Novak Djokovic has called out British player Cameron Norrie after their Italian Open match turned nasty after a controversial incident during the match. Djokovic has started to find form ahead of the French Open having overcome Norrie's 6-3, 6-4 challenge to set up a clash against Holger Rune.
The World No.1 was thrilled to reach the quarter-final, but couldn't help take a dig at Norrie after the match over a divisive issue in the second set. Norrie was down a set and a break when he brought Djokovic to the net with a shot.
Djokovic was forced to dig the ball out and hit a high-looping shot that didn't go past the service box. As Norrie set up for the smash, Djokovic turned his back having conceded the point was over.
However, Norrie's smash hit the left leg of Djokovic while his back was turned. Djokovic appeared to be furious as he swung around and stared down Norrie at the net.
Norrie offered a quick apology as jeers rang around the arena in Rome. "I agree, I don't think there is any malice in this at all from Norrie," the commentator said.
"He did apologise, I don't actually think Norrie saw Djokovic turn his back. Djokovic really was not happy. A big stare back at Norrie."
Fans were left divided over the incident, which has been a talking point in tennis for some time. Many felt Djokovic shouldn't have turned his back before the ball was over, which meant he couldn't see where the smash was directed.
Norrie may have not been able to see Djokovic if he was so focused on the ball, but others claimed Norrie was playing with fire when hitting the overhead shot. Djokovic clearly carried the resentment throughout the remainder of the set with a cold handshake at the end of the match.
Cam Norrie hits Novak Djokovic with an overhead
You have to love the stare of death Novak shoots back at him 🥶
Show this to anyone who say tennis isn’t a contact sport 😂pic.twitter.com/tROlMPmPlb
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) May 16, 2023
— Olly 🎾🇬🇧 (@Olly_Tennis_) May 16, 2023
To be fair it looks completely unintentional
— Archie (@archieoreilly_) May 16, 2023
Nole's eyes !!! Scary! I would have stopped the game there.
— Máximo Miccinilli (@MaximoBXL) May 16, 2023
It wasn’t quite a no-look handshake from Djokovic, but not far off.
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) May 16, 2023
Ball’s speed was 1 km/h Norrie knew exactly where he wanted to play this one.
— TennisFreak (@SiudaKamil) May 16, 2023
Seriously!? Norrie was clearly focusing on the ball and not Djokovic. Fair enough to Djokovic misunderstanding if he hadn't seen the footage, but I don't understand how anyone who had would think that.
— P S (@VDCNI) May 16, 2023
The point was given. Djokovic was heading to the baseline. Norrie had all of the court, he decided to hit Djokovic.
Even if he didn't mean it, his apology was disgraceful.
— Lena T (@jt22145225) May 16, 2023
Completely unnecessary. But we saw who Norrie was after he moaned about Djokovic qualifying for ATP finals.
— V. Delaney (@Delaney4Tennis) May 16, 2023
Novak Djokovic calls out Cameron Norrie
After the match, Djokovic outlined the reasons why he was fuming with the British talent. Djokovic accused Norrie of trying to disrupt the rhythm of the match using a number of tactics.
"I did watch the replay when he hit me," Djokovic said after the match in Rome. "Maybe you could say he didn't hit me deliberately. I don't know if he saw me. Peripherally you can always see where the player is positioned on the court. The ball was super slow and super close to the net. I just turned around because the point was over for me.
"It was not so much maybe about that, it was maybe about that, but it was maybe a combination of things. From the very beginning he was doing all the things that were allowed.
"He's allowed to take a medical timeout. He's allowed to hit a player. He's allowed to say 'come on' in the face more or less every single point from basically the first game.
"Those are the things that we players know in the locker room it's not fair play, it's not how we treat each other. But, again it's allowed so..."
More importantly, Djokovic advanced to his first quarter-final since the Dubai Tennis Championship in March. He will now take on young star Rune. The Danish prodigy upset Djokovic last year in the Paris Masters final and has been in sensational clay court form this year.
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