Novak Djokovic has become accustomed to enduring heckling spectators when he plays tennis. Alongside Nick Kyrgios, he is public enemy No. 1 among a number of fans.
And on Thursday, during the fourth set of his second-round match against Enzo Couacaud at the Australian Open, the situation boiled over as he complained to the chair umpire about the provocation he was receiving from one set of fans in particular.
Djokovic’s serve routines were consistently disturbed by shouts as he was taunted by fans in the crowd.
“The guy is drunk out of his mind,” an angry Djokovic could be heard saying to chair umpire Fergus Murphy while pointing to the fans in question.
“From the first point, he’s been provoking me. He’s not here to watch tennis, he just wants to get in my head, you heard him at least 10 times, I 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 striped ‘Where’s Waldo?’ costumes, were seen being escorted out of the stadium at the end of the game.
Last week, Craig Tiley, the head of Tennis Australia – the organizers of the Australian Open – told Australia’s Herald Sun that people who unreasonably taunt Djokovic would be removed from venues: “If they disrupt the enjoyment of anyone else – boom, they are out.
“We don’t want them on site … They can stay away or we will kick them out.”
Laura Robson, former British No. 1, said it is understandable Djokovic was “frustrated” with the treatment he was getting from the crowd.
“I think everyone would be a bit 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 court.
“There’s not a huge distance between the people in the first couple of rows and the baseline. And so that was what he was dealing with point after point and, eventually, it took until almost until the end of the match before they were kicked out, but you can understand the frustration.”
The No. 4 seed had to battle shouts from the crowd, a stiff test from Couacaud and a persistent injury to come through with the 6-1 6-7(5-7) 6-2 6-0 win.
He has been battling a hamstring injury suffered last week and, during the second set, the Serbian star had a medical timeout in the locker room to receive treatment for the problem area.
Despite losing the second set, the 35-year-old managed to blitz through the final two sets without many issues 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 asked for a fan to be kicked out of the stadium for continuously speaking to him during a game.
“She’s drunk out of her mind, so kick her out,” he said at the time. When asked by the umpire which supporter it was, Kyrgios gestured to the stands and said: “The one who looks like she’s had about 700 drinks.”
The spectator took legal action against Kyrgios and the two have since settled the case.