Novak Djokovic has grown used to enduring the heckling of spectators when playing tennis. Alongside Nick Kyrgios, he is public enemy #1 among many fans.
And on Thursday, in the fourth set of his second-round match against Enzo Couacaud at the Australian Open, things escalated when he complained to the chair umpire about the taunt he was receiving from a particular group of fans.
Djokovic’s serve routines were constantly disrupted by shouting as he was taunted by fans in the crowd.
“The guy is drunk,” Djokovic could be heard angrily telling chair umpire Fergus Murphy while pointing at the fans in question.
“From the first point, he provoked me. He’s not here to watch tennis, he just wants to get inside my head, you’ve heard him at least 10 times, I’ve heard him 50.
“What are you going to do about it? Get him out of the stadium.
The fans in question, dressed in red and white ‘Where’s Waldo?’ costumes, were seen being escorted out of the stadium at the end of the match.
Last week, Craig Tiley, the head of Tennis Australia – the organizers of the Australian Open – told the Australian Herald Sun that people who unreasonably taunt Djokovic would be kicked out of venues: “If they disrupt the fun from someone else – boom, they’re out.
“We don’t want them there… They can stay away or we’ll kick them out.”
Laura Robson, Britain’s former No.1, said it was understandable that Djokovic was “frustrated” with the treatment he was getting from the crowd.
“I think everyone would be a little frustrated with that level of heckling,” Robson told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies. “And in a stadium like Rod Laver, you can hear everything when you’re on the pitch.
“There’s not a great distance between the people in the front two rows and the baseline. And so that’s what he was dealing with point after point and ultimately it took almost until the end of the game before they were sent off, but you can understand the frustration.
The No. 4 seed had to deal with the cheers of the crowd, a tough test from Couacaud and a lingering injury to claim the 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-0 victory.
He struggled with a hamstring injury suffered last week, and in the second set the Serbian star had a medical time-out in the locker room to receive treatment for the problem area.
Despite losing the second set, the 35-year-old managed to get through the last two sets without too many problems on the court, with the majority of his problems coming from the fans.
Djokovic’s complaints bore similarities to those raised by Kyrgios in last year’s Wimbledon final against Djokovic in which he demanded that a fan be kicked out of the stadium for constantly talking to him during a match.
“She’s completely drunk, so kick her out,” he said at the time. When asked by the referee which supporter it was, Kyrgios gestured towards the stands and said: “The one who looks like she’s had about 700 drinks.”
The Spectator filed a lawsuit against Kyrgios and the two have since settled the case.