Classless act stains Wimbledon final
The fifth set in Novak Djokovic's stunning win over Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final was worth the price of admission alone but while true tennis fans will be forever grateful for witnessing the show of a lifetime, not everyone was feeling the love.
It was obvious from the beginning of Djokovic's incredible 7-6 1-6 7-6 4-6 13-12 triumph the Centre Court crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Federer. The Swiss star is adored around the world but there's a special affection reserved for him at the All England Club - a place he has won eight times.
Djokovic claimed trophy number five at the iconic grand slam but he was always going to have to battle the crowd as well as his opponent and so it proved in what evolved into a Wimbledon classic.
While the roars after jaw-dropping rallies created an awesome atmosphere, an ugly moment late in the decider showed just how far Djokovic has to go before earning the goodwill of supporters who will always prefer to barrack for his rival.
With Djokovic serving at deuce at 11-11 in the fifth set, Federer opened himself up and lasered an inside-out forehand into the corner. It was called out by the line judge but the 37-year-old challenged and Hawkeye backed him up - a rare occurrence - showing the ball clipped the line.
The place erupted but pretty soon those cheers turned to jeers. Federer won the point and Djokovic approached the umpire as boos rained down around Centre Court.
"I get that it's a pro-Federer crowd but the booing of Djokovic at Wimbledon was undeserved and sort of pathetic," Bloomber reporter Sahil Kapur tweeted.
"It must've tasted extra sweet for Novak considering he wasn't just up against Roger, he was up against the crowd," added Seven's Tom Hartley. "More applause for Fed, and at times booing aimed at Djokovic. But he stayed composed; his focus unwavering. Like him or loathe him, you've got to admire the bloke."
Those hitting out at the Serb probably thought he was asking for the point to be replayed rather than awarded to Federer, and likely assumed the Serb was saying he could have returned the ball had it not been called out - which he definitely would not have been able to do.
While it was unclear what exactly Djokovic was asking - impossible to hear over the cacophony of boos echoing from the stands - he accepted the umpire's explanation without too much fuss.
At this point, both players had been busting a gut for well over four hours in a gladiatorial battle so for either of them to be booed was a shame, and unnecessary given what they'd put themselves through.
Adding to that is the fact Djokovic is now a five-time Wimbledon champion and you'd think he'd have earned the respect of the British public by now - but it was clear they wanted to see a Federer victory.
DJOKER: 'YOU JUST TRY TO IGNORE IT'
Asked what it's like to play in front of people who are willing his opponent to win, Djokovic said it's impossible to ignore but explained if you can't be motivated by the fans, then you have to find it from within - and the 32-year-old has found a way to ensure the negative energy thrown in his direction doesn't affect his performance.
"I mean, it's hard to not be aware. You have that kind of electric atmosphere, that kind of noise, especially in some decisive moments where we're quite even," Djokovic said.
"It's one way or another. The crowd gets into it.
"Of course, if you have the majority of the crowd on your side, it helps, it gives you motivation, it gives you strength, it gives you energy. When you don't, then you have to find it within, I guess.
"At times you just try to ignore it, which is quite hard. I like to transmutate it in a way. When the crowd is chanting 'Roger' I hear 'Novak'.
"It sounds silly, but it is like that. I try to convince myself that it's like that."
A few claps after that Djokovic double fault.— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) July 14, 2019
I thought this was #Wimbledon
The latest round of boos comes after Djokovic taunted the crowd for supporting Roberto Bautista Agut in his semi-final. After the Spaniard won the second set, the crowd cheered and Djokovic sarcastically gestured for fans to throw even more support behind the underdog.
The world No. 1 riled spectators up again in that match by putting his hand behind his ear, asking the crowd if he could hear it after he won an electric 45-shot rally, and earlier put his finger to his lips to try and silence the haters.
But Djokovic's mind won't be on any of that in the aftermath of what must surely rank as one of his greatest ever wins.
"It was a huge relief in the end, honestly. In these kind of matches, you work for, you live for, they give sense and they give value to every minute you spend on the court training and working to get yourself in this position and play the match with one of your greatest rivals of all time," Djokovic said.
"That was one thing that I promised myself coming on to the court today, that I needed to stay calm and composed, because I knew that the atmosphere will be as it was.
"It was probably the most demanding, mentally most demanding, match I was ever part of. I had the most physically demanding match against Nadal in the finals of Australia that went almost six hours. But mentally this was a different level, because of everything.
"I'm just obviously thrilled and overjoyed with emotions to be sitting here in front of you as a winner. It was one shot away from losing the match, as well.
"This match had everything. It could have gone easily his way.
"In these kind of moments, I just tried to never lose self-belief, just stay calm, just focus on trying to get the ball back, return, which wasn't serving me very well today.
"But in the most important moments, all three tiebreaks I guess, if I can say so, I found my best game."
Hearing the #Wimbledon crowd boo Djokovic is making me feel physically sick...— Jack Parrock (@jackeparrock) July 14, 2019
I’ve always found the #Wimbledon crowd nauseating/annoying (let’s giggle at stuff like the ball going slightly over the net).— Rob Harries (@robharries83) July 14, 2019
I wanted Fed to win, but to boo Djokovic for having the temerity to speak to the umpire was poor/typical.
He is ALSO one of the greatest of all time.