Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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Novak Djokovic backed to thrive vs Rafael Nadal if French Open crowd boo Serb again

John McEnroe has told French Open fans that booing Novak Djokovic will only inspire him to beat crowd favourite Rafael Nadal in Tuesday’s blockbuster quarter-final. The Serbian world No 1 has won the pre-match battle by getting to play in the evening session while the Spaniard wanted to play in the day.

But Djokovic has not won over fans here and he was booed as he entered the court for his fourth-round win over Diego Schwartzman – and again during Nadal’s post-match interview after beating Felix Auger-Aliassime. The defending champion is never far from controversy and was deported from Australia in January after arriving without a Covid vaccination.

And he has never been as popular outside Serbia as Roger Federer or Nadal. But McEnroe, who also had a strained relationship with crowds around the world, warned that Djokovic will only feed off the negative energy.

“He does it better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” said the Eurosport analyst. “I don’t know why he gets booed. It’s the same reason that he has been wanting to be respected at that same level and that sort of fuels him but I think it’s unfair, personally.

“I don’t know if it’s because this situation in the 90s with the war that was going on there. But it seems like the Russian players that are here are getting nice support. It’s something I cannot explain. I’m sure it’s frustrating. I think at the end of the day, they will like him more after he has stopped playing, which ended up being the case for myself.

“Some of it can be at times your own fault. It’s just that these others are so amazing. They handle themselves so well, like Rafa and Roger, that it’s hard to get to that level.

“Plus they succeeded before him more so he has been catching up the whole time. I don’t know. Because he actually shown a lot of emotion, he is fired up. People should love that to me. The French, they love that. I can’t explain it.”

Before the 59th meeting between Nadal and Djokovic on Tuesday, McEnroe was asked if the two had the greatest rivalry of all time. He replied: “I mean it’s hard to sort of say like Rafa and Roger wasn’t incredible.

“But at the moment, there’s no question. This is what, their 59 meeting? I mean I played [Bjorn] Borg 14 times. I sort of feel jealous. I wish we had played a lot more. I think it would have been even better. I cannot believe they played that many times.

“I forgot the numbers, but Roger vs Rafa is still pretty stratospheric. The longevity, too, it shows you that when you play that many times you must be doing something right for a long time. They consistently have just outclassed everyone. It’s amazing. I can’t believe they made one this much. It’s remarkable. I give a slight edge to Novak but if Rafa won I wouldn’t be surprised at all.”

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