The journalist who earned the fury of Novak Djokovic back in 2016 has told talkSPORT the incident that led to the world No.1’s disqualification from the 2020 US Open was ‘a pattern of his behaviour’.
Djokovic was sensationally kicked out of the Gram Slam tournament on Sunday after hitting a ball in frustration that then struck a line judge in the throat.
Having dropped serve to trail 6-5 in the opening set of his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta, the Serbian took a ball out his pocket and hit it towards the back of the court.
He unintentionally hit a line judge in the throat and, with a look of horror on his face, immediately went to check if she was OK after she yelped and tumbled to the floor.
Djokovic appeared to argue with tournament officials on the court following the incident, and is quoted as saying ‘she doesn’t have to go to hospital for this’.
He is also said to have remarked, ‘you’re going to choose a default in this situation? My career, grand slam, centre stage?’
Well, that’s exactly what they did, as the decision was made to default him from the match and bring his tournament to a notorious end, stripping him of all prize money and ranking points earned.
Of course, Sunday’s incident – which he has apologised for – wasn’t the first thing to blow up in Djokovic’s face in 2020.
The Serb was widely slammed for the shambolic scenes surrounding the exhibition event he helped stage in Serbia during the coronavirus pandemic, which was cancelled after he, his wife and other players tested positive for COVID-19 having ignored social distancing advice.
However, he told the New York Times last month that he ‘doesn’t feel guilty’ for what happened and said ‘if I had the chance to do the Adria Tour again, I would do it again’, claiming he is the victim of a media ‘witch hunt’.
After Sunday’s scenes, a number of tennis fans on social media noted that Djokovic is a victim of his own karma, having failed to take heed to warnings about his behaviour and arrogance in the past.
One such incident occurred back in 2016, when English journalist Neil McLeman asked Djokovic if he was worried his antics on the court could cost him, after similar incidents at the French Open and the ATP Finals in London.
Djokvic’s response was to shrug the question off as media bullying by saying, ‘you guys are unbelievable, you’re always picking at these things’.
McLeman joined the talkSPORT Breakfast on Monday to revisit that press conference outburst, in light of what happened this weekend.
And he admitted it wasn’t a surprise.
“It’s a pattern, it’s not the first time it’s happened,” said the Daily Mirror sports writer.
“That exchange we had at The O2 in 2016 was when he hit a ball into the crowd in anger, and just a few months before at the 2016 French Open he had thrown his racket and nearly hit a line judge, so it has been a pattern of behaviour.
“And you’ve seen at the time he wasn’t very contrite, and I think we saw that last night as well, when was arguing with the fact he was going to be disqualified. And I think the way he handled it afterwards was a bit of a PR disaster.
“Everyone can make mistakes, but just come out and front up and apologise, rather than scurry off in the car afterwards.
“He’s going to have to front up one day, whenever he plays next he’s going to get those questions.
“It had been quite an extraordinary year for him on and off the court ad this is just the latest episode in it.
“A lot of top tennis players are treated closer to movie stars than in any other sport, because these big names are the box office, the big draws, and they are not treated the same as in other sports.
“Tennis is less confrontational in press conferences and there are a lot of groupies, some of the press want to be friends of the players, but he was out of order at that time and I think it was correct to ask him.
“He didn’t mean to do it and it was just a moment of madness. You could see on his face the moment he did it, he thought: ‘Oh dear, I’m in trouble here’.”