John McEnroe and Clare Balding clash over Novak Djokovic Wimbledon rant | Tennis | Sport


BBC host Clare Balding and pundit John McEnroe engaged in a lengthy debate about Novak Djokovic’s outburst towards the Wimbledon crowd, clashing as they shared opposing views on whether the Serbian star was right to take aim at those inside Centre Court.

When presented with footage of the 24-time Grand Slam champion wishing the crowd a “gooooooood night” as he mimicked their perceived jeers towards him, McEnroe felt that Djokovic was within his rights to voice his displeasure.

“Well done,” was the American’s first reply when Balding asked for his view on the matter, with the host sharing that she thought that Djokovic was wrong to attack the paying customers.

An animated McEnroe protested: “He 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?

“He is like the Darth Vader. There’s two of the greatest class acts we have seen in tennis, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who can compare to them in terms of what they have brought to the table and the way that people love them? Nobody. Then this guy Djokovic has the ‘nerve’ to come in and break into the party.

“It’s like ‘how about respecting me in all this?’ 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. He is thinking ‘I’m helping this tournament’, which he is, why don’t I get some love when I am playing a guy who is 15 in the world and hasn’t done a damn thing compared to him?

“So yes there were maybe a handful of Danish people going ‘Rune’ and I get that people want to see a good match, but you have to respect the greatness that you see. It’s easy to be the backseat driver now and let it go and (say) they weren’t doing that, but that’s what he has been dealing with for 10, 15, 20 years.

“I admire the guts that he had to say it there, that takes something because that’s in a way going to put more people against him. He doesn’t deserve that at this stage, we need him and he has been too great for our game.

“How about they have gone too far the other way? Is it possible that maybe that the fans in there have disrespected him? Don’t you think that there has been at least 100 matches over the course of the last 10 or 15 years where Novak Djokovic has been disrespected because of how good he is?

“Why? What has he done that has been that bad? Name something. What is it, that he wants it? That he competes as hard as anyone has ever competed on a tennis court? I just don’t get why, is it the look or where he is from?”

But Balding then interjected, very much on the side of the fans, as she replied: “I don’t think it’s any of that. I genuinely think, particularly here, I think it is that people root for an underdog and I think they always have done. I think they love it when it looks like in matches that it might be competitive, the guy that seemingly had no chance on paper is starting to play well.

“And I do think that’s what happened. He (Rune) wasn’t playing well actually, but it was that they were trying to encourage Rune. John, I genuinely, and I get it is what you’re saying, but I would be so surprised if a Wimbledon crowd on Centre Court were being deliberately disrespectful.”

McEnroe said that it was just a small contingent of people and that it’s “frustrating” when the crowd cheers “when you double-fault” because a player is expected to win. “Why the hell are they clapping there?” he asked.

But their tense exchange highlighted just how divisive a topic Djokovic’s protests to the fans is, with two tennis experts in Balding and McEnroe even unable to agree.



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