'It's a tragedy': Tennis great savaged over 'weird' Novak Djokovic call

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Pictured here, Novak Djokovic speaks after his first round win at the US Open.
Novak Djokovic wasn't exactly feeling the love of the New York crowd during his first round win at the US Open. Pic: Getty

Tennis legend Chris Evert has faced a mountain of backlash after questioning the New York crowd's lack of support for Novak Djokovic at the US Open.

Djokovic - chasing a rare calendar year Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows - made it through to the second round with a less than straightforward four-set win over Danish qualifier Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune.

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However, the notoriously brutal New York crowd made it plain to hear throughout the contest that it was the underdog they were rooting for even if neither player could quite work it out.

Both players thought the crowd was booing during the match, with Djokovic admitting afterwards that he found it a little unsettling.

However, it has since emerged that sections of the crowd were calling out "Ruuuuuune," in support of the underdog.

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Regardless, Djokovic received little of the raucous support that his great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal enjoy when they step out onto the courts at Flushing Meadows.

The World No.1 has spoken about the issue plenty in the past, but Evert was adamant that the Serb deserved better in New York, considering how close he is to a special piece of tennis history .

Not only could the 34-year-old become just the third man in history to win all four majors in the same year, victory at the US Open would also see him overtake Federer and Nadal with a record-breaking 21st men's grand slam singles title.

Evert argued that his astonishing achievements deserved more support than the US Open crowd were giving Djokovic against Rune, and openly chastised fans for taking delight at points he dropped during the contest.

The 18-time grand slam champion's comments did not go down well in the tennis world, with many fans pointing out that Djokovic's vaccination stance and history around Covid-19 made him a hugely unpopular figure for many of them.

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Novak Djokovic overcomes second set wobble

Playing his first event since a disappointing Tokyo Olympics, Djokovic wasn't perfect but he didn't need to be in his 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-1 win in Arthur Ashe Stadium to reach the second round.

Quickly regaining control after a second-set blip, Djokovic wore down his cramping foe - Danish qualifier Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune.

"It wasn't the best of my performances but at the same time, he played well in the second set when it mattered," Djokovic acknowledged.

Seen here, Novak Djokovic returns the ball against Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune at the US Open.
Novak Djokovic returns the ball against Denmark's Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune in their first round match at the US Open. Pic: Getty

The crowd - back at the US Open after all fans were banned last year because of the coronavirus pandemic - gave Rune some serious backing, responding to his pumped fists and uppercuts and pleas for more noise when he was playing at his best level in the second set.

What at first sounded like booing was actually "Rune-ing" and the kid clearly loved the moment.

"It was a crazy experience, playing against Novak on Arthur Ashe is probably one of the dream come true," Rune said.

"To be able to win one set as well was great."

The Dane said his fitness struggles made winning "impossible".

But there was never any panic from Djokovic, who turned up the pressure in the third set with an early break to regain control as Rune began to suffer cramp.

As Rune grimaced with every step, Djokovic stuck to his game plan with ruthless precision.

"I mean, obviously you always wish to have crowd behind you, but it's not always possible. That's all I can say. I mean, I don't know; I've been focusing on myself and what I need to do," said Djokovic, who next faces Tallon Griekspoor, a 25-year-old from Netherlands ranked 121st who got into the field when Roger Federer pulled out.

"I guess I have to just see how it feels on the court and try to keep it together. That's all I can do."

with AAP

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