John McEnroe has said that Novak Djokovic feeds off negativity 'better than anyone' after the world number one received a hostile reception at the French Open.
Djokovic was booed as he entered the court ahead of his fourth-round match against Diego Schwartzman. The Serbian world number one has suffered a dip in popularity this year, potentially due to his stance on vaccinations and his behaviour during the pandemic, which culminated in him missing the Australian Open.
But ahead of taking on 13-time Roland Garros champion and crowd favourite Rafael Nadal on Tuesday, McEnroe says Djokovic will only feed off the negative energy.
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“He does it better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” said McEnroe. “I didn’t do it as well. I felt like it affected me more than it helped me. I think there were times where it fuelled me, but he has done it consistently. He’s a remarkable player and person.”
McEnroe can speak from experience, having won seven Grand Slam titles despite his less than warm relationship with the crowds as a result of his infamous outbursts and impetuousness.
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And he sympathised with Djokovic, who has never earned the same respect and admiration as rivals Roger Federer or Nadal, despite matching them for success.
Even before the pandemic, Djokovic did not garner the same support with the crowds, something McEnroe struggles to explain.
“He’s been wanting to be respected at that same level, and that sort of fuels him but I think it’s unfair, personally,” he added.
“It’s just something that I can’t explain. I don’t know what it is, honestly.
“He deserves to be – and he is – respected. It’s just that I’m sure it’s frustrating. I think at the end of the day they will like him more after he stopped playing which sort of ended up being the case with myself, I guess.
“But at the time, it’s frustrating. Some of it can be at times your own fault, but I think quite a bit of it isn’t. It’s just that these other guys are so amazing."
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