sunday, while he was also jeered and booed in scenes labelled "disgraceful" by many viewers.

McEnroe was no stranger to such treatment by fans during his own playing days, but the tennis pundit says unlike himself, Djokovic seems to feed off the negative energy.

“He does it better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” McEnroe said on Eurosport.

“I didn’t do it as well. I felt like it affected me more than it helped me. I think there were times where it fuelled me, but he has done it consistently. He’s a remarkable player and person.”

McEnroe says considering all Djokovic has achieved in the sport, he struggles to fathom why he is not adored on a similar level to great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Seen here, Novak Djokovic in action against Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round at the French Open.
Novak Djokovic is seen here in action against Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round at the French Open. Pic: Getty

“He’s been wanting to be respected at that same level, and that sort of fuels him but I think it’s unfair, personally,” he added.

“It’s just something that I can’t explain. I don’t know what it is, honestly.

“He deserves to be – and he is – respected. It’s just that I’m sure it’s frustrating. I think at the end of the day they will like him more after he stopped playing which sort of ended up being the case with myself, I guess.

“But at the time, it’s frustrating. Some of it can be at times your own fault, but I think quite a bit of it isn’t. It’s just that these other guys are so amazing.

“The way Rafa and Roger handle themselves, it’s hard to get to that level. Plus they were succeeding before him, so he’s been catching up the whole time.

“But he actually shows a lot of emotion, he’s fired up. People should love that and the French, they love that. I can’t explain it.”

Rafa Nadal to face Novak Djokovic at night

Djokovic is already celebrating a mini victory over Nadal ahead of their quarter-final, with French Open officials scheduling the match for Tuesday's night session.

Organisers had granted Nadal's wish to play in the daytime for the first four rounds, but they copped heat from young Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in the lead-up to the scheduling of the quarter-finals.

The teenage phenom said it would be unfair if he was forced to play another night match and Nadal wasn't.

"Honestly, it wouldn't seem fair to me. I've already played twice in the evening," the 19-year-old said.

"I'm not saying that it bothers me to play in the evening, but obviously I have less recovery time, if I finish very late all the time.

"When we finish at midnight, with all that comes with it - dinner, physio, trying to come down in terms of adrenaline - it's harder to recover."

Djokovic has also expressed his preference to play in the daytime.

Pictured left to right, tennis rivals Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Rafa Nadal will play Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals at the French Open. Image: Getty

"Today I'd rather play day than playing 9pm. Conditions are different today. It's colder, slower," he said.

"I historically played very well and won a lot of matches under the lights on different slams, particularly in Australia."

"We do have requests, but those requests are not always accepted."

The night session, for which Amazon Prime has exclusive broadcasting rights in France, starts at 9pm local time and was introduced for the first time at the 2021 edition of the clay-court major.

"I don't like night sessions on clay. I am very clear with that," Nadal said last week.

"I don't like to play on clay during the night because humidity is higher, the ball is slower and there can be very heavy conditions especially when it's cold."

with agencies

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