Tennis fans at the French Open have left John McEnroe baffled after booing world No.1 Novak Djokovic in his first appearance at a grand slam this year.
Djokovic, the defending champion and one of the favourites to take out the title, breezed into the second round with a 6-3 6-1 6-0 win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.
Watch the bizarre moment fans booed Djokovic in the video above
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The Serbian faced little resistance on court as the match wore on but was engaged in an early battle with Nishioka and some members of the crowd inside Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Djokovic coughed up multiple opportunities to hold serve in the second game of the second set and even faced a break point.
As he fought off Nishioka to grab the deuce advantage, Djokovic roared in celebration – drawing the ire of the fans.
“I don’t know why they’re booing,” McEnroe said on Eurosport.
“Are you kidding me? He won’t (like that), and he shouldn’t. Why would they boo that?”
Australian doubles great Mark Woodforde, though, said it was “unfortunate” that Djokovic felt the need to battle the fans.
“The first roar seemed to be towards Nishioka but then he turned to the crowd a little bit,” he said on the world feed.
“I don’t like how he tries to get in the face of the crowd. They’re supporting him right now.”
Commentator Pete Odgers argued Djokovic was releasing long-held frustration from missing the first grand slam of the year, having been kicked out of Australia in January.
“I think he’s just being tested here and the fact that he’s in a situation at a slam – it’s been a while, there’s a bit more inside him that he feels he needs to let out,” he said.
McEnroe similarly questioned why the fans felt the need to jeer Djokovic’s outward emotion when he won the game.
“I have no idea what they’re thinking, it makes no sense,” the American said.
Djokovic received warm applause when he entered the arena prior to the match, and won more of the crowd over at the end of the night when he conducted his entire on-court interview in French.
The 2016 and 2021 Roland Garros champion is on a collision course with 13-time winner Rafael Nadal, with a quarter-final blockbuster looming large.
“I looked forward to getting out on court,” Djokovic said.
“I have been feeling well on clay in the past few weeks. I am happy to be back. The memories from last year are fresh in my mind.”
Aussie falls to Nadal
Rafael Nadal has arrived in Paris without much confidence in his body after being hampered by a rib injury and a chronic foot problem since winning the Australian Open.
But he still made light work of Australian Jordan Thompson when they met on Philippe-Chatrier earlier on Monday.
Nadal won 6-2 6-2 6-2, with Thompson joking that he’s “lucky there wasn’t a mercy rule”.
“A tough experience but a good one,” the Australian said.
“At least, when I hang up my racquets, I can say I played him on his home court.”
The world No.82 tried his heart out – yet this very public flogging looked too much to take, as he chuntered, raged and glared through an experience that appeared for all the world like he was visiting a sadistic dentist.
After fluffing a rare easy volley in the second set, he smashed the ball in exasperation so high it cleared the stadium, earning him a ‘ball abuse’ code violation and shocking a ball girl nearby who cowered for cover.
When he couldn’t retrieve a dazzling half-volley which Nadal somehow miraculously dug out from the baseline, Thompson just leaned onto the net and languished there with head hung over it for what seemed an eternity.
What was he thinking about then? “I don’t think I could put it into words you could publish,” he sighed.
Early on, distracted by a light behind the court blurring his vision as he tried to return the unreturnable, Thompson moaned to the umpire: “I need all the help I can get … it’s a joke!”
By the third set, he was so frazzled, he chucked his racquet down in the clay.
Yet on the very first point of the match, Thompson had begun with a remarkable running forehand winner that had Nadal groping for thin air and he went on to hold serve.
“I thought I was in trouble going out there, then after that first point – I don’t know how I won it – I was thinking, ‘S***, that’s what I’ve got to do to win a point!?’
But at least he’d be able to tell his grandkids he was once beating the greatest on his home court – one game to nil. “That was about it,” he smiled.
– With AAP