World No.1 Novak Djokovic has unleashed in his second round of the Belgrade Open after smashing his racquet during a mid-match meltdown.
Djokovic swept past lucky loser Mats Moraing 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) to book his place in the quarter-finals of the Belgrade Open.
But the World No.1, in his first match back since his defeat to Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open final, was pushed in the second set as he struggled to find a rhythm to close out the match.
This prompted a frustrated Djokovic to erupt after he hit a forehand halfway down the net.
Djokovic proceeded to smash his racquet three times into the red clay, before returning to his chair in between games.
The chair umpire handed Djokovic a point penalty for the outburst, but the 18-time Grand Slam champ used the release of tension to hold his nerve and finish the match in a tiebreak.
Some fans took to social media to criticise the behaviour, while others said it was part of Djokovic's game to let out unwanted frustration.
Djokovic smashing his racket in the second round of an ATP 250, while up a set vs the world #253. Unreal scenes. 💥
— Olly 🎾🇬🇧 (@Olly_2021) May 25, 2021
Not often a player ranked 253 in the world can cause the number one player to destroy a racquet through frustration, but Mats Moraing managed it just now in Belgrade. Djokovic won 6-2, 7-6, but the German’s huge forehand stunned Novak more than once. Amazing power.
— Ric Finlay (@RicFinlay) May 25, 2021
TBF something is weird to me that Djokovic was so calm against Federer at Wimby F or against Rafa at RG F but he broke a racket against world #253 in useless tournament😂🤷🏻♂️
— Ben (@ben96069606) May 26, 2021
You guys don’t understand that Djokovic smashes his racquet when he’s frustrated with himself and his performance. He’s just a more expressive player. That’s why he applauds more points and gives out more compliments. Doesn’t make him a bad person
— randomguy (@randomg73926459) May 26, 2021
#Djokovic is contractually obligated to his racquet sponsors to smash a certain number every year and to a certain documentary maker to record every one of them for posterity. #Tennis #Sportsmanship #RacquetScourge https://t.co/Df22CWRFZx
— Anindya Dutta #AdvantageIndia 🇮🇳 (@Cric_Writer) May 26, 2021
Totally unbelievable behaviour from @DjokerNole today at #BelgradeOpen I don’t think there is ever any need for a #Tennis player to smash a racquet but when it’s the world no 1 doing it that’s even more disrespectful to the fans & other players #Djokovic
— CJ (@MrCJCalvert) May 26, 2021
Djokovic laments missed opportunity
Djokovic, who turned 34 on Saturday, was full of praise for Moraing and said he was frustrated he couldn't close out the match against a 'courageous' opponent.
"I was twice a break up in the second set, so I maybe could have finished out the job earlier," Djokovic said, after his win over German Moraing.
"But credit to him for fighting, for playing really well, for playing very courageous, very bold tennis."
Djokovic will take on Argentina's Federico Coria for a spot in the last four.
In other results on Tuesday, Croatian qualifier Alex Molcan crushed Pedja Krstin 6-0 6-0 to secure the first double-bagel of 2021 on the ATP Tour.
Molcan will face Fernando Verdasco next after the veteran Spaniard accounted for fourth-seeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (7-4), 6-0.
Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.