John McEnroe leaps to Novak Djokovic’s defence after French Open abuse
John McEnroe has called out the treatment of Novak Djokovic by the French Open crowds this tournament.
McEnroe feels that the crowd have gone in on Djokovic time and again even when he has done nothing wrong.
Djokovic was jeered for taking a medical time-out during his third round match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
McEnroe felt this was absurd as his opponent left the court for a bathroom break at the same time.
“Why do they boo?” McEnroe asked on commentary for Eurosport.
“Everyone does it [take a medical time-out]. It’s totally legal, you’re allowed to work and rub his legs! Where’s Davidovich Fokina? He’s off to the bathroom.
“I totally get his reaction. Are you kidding me? Are you going to boo for this? The other guy’s not even on the court!
“Change the rules if you don’t want to let a guy get worked on, but don’t start doing that. It’s absurd!
“Let’s be real. That’s what he’s been battling his whole career; inspiring and pushing him. It ends up that it actually helped him, in a weird way.
“So as an athlete, if you had a choice between love or respect, you’d love to have both. You’d rather have respect.”
The Paris crowd have never been afraid to give players a piece of their mind but they have been particularly vocal this year.
American Taylor Fritz had an emotional exchange with the crowd as he shushed them after ousting French player Arthur Rinderknech.
McEnroe felt that Fritz was right to give the crowd a bit of stick right back.
“I can relate to fans being against me, so respect for Taylor. I love that,” McEnroe said of Fritz responding to the jeers of the crowd.
“[A hostile crowd] can be extremely intimidating, but it also can be very inspiring. You can use that negative fuel to your advantage.
“I’ve got to hand it to Fritz, he’s done an incredible job getting himself in tip-top shape, he’s one of the best ball-strikers that you’ll see on a tennis court, and he battles.
“He’s got some personality. I’ve been saying this for 50 years, but you play one-on-one against someone, you need that intensity.
“I think Taylor rose to the occasion. He’s a better player than Rinderknech, in my opinion. I don’t think it’s a huge upset that he won that match, but I like to see a little confrontation, a la [Daniil] Medvedev a couple of years ago at the US Open.”
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