John McEnroe says ‘villain’ Novak Djokovic is misunderstood

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic during a match
Novak Djokovic in action

Novak Djokovic secured his place in the tennis Hall of Fame long ago, yet John McEnroe has suggested the respect he is due is not always forthcoming.

The suggestion that his great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are more popular that Djokovic has long been a narrative that have infuriated the fans of the Serbian great.

Yet if Djokovic lifts the French Open title in Paris next month, he may well have ensured he finishes his career with the most Grand Slam titles in the history of the men’s game.

Despite that, many will still snipe at Djokovic, with this story on Tennis365 drawing a big reaction from his fans in recent days.

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Now tennis legend McEnroe has joined the debate, as he suggested Djokovic is not given the respect he is due given his achievements in the game.

“Novak hasn’t got as much respect as I think he deserves,” McEnroe told Eurosport.

“I think he’s been fantastic. Obviously, he’s a player, but also the stance that he’s taken, even when you may not have agreed with him, even at times where it costs him.

“So he should be respected, as well, but he’s been the villain more often. The guy’s won 22 grand slams, for God’s sakes.”

When asked whether Djokovic has a chance complete a calendar Grand Slam after his win at the Australian Open in January, McEnroe offered up this response.

“Well, of course he has a chance,” he continued.

“He’s on a quest to be the best ever and you know win the most majors, so right now it looks like he’s like he is the only guy left and you know could break more records.

“He’s tied with Rafa (Nadal on 22 Grand Slam titles), but he’s had a tough year and a half in a lot of ways and he’s also done some incredible things.

“Novak is always looking for some inspiration, some fuel and you know, he’s got some now he’s got a great chance.”

Nadal’s absence from the French Open due to injury has seen Carlos Alcaraz installed as tournament favourite, but McEnroe is backing Djokovic to push the young Spaniard all the way.

“I would say that it would be like a tie between Alcaraz and Novak,” he added. “I would put them as the top two, and pretty much the same.

“We’re approaching obviously the end of an era. I mean, this has been going on for 15 years, if not longer, so it’s unbelievable, but everything at some point ends

“Novak is 36. He seems to be an incredible that for the most part, his body still seems to be able to do what he wants.

“At some point, you think in the near future that’s going to change. You know, it’s just a question of how long can you keep going so that’s why you’re seeing young guys finally coming through.

“They’re the new the young bucks and finally started to emerge, but you have to wait and see if they’re mentally ready to you know.

“Alcaraz proved the was at The US Open now you got to see if Rune is capable of like making that step to win something like this, but right now, you know, if you asked me, I would say Alcaraz would be the slight favourite to win this.”

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