'Say it to my face': Djokovic lashes out at rowdy crowd

‘Say it to my face’: Djokovic lashes out at rowdy crowd

By Anna Pavlou and Simon Chapman

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Novak Djokovic as he went on to defeat Australian Alexei Popyrin in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday night.

He didn’t have an injury flare up but the world No.1 was caught in a verbal altercation with a fan during the four-set thriller, which he won 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.

The frustrated defending grand slam champion was heard during the match yelling ”come here and say it to my face” to a fan seated behind him at Rod Laver Arena.

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”Come here! Come here!” Djokovic could be heard yelling.

The fan was later escorted from the stadium, but it didn’t stop Djokovic’s visceral and targeted celebration upon winning the match, turning around, throwing up his fist and yelling in that direction.

Despite his intense reaction, the 36-year-old told Eurosport post-match that he had no issue with taking on the noisy fans.

“I was feeling a lot of mixed emotions today on the court. Not a great atmosphere to play in to be honest for me,” Djokovic explained.

“You have to find a way to win and I guess accept the circumstances and conditions you are playing in.

“People basically made noise between the first and second serve the entire match. It is what it is. It’s a grand slam, it’s a fight.

“Of course, it annoys you but at the same time, you have to accept it and go with it.”

The veteran declared he would continue to “confront” patrons who attempted to throw him off his game.

“But you know what really frustrates me is when somebody is heckling, so I confront the hecklers as I did,” Djokovic said.

The 24-time grand slam champion even threw in a cheeky shoutout to Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios, who isn’t playing at Melbourne Park but is known for his fearlessness to confront fans during matches.

“I think Kygs loved that. Kygs, did you like that exchange? I invited a guy to come and tell it to my face whatever he was saying,” Djokovic said.

“He was saying a lot of nice things. He was apologising from far away and all of a sudden there’s absence of courage when he needs to face me.”

The world No.1 will now take on Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry in a third-round battle on Saturday.

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