'Stain he can't erase': Legend's brutal truth for Novak Djokovic

Andrew Reid
·3-min read
Pictured here, Novak Djokovic looks rattled during the 2020 US Open tournament.
Novak Djokovic has faced plenty of backlash over his US Open disqualification. Pic: AAP

If anyone knows how to embrace being labelled the "bad guy" of his sport and rising above adversity, it's John McEnroe.

The American - once dubbed the 'Super Brat' of tennis - says Novak Djokovic needs to discover that same mentality after his now infamous US Open disqualification.

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Djokovic's reputation - whether fair or not - will undoubtedly take a hit after he was booted from the New York grand slam for hitting a tennis ball into the throat of a female line judge, during the first set of his fourth round clash against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta.

Like the Serbian star, McEnroe has also faced the ignominy of being defaulted from a grand slam tournament, becoming the first man to suffer such a fate when a series of code violations during his match against Mikael Pernfors saw him punted from the 1990 Australian Open.

The American accepted that his fiery personality made him a polarising figure in the world of tennis - a situation Aussie firebrand Nick Kyrgios can no doubt relate to.

McEnroe often fed off the negativity projected towards him and channelled the aggression into his own game.

The 61-year-old says Djokovic may need to do the same, as he faces an inevitable backlash from fans over the US Open incident.

"The pressure just got to him, I think," McEnroe told ESPN.

"A lot's been going on off the court, it's obviously affected him and now whether he likes it or not he's going to be the bad guy for the rest of his career.

McEnroe was referring to a series of controversies revolving around Djokovic, including his ill-fated Adria Tour and the Serbian's role in leading a breakaway players association that has divided the tennis world.

The American concedes that Djokovic faces a monumental task to recover from his US Open setback, but backed the World No.1 to do so if he accepts that many will now view him as a "bad guy" of the sport.

Novak Djokovic is seen here checking on the line judge he hit with a tennis ball.
Novak Djokovic could be seen apologising to the line judge after the incident. Pic: Getty

McEnroe’s words of wisdom for Djokovic

"If he embraces that role, I think he could recover," added McEnroe. "He's got a lot of things going for him, but this is obviously a stain that he's not going to be able to erase."

"It was a rookie mistake made by him to hit a ball back where he wasn't even looking where he was hitting it.

"He's been there and done that, and certainly I know from some experience that you've got to be careful out there."

On Monday, the total financial penalty for Djokovic's disqualification was increased to $267,500 ($A370,000).

Djokovic was docked an additional $7,500 ($A10,000) for skipping the mandatory post-match news conference after being defaulted in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the accidental incident that resulted in a line judge being struck in the throat with a ball.

The maximum fine for that infraction is listed as $20,000 ($A27,500) in the grand slam rule book - the most a player can be fined for unsportsmanlike conduct - although Djokovic was slugged $10,000 ($A13,750) for that violation.

Those two fines are in addition to losing his $250,000 ($A345,000) in prize money for making it to the fourth round at the US Open.

To put the money in context, Djokovic has earned more than $140 million ($A192m) in prize money over his career, aside from millions more in endorsement deals.

with AAP