Novak Djokovic hailed for embracing ‘villain’ role and tackling haters by former world No 9
Former WTA star Andrea Petkovic has declared she is “so happy” Novak Djokovic is “leaning into that villain era” and said this is all she “ever wanted” from the great Serbian.
Petkovic, a former world No 9, believes Djokovic has become much more willing to embrace this role by realising his tennis player persona and actual personality are separate.
Djokovic has taken on hostile crowds when he has felt disrespected frequently in 2023, with notable instances coming at Wimbledon, the US Open, the Paris Masters, the ATP Finals and the Davis Cup Finals.
In his Wimbledon semi-final win against Jannik Sinner, Djokovic hilariously mocked spectators by imitating crying after he saved set points to hold serve in the third set. Some fans had tried to distract Djokovic by shouting as he prepared to serve.
The atmosphere is tense now. Someone in the audience said something to Djokovic, who started arguing with the crowd. Sinner had two set points, wasting the second one and trying to break his racket against his thigh.
— Relevant Tennis (@RelevantTennis) July 14, 2023
The 36-year-old claimed seven titles from just 12 ATP tournaments entered this year as he won 56 of his 63 matches across all events (88.9%) and ended the season as world No 1 for a record-extending eighth time.
Djokovic won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments, while he was a beaten finalist at Wimbledon, losing a five-set epic to Carlos Alcaraz.
Speaking on an episode of The Rennae Stubbs Tennis Podcast, Petkovic expressed her approval at Djokovic embracing the villain role and theorised why he may have been reluctant to do this earlier in his career.
“I have to say, I am so here for a villain era. Novak Djokovic, that’s all I ever wanted. That’s all I ever wanted of him,” the German said.
“I always wanted him to take this role and be ‘f you’ to everyone. ‘I’m so much better than everyone and I’m going to own it. I’m going to yell at the audience. I’m going to blow kisses and people who try to disturb me, and I’m going to win it all.’
“That’s all I ever wanted from him. So I’m so happy he’s leaning into that villain era. I have said that forever.
“I think he didn’t want to embrace it because he thinks of himself as a better person, because he is. I’ve known him for such a long time, he’s a great person.
“But I always said, the quality of your human being is not the same as your tennis player persona. You can be the biggest a**hole as a tennis player – that’s nothing to do with who you are off the court. And I think he wants to believe in himself as being a good person, so that wouldn’t go together.
“And I think now he’s come to realise that, ‘my tennis player persona is my tennis player persona, and Novak is Novak – this has nothing to do with each other.’ So I think he’s much more able to embrace that, ‘I’m going to show you. I don’t care if everyone is against me.’ ”
Petkovic, now 36, won seven WTA titles before her retirement in 2022.
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