Djoker’s classless response to Open exit
Novak Djokovic wasn't exactly Mr Popularity in the tennis world before he was kicked out of the US Open for hitting a tennis ball which caught a lineswoman in the throat.
He was ruthlessly booed during last year's Wimbledon final en route to defeating Roger Federer and copped similar treatment at Melbourne Park this year when he outclassed young gun Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open decider.
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No matter how many grand slam titles he wins - the count stands at 17 - Djokovic hasn't been able to sway the court of public opinion.
He can give up completely on that now. As if clocking an innocent bystander in the throat wasn't bad enough, his classless response made things even worse.
A man always considered third among the "Big Three" because he wasn't seen to have the class and gravitas of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal has proved his critics right.
NOVAK SLAMMED FOR CLASSLESS RESPONSE
After realising his stray ball had connected with an official, Djokovic raised his hand in apology and strolled - rather than rushed - over to see if she was OK.
But it wasn't long before he started painting himself as the victim.
Officials debated the correct punishment and when disqualification was raised, Djokovic hit back.
"She doesn't have to go to the hospital for this," he was heard saying as the world No. 1 tried to protect his place in the draw.
"You're going to choose a default in this situation? My career, grand slam, centre stage?
"If she would have gotten up right away …"
Djokovic's pleas fell on deaf ears and he was punted.
It is compulsory for players to make themselves available for post-match media commitments but the Serbian jumped in a car and drove off from Flushing Meadows after his expulsion.
He risks a $20,000 fine by snubbing reporters but far more damage will be done to Djokovic's reputation. Rather than front up and own his mistake, the tennis world condemned him for running away.
Former British star Tim Henman said on Prime Video's coverage: "Unfortunately he's compounding the error. He needs to face up to it, apologise and accept he made a mistake.
"By, in essence, running away, it's going to go on longer."
Another ex-British player, Greg Rusedski, echoed Henman's sentiment. "This was the correct decision under the rules regardless of intent or not. Novak should have stayed for the press conference & apologised," he tweeted.
"We must take responsibility for our actions no matter how difficult the situation is."
Tennis writer for The Times, Stu Fraser, added: "Woeful misjudgment by the world No. 1 and leader of the new player association not to front up and apologise for his actions."
Fellow scribe George Bellshaw said it was a "really poor showing" for Djokovic not to face the press while Mike Dickson wrote "really don't think he's helped himself here" with regards to Djokovic's escape act.
Thankfully, two-and-a-half hours after his offence, Djokovic saw some sense and released a statement on Instagram apologising for his behaviour.
"This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling OK," he wrote.
"I'm extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. I'm not disclosing her name to respect her privacy.
"As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being. I apologise to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behaviour.
"I'm very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I'm so sorry."
FROSTY EXCHANGE REARS ITS HEAD AGAIN
Djokovic's abrasive nature hasn't helped him in the likability stakes, particularly when it's so easy to warm to his biggest rivals Federer and Nadal.
After his latest tempter tantrum, tennis fans were reminded of an incident from 2016 when Djokovic narrowly missed hitting someone after swatting a ball away in disgust during a match.
The complete lack of remorse he showed for his actions - and the disdain with which he treated a reporter's question at the time - has come back to haunt him.
Djokovic accused the press of "picking" on him over matters he didn't consider to be a big deal.
Watch the exchange in the video below to see why it's gaining so much traction after his US Open meltdown.
LOSSES MOUNT UP IN YEAR FROM HELL
Djokovic was unbeaten in 2020 until Monday, but he's been taking losses off the court all year.
He refused to back down for hosting an exhibition tournament called the Adria Tour during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which attracted widespread criticism for ignoring any and all health regulations.
Social distancing was non-existent, crowds were allowed to flock into stadiums and players mingled with volunteers sponsors. Stars also partied in nightclubs, caught on camera dancing topless as they clearly held no fears about coronavirus.
But the Adria Tour was eventually suspended when multiple players and coaches contracted COVID-19. Djokovic and his wife were among those to test positive, as were top players Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troikci.
Djokovic's hollow response to the health scares was so poorly received he was forced to issue a second "apology", in which he still defended his actions because he only had good intentions - even if those intentions went against all medical and scientific advice.
Djokovic's bizarre beliefs have also attracted the spotlight as the world locked down because of the global pandemic. He said earlier this year he was "opposed to vaccination" and would not commit to getting vaccinated if a cure for coronavirus was made available.
He clarified his comments by saying he wouldn't blindly accept a vaccine, but would need to do his own research to make sure he understood exactly what was going into his body and whether he was OK with it.
Then there was a seriously weird Instagram Live discussion Djokovic had with Chervin Jafarieh, the founder of wellness brand Cymbiotika who believes "in a higher and divine order that is rooted in the only truth, which is love".
During their chat in May, the pair discussed how one can change polluted water into drinkable water or toxic food into healthy food with the power of the mind.
Djokovic's naysayers were given more ammunition to accuse him of being out of touch as he rented a house in New York for the US Open rather than stay in pre-approved hotels where organisers were ensuring players abided by quarantine rules.
Players wishing to stay in private residences had to follow strict regulations set out by officials, which included playing for 24-hour security to ensure self-isolation measures were being followed.
Reports suggested the Serb was coughing up more than $AUD80,000 for security alone, and after winning his second-round match against Kyle Edmund, he said "anyone that wanted to spend money and stay in the house, he or she could have done that".
It's easy to say for someone who has raked in approximately $200 million in prize money over his career, but hardly an option for the majority on tour who are simply trying to earn enough to pay for coaches, travel and accommodation to chase their dream.
Maybe he can spend some of it taking the lineswoman out for an apology dinner.
Originally published as Djoker's classless response to Open exit