John McEnroe comes out swinging his racquet in favour of Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic and John McEnroe
Novak Djokovic and John McEnroe (PC: X)

It takes two to tango, in tennis. No, one is not talking about a scratch pair being put on court to play doubles but how the former enfant terrible of tennis, John McEnroe, has come out in full support for Novak Djokovic. Just to jog the readers’ memory, the Serbian has been at the receiving end from tennis fans the world over. Be it Down Under in Melbourne, or at the French Open and even in the United States of America, ‘hate Novak’ is almost like a campaign.

Even though Novak did not need to step on court on Wednesday as his opponent Alex De Minaur had pulled out with a hip injury, there has been massive support from the winner of 24 Grand Slam titles from McEnroe. As a player, Johnny Mac was outrageous. He would curse, indulge in profanity, swear and almost yank the umpire of the chair. He did everything. On his hot-headed day, he would even scream at a chair umpire, even if she was a lady. The famous “You Cannot Be Serious” shout of his is still loved by many people. Even by those who did not get to see live the left-handed maverick conjure up a potent concoction on tennis courts.

With Novak pleading not to be hated and booed, at almost all the Grand Slams, the latest support from McEnroe is very timely. The New Yorker, known for his frank observations, did not hesitate in even taking on his BBC host Clare Balding in a recent show, well aware this can wreck his contract.

A video clip of Novak has gone viral, where he is telling fans at Wimbledon a few days ago: “Have a “gooooooood night” in response to what he felt was jeering.” McEnroe has defended the player’s right to express his frustration, since he, too, was subjected to the same kind of censuring in the 80s when he would dazzle with the wooden racquet at Wimbledon.

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Novak Djokovic looking focussed in Wimbledon 2024
Novak Djokovic looking focussed in Wimbledon 2024 (PC: Wimbledon)

“Well done,” said McEnroe in the BBC interview, his tone laced with sarcasm as Balding questioned him on the incident, where she opined that Djokovic should not have lashed out at the Wimbledon fans. McEnroe then argued: “He (Novak) has been battling this for his whole career. Yes, he feeds off negative energy and yes, I did feed off that at times, but I hated it in a way. Do you want people yelling against you, hoping you’ll lose, just because you’re so good they start pulling for the other guy for no reason other than you’re so good?” said McEnroe.

McEnroe went on to compare Novak with Darth Vader of Star Wars fame. It was a classic comparison, again, from McEnroe, for tennis fandom swears loyalty to two maestros, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. That Novak has continued from strength to strength and surpassed these two has instilled fear in fans he will become the greatest. Come on, there is no doubting Novak is already streets ahead, and McEnroe has jumped into this debate passionately.

McEnroe has spoken of how Novak Djokoic had a surgery at the French Open and has bounced back strongly. “Here’s a guy that had a surgery a month ago, the odds are that 10 per cent that he wouldn’t play this tournament,” added McEnroe. For Novak to have bounced back and be playing at Wimbledon has left McEnroe most impressed. Perhaps, in the Serbian, McEnroe sees a mirror image of sorts, even though the winner of 24 Grand Slam titles has never been abusive or used the F-word bomb at any stage. For Mac-In-A-Row, as he was often described, foul language was part of his persona, even if unacceptable to many.

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