As Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic makes a controversial return to the Australian Open, critics have targeted him both online as well as in the stands.
This was Djokovic’s first appearance at the Australian Open since 2021. Due to his refusal to get the COVID vaccine, he was previously barred from competing in January 2022 and consequently deported from the country.
People Magazine reported that he was granted a temporary visa by the Australian Immigration Minister, allowing him to compete in the 2023 Australian Open.
During a Thursday game against Enzo Couacaud of France, held at the Rod Laver Arena, a group of attendees — dressed in red-and-white shirts and hats like Waldo from the “Where’s Waldo?” children’s books — made a ruckus in the stands by repeatedly shouting at Djokovic.
After having had enough of the heckling, Djokovic questioned the umpire as to why he hadn’t removed the taunting fans.
Djokovic pointed out the provocateurs and asked the umpire what he was going to do about the group of men.
The entire conversation with the umpire wasn’t heard, but Djokovic can be heard telling him “You know who it is,” adding that “The guy’s drunk out of his mind!”
“From the first point, he’s been provoking. He’s not here to watch tennis. He just wants to get in my head!” Djokovic said, according to Mediaite.
“So I’m asking you, what are you going to do about it? You heard it at least 10 times. I heard him 50. What are you going to do about it?” Djokovic asked.
He added, “Why don’t you get security guards? Get him out of the stadium!” and ultimately walked away to continue the match.
Djokovic wasn’t the only one upset. During the third set, a fan in the crowd apparently shouted at the group of men, telling them to shut up, to which Djokovic shouted “thank you” in response.
Crowd member: *mumbles before Novak serves*
Another crowd member, to the first guy: “shut up”
Djokovic: “thank you”
— Olly 🎾🇬🇧 (@Olly_Tennis_) January 19, 2023
Security ultimately removed the four men. Multiple fans were seen high-fiving and shaking hands with the hecklers as they were escorted away.
Djokovic ultimately won the match, beating Couacaud by 6-1, 6-7, 6-2, and 6-0, Mediaite reported. As the number one in men’s tennis worldwide, he currently ranks as the No. 4 seed.
Djokovic drew further controversy during his first-round match against Spain’s Carballes Baena on Tuesday after he took a bathroom break – despite not having a break to use.
According to Fox Sports Australia, broadcasters for Eurosports claimed that Djokovic “defied the umpire to take an early bathroom break in his first match at the Australian Open,” adding: “He needs to go to the toilet? After five games?”
One suggested that he “pulled rank,” and the other said he just ran off the court “without permission, it seems.”
Djokovic replied in an Instagram story according to Fox: “Eurosport please get your informations checked before you post something judgmental and wrong.”
He added that “Chair umpire allowed me to go to the toilet,” but because he didn’t have a toilet break — only a changeover break — he was told he would have to hurry. “When I almost exited the court she called me (I didn’t hear) and it was to tell me that toilet was on the opposite side of the court,” Djokovic wrote, according to Fox News.
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