Respected tennis voice blasts abuse Novak Djokovic gets from tennis fans around the world

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic continues to silence his doubters
Novak Djokovic continues to silence his doubters

Novak Djokovic faced more hostility from the Italian crowd at the ATP Finals during his match with Hubert Hurkacz, with respected coach and analyst Mark Petchey suggesting the time has come for fans to thaw their animosity towards the world No 1.

The defending champion bounced back from Tuesday’s loss to Jannik Sinner to see off Hurkacz, a replacement for the injured Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-6(1) 4-6 6-1.

Hurkacz’s success in winning the second set against Djokovic ensured Sinner qualified for the semi-finals of the tournament in Turin.

That may have explained why the home crowd were cheering Djokovic’s demise in the second set, yet Petchey believes the ongoing levels of animosity directed at the 24-time Grand Slam champion is no longer acceptable.

There were loud cheers around the arena when Djokovic threw in a double fault to lose his serve and hand Hurkacz the second set, with Amazon Prime analyst Petchey uncomfortable with the treatment handed out to one of the game’s all-time greats.

“I find it really disheartening at times when I hear that kind of support for Hurkacz,” began Petchey.

“Maybe they want three sets, maybe they don’t understand the significance that Novak might go through even if he doesn’t win.

“I just feel Novak is at this stage of his career that even if you don’t agree with every decision that he has made, no genius across all walks of life has always made decisions you always agree with.

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“But I do feel that as he strides atop of the men’s game at this stage of his career and given all the sacrifices and sporting moments he has given to us, I hope the crowds around the world in the final vestiges of his career give him the love and support and the embrace that all of that hard work deserves.

“I would hate to feel that every time he sits in this situation that all that cascades down from these stadium walls because I just don’t think it’s fair.

“I understand it against Sinner, with an Italian crowd, but in this situation (against Hurkacz), it just wouldn’t happen for Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal) and it’s just not right.”

Petchey went on to suggest Djokovic’s achievements on the court should earn him more respect than he gets, in a year when he has regularly shown his disdain for negative fans in stadiums around the world.

“He is the greatest player of all time statistically in this era,” added Petchey.

“To achieve what he has achieved in the golden era of men’s tennis, the hardest in many ways, with the quality he has had to overcome, surpass… that deserves everyone’s respect.

“I’m not asking for adoration, but it deserves respect. If you can’t give it, I feel you need to have a long hard look in the mirror.”

Djokovic gave a very frosty interview to the Tennis Channel after the match against Hurkacz, which consisted of just two brief questions before it was abandoned.

Clearly, the constant criticism he gets from tennis fans is a factor in his annoyance as winning does not seem to stop the negativity flowing in his direction.

He reacted to negative fans at Wimbledon last summer and did the same at the Paris Masters event, with this new approach to confrointing negativity certain to infame those who refuse to respect a great champion.

Maybe the Serbian maestro has decided he is fighting a losing battle to win the popularity war with some of his critics and his best way of dealing with the abuse is to give some of his own back.