John McEnroe has insisted that Novak Djokovic should be recognized as a true credit to the sport of tennis despite suggesting that the Serb is not as well-liked as Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. Djokovic secured yet another Grand Slam title by defeating Nick Kyrgios in the final at Wimbledon last weekend but was booed by the fans in attendance on a handful of occasions over the course of the tournament.
The 35-year-old was met with boos as he blew kisses to the crowd after beating Cameron Norrie in the last four, while supporters also voiced their disdain for him at times during this year’s French Open before he was knocked out by Nadal in the quarter-finals. McEnroe has since leapt to Djokovic’s defense by reminding his critics that he does not deserve to be treated in such a way given his status as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
“When they played, they were booing him when he came out,” McEnroe told GQ. “Djokovic, you may not like him as much as Nadal or Federer, but he’s a credit to our game for God’s sakes.”
Djokovic’s latest Wimbledon triumph marked a welcome return to the top of the game for the 35-year-old, who was prevented from playing in this year’s Australian Open due to his vaccination status before failing to beat Nadal at Roland Garros in May. The man from Belgrade was allowed to compete at Wimbledon but could face further problems in attempting to take part in this year’s US Open, where he will not be able to play due to the restrictions in place as things stand.
He has previously admitted that he does not enjoy his lack of popularity when compared to his Spanish rival and Federer, who have been embraced by tennis fans worldwide for the majority of their respective careers. The raucous levels of support from the crowd in last year’s US Open final even moved him to tears in spite of the result, which saw Daniil Medvedev get his hands on the trophy for the very first time.
However, Djokovic has already been warned that he will never be as well-liked as Federer or Nadal by one-time French Open doubles champion Luke Jensen, who believes that he simply wants to be held in the highest possible regard by those in the stands.
“The nerves that really got to him that he couldn’t function [at the US Open],” Jensen told Off the Ball earlier this year. “He was crying towards the end of the match, and during the match on the sideline.
“It was so overwhelming. He wants to be liked so bad by the crowd and unfortunately, he didn’t win that match. But I think he’s trying to reach for something that… there’s no way he can be the tennis version of James Bond, Roger Federer is James Bond.
“He’s [Federer] the greatest player that ever played because of what he does on the court, but also off the court the way he conducts himself. He doesn’t get in these jams and messes that Novak seems to get into, like from time to time consistently now.”