Novak Djokovic addresses perception that he ‘thrives’ when facing hostility

Ewan West
Novak Djokovic continues to silence his doubters
Novak Djokovic gestures to the crowd

Novak Djokovic has spoken about the challenge of dealing with hostile crowds and when “facing adversity on and off the court”.

The tennis icon explained he sometimes thrives in these situations because it is the only option he has in that moment to find a solution to win the match.

Djokovic is renowned for his mental strength and his ability to prevail when the majority of fans are behind his opponent is a highly impressive aspect of his character.

The Serbian’s final victories against his great rival Roger Federer at the 2015 US Open and the 2019 Wimbledon Championships are two of the most significant instances of Djokovic winning after defying crowds that were vociferously against him.

The 36-year-old frequently tackled hostile crowds when he felt disrespected during 2023, with his Wimbledon semi-final win against Jannik Sinner one notable example.

READ MORE: Goran Ivanisevic claims Novak Djokovic is ‘treated like a villain’ by unjust tennis fans

Djokovic mocked spectators by imitating crying after he saved set points to hold serve in the third set. Some fans had tried to distract the world No 1 by shouting as he prepared to serve.

Speaking to Nick Kyrgios on the Good Trouble with Nick Kyrgios podcast, Djokovic addressed the perception that he performs better when crowds are against him.

“I don’t know, it really depends. People think that I really thrive on that energy when somebody doesn’t like me or I’m facing adversity on and off the court,” said the 24-time Grand Slam champion.

“Sometimes I do because that’s the only thing I have in that moment. I have to find a solution. I have to find a way to win a tennis match and be who I am, be true to myself.

“I know that not everyone will like me. I know that people of course have their favourite players or maybe they want an underdog to win and things like that happen.

“I’ve been on the tour for so long and I’ve experienced some great atmospheres in my favour and great atmospheres against me.

“But I think in the end of the day, you really have to understand the moment, understand how you’re feeling because you’re not going to feel the same every single day.

“There’s going to be days where you’re going to be distracted by what’s happening outside these lines and there’s going to be days you’re so locked in that whatever happens, whatever anybody says, you’re dialled in and you know exactly what you need to do as far as on-court goes.”

Djokovic holds a 12-5 record in 2024 so far after what has been a difficult season so far judged against the transcendent standards he has set.

The world No 1, who will turn 37 on May 22, fell to a surprisingly one-sided loss to Alejandro Tabilo at the Italian Open last week.

READ MORE: Who is Alejandro Tabilo? The inside story on Novak Djokovic’s conqueror