John McEnroe - Indian Wells 2021 and Novak Djokovic - Wimbledon 2024

Novak Djokovic defended by John McEnroe: He’s the greatest that’s ever played

Novak Djokovic has come under fire in recent days after criticising some members of the Wimbledon crowd, but former No.1 John McEnroe has jumped to the defence of the Serbian.

Djokovic progressed to a record 60th Grand Slam quarter-final on Monday, after beating Holger Rune in straight sets on Centre Court.

However, the main talking point came in the post-match interview, as Djokovic was not pleased with some members of the Wimbledon crowd.

This came after they appeared to be chanting Rune during the match, but due to the nature of his name it sounded like ‘booing’ instead.

“They were [disrespecting me], I don’t accept it. I know they were cheering for Rune but that is an excuse to also boo,” claimed the 24-time major winner.

“Listen, I’ve been on the tour for more than 20 years, trust me I know the tricks, I know how it works. It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s ok. I focus on the respectful people, that have respect, that pay the ticket to come and watch the night and love tennis and appreciate the effort the players put in here. I’ve played in a much more hostile environment, you guys can’t touch me.”

And now McEnroe, who is no stranger to controversy himself, has defended Djokovic when speaking on the BBC and even compared the 37-year-old to ‘Darth Vader’.

“Don’t you think there’s been at least 100 matches over the course of the last 10, 15 years that Djokovic has been disrespected because of how good he is? What has he done that’s so bad? Name something,” questioned the American. “What is it, he wants it? He competes as hard as anyone who’s ever competed? Is it the look, where he’s from?”

The seven-time singles Grand Slam champion continued, “He’s like the Darth Vader compared to two of the classiest acts we’ve seen play tennis – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Who can compare to them in terms of what they brought to the table? Nobody – and then this guy Djokovic spoils the party. So then how about respecting him after all this?

“He’s by far the guy who’s taken the worst heat and that’s why I would say he’s the greatest that’s ever played.”

Djokovic will look to use McEnroe’s support later today, when he plays Alex de Minaur for a place in the Wimbledon semi-final.

Inside the baseline…

It could certainly be argued that Novak Djokovic has been over-hated in his career, particularly due to the comparisons with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. However, in this case it does seem like Djokovic got the wrong end of the stick and maybe should not have said what he did on Centre Court. That being said, if Djokovic does receive any sort of hostile reception today, then that will only fuel the Serbian and will likely improve his performance as he has thrived on that atmosphere over the years.

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic claims Wimbledon crowd ‘stepped over the line’

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.