Novak Djokovic Faces Hostility from Italian Crowd at ATP Finals
By Kevin Palmer | November 17, 2023
Novak Djokovic encountered more hostility from the Italian crowd during his match against Hubert Hurkacz at the ATP Finals. Respected coach and analyst Mark Petchey believes it is time for fans to thaw their animosity towards the world No. 1.
The defending champion bounced back from his loss to Jannik Sinner on Tuesday to defeat Hurkacz, who replaced the injured Stefanos Tsitsipas, with a score of 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-1.
Hurkacz’s victory in the second set against Djokovic ensured Sinner’s qualification for the semi-finals of the tournament in Turin. This may have explained why the home crowd cheered Djokovic’s demise in the second set. However, Petchey argues that the ongoing animosity directed at the 24-time Grand Slam champion is no longer acceptable.
Loud cheers filled the arena when Djokovic made a double fault, losing his serve and handing the second set to Hurkacz. Petchey, an Amazon Prime analyst, expressed discomfort with the treatment given to one of the game’s all-time greats.
“I find it really disheartening at times when I hear that kind of support for Hurkacz,” began Petchey. “Maybe they want three sets, maybe they don’t understand the significance that Novak might go through even if he doesn’t win.”
Petchey continued, “I just feel Novak is at this stage of his career that even if you don’t agree with every decision he has made, no genius across all walks of life has always made decisions you always agree with.”
Petchey went on to suggest that Djokovic’s achievements on the court should earn him more respect than he currently receives. Throughout this year, Djokovic has shown his disdain for negative fans in stadiums worldwide.
“He is the greatest player of all time statistically in this era,” added Petchey. “To achieve what he has achieved in the golden era of men’s tennis, the hardest in many ways, with the quality he has had to overcome, surpass… that deserves everyone’s respect.”
Djokovic gave a frosty interview to the Tennis Channel after the match against Hurkacz, consisting of just two brief questions before it was abandoned. It is evident that the constant criticism from tennis fans contributes to his annoyance, as winning does not seem to stop the negativity flowing in his direction.
The Serbian maestro has reacted to negative fans at Wimbledon last summer and did the same at the Paris Masters event. This new approach to confronting negativity is certain to inflame those who refuse to respect a great champion.
Perhaps Djokovic has decided that he is fighting a losing battle in the popularity war with some of his critics, and his best way of dealing with the abuse is to give some of his own back.