Tennis icon claims booing ‘fuels’ Djokovic
John McEnroe claims that the sections of fans who have booed Novak Djokovic during the French Open are only providing the Serbian ace with more motivation to win.
Djokovic was the recipient of a hostile crowd reaction during his fourth round win against Diego Schwartzman at Roland Garros amid a downturn in his popularity following his controversial deportation from Australia earlier this year after falling foul of the country's vaccine requirements - forcing him to miss the Australian Open event which he has dominated for the majority of his career.
But speaking ahead of Djokovic's blockbuster quarter-final date with longtime rival Rafael Nadal on Tuesday, McEnroe says that Djokovic is the type of player who will feed off any negative response from the Parisian crowd.
“He does it better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” McEnroe said via Eurosport.
“I didn’t do it as well. I felt like it affected me more than it helped me. I think there were times where it fueled me, but he has done it consistently. He’s a remarkable player and person.”
If there is any player in tennis history who was accustomed to negative crowd reactions throughout his career, it is the often brash American McEnroe. The seven-time Grand Slam winner was infamous throughout his playing days for engaging in verbal showdowns with umpires and fans alike, and he sees Djokovic as something of a kindred spirit in that regard.
“He’s been wanting to be respected at that same level, and that sort of fuels him but I think it’s unfair, personally,” he continued.
“It’s just something that I can’t explain. I don’t know what it is, honestly.
“He deserves to be – and he is – respected. It’s just that I’m sure it’s frustrating. I think at the end of the day they will like him more after he stopped playing which sort of ended up being the case with myself, I guess.
“But at the time, it’s frustrating. Some of it can be at times your own fault, but I think quite a bit of it isn’t. It’s just that these other guys are so amazing.”
The clash between the top seed Djokovic and the fifth-seeded Nadal is set to begin on Tuesday evening with a semi-final slot up for grabs.
The Spaniard - the all-time record holder with 21 Grand Slams - has previously stated that should he lose to his rival, it might be the final French Open match of his career.
He has dominated the clay court event throughout his career, winning it 13 times between 2005 and 2020.