John Millman supports Novak Djokovic amid 'ridiculous' accusations

John Millman is pictured on the left, and Novak Djokovic is seen on the right in a side-by-side image.
John Millman says the idea Novak Djokovic's team would blatantly prepare a potentially illegal substance mid-match in the players box as 'ridiculous'. Pictures: Getty Images

Australian tennis star John Millman has backed Novak Djokovic amid a furore over his players box attempting to conceal the preparation of a drink for him during the Paris Masters semi-final.

During Djokovic's victory over Stefanos Tsistipas, fan footage showed members of Djokovic's players box preparing a substance in a yellow drink bottle, with one moving in order to obscure the filming of them doing so.

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The bottle was then handed to a ball-girl who delivered it to Djokovic, a turn of events that was labelled by tennis writer Ben Rothenberg as 'extremely suspicious'.

While there is no suggestion Djokovic or his team have committed any wrongdoing, Rothenberg said it was a questionable look for professional players.

Djokovic won the semi-final before falling to 19-year-old Holger Rune in the final, but Millman came to the Serbian's defence on social media on Wednesday.

The Aussie star said it was 'ridiculous' to suggest there was anything untoward going on, particularly considering they were in the players box at the time.

Millman went on to argue that players themselves would regularly prepare similar drinks for themselves, and that the secrecy from Djokovic's team was simply a bid to prevent rivals from gaining a competitive advantage.

Djokovic came under fire for a similar incident at Wimbledon, where he refused to divulge the contents of a water bottle handed to him there, only describing it as a 'magic potion'.

“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,” Millman wrote on Twitter.

“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 lost the final to Rune in three sets, 3-6 6-3 7-5, with Rune at 19 becoming the youngest player to win the Paris Masters since Boris Becker.

The Serbian star finishes the 2022 season ranked world No.8, after Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz seized the World No.1 spot by winning the US Open.

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Rothenberg had earlier argued the 'optics are strange' and argued Djokovic's team needed to come clean regarding what exactly was being prepared for the former World No.1.

“I’ve always thought there should be more transparency about the substances players take, particularly during matches, but I’ve also rarely thought anything was likely amiss,” Rothenberg said on Twitter.

“But golly, the body language in this video is bizarre. What does the Djokovic team think needs hiding?”

“I think rivals (and the public and the officials governing the sport) should get to know. I don’t think there should be secret substances being ingested during competition.

“I’m accusing no one of anything here, but what an incredibly suspicious way to start acting when you suddenly notice that you’re being filmed. Hope Djokovic and/or his team get asked about this today in Paris, and that they don’t just accept his previous “magic potions” answer.”

Novak Djokovic's team attempted to conceal their preparation of a substance fort the star player during his semi-final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas. Pictures: Getty Images/Twitter
Novak Djokovic's team attempted to conceal their preparation of a substance fort the star player during his semi-final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas. Pictures: Getty Images/Twitter

Rune also becomes the first player since the ATP rankings were launched in 1973 to have beaten five top-10 players in the same tournament, other than at the season-ending ATP Finals.

His scalps on the route to his maiden Masters 1000 final included Hubert Hurkacz, Andrey Rublev, No.1 Carlos Alcaraz - who retired injured when trailing in their quarter-final - and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Now, Rune can add last year's Paris champion Djokovic to that list, defeating the 21-time grand slam winner who had described his young opponent as the future of tennis on the eve of the final.

Rune becomes the youngest Paris Masters champion since an 18-year-old Boris Becker triumphed in 1986, and he did it the hard way too, coming from behind after Djokovic made the stronger start.

With AAP

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