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‘I’ll react if someone steps over the line’ – Djokovic on ‘insulting’ crowd heckles

The atmosphere was electric in Melbourne for the men’s quarter-finals – but Novak Djokovic took exception to some of the shouts from the crowd

Novak Djokovic January 25, 2023: 4th seed NOVAK DJOKOVIC of Serbia talks to the umpire during a match against 5th seed ANDREY RUBLEV of the Russian Federation on Rod Laver Arena in a Men’s Singles Quarterfinals match on day 10 of the 2023 Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia (Zuma/Panoramic)

Once again Novak Djokovic was riled by hecklers in the stands on the Rod Laver Arena – this time as early as the first set, when he asked umpire James Keothavong to step in.

But the Serb was pragmatic in his post-match press conference – as might be expected for a man who just swept aside fifth seed Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to reach his tenth Australian Open semi-final.

“If it keeps happening, it keeps happening,” said the 35-year-old. “There’s not much I can do about it. Just a few individuals. I can’t judge the whole crowd because of the few individuals – absolutely not.

“As I said, if somebody steps over the line and starts making comments that are not related to support of the other player, he just wants to provoke and insult, then stepping over the line is something that I react to. Maybe not first time, second time, but after that yes. Then I ask the chair umpire to react.

“After that, I heard him, but he was supporting Rublev. He was not making any bad comments till the end of the match, so I didn’t have any complaints about that further on.”

Djokovic: It should not be for players to react

Djokovic had spoken earlier in the tournament on the same subject – after crowd heckles during his second-round match against Enzo Couacoud.

“Some people like you more, cheer for you, some don’t. It’s not something that I would say I have a problem with,” he said then.

“What I have a problem with is when somebody’s crossing the line – numerous times. From the very beginning, guys that were under the influence of alcohol, it was obvious, and I was grabbing my towel very close to them, particularly one guy, you heard his voice various times tonight, was insulting me and provoking me and saying things that were not respectful at all.”

He said then that he thought the chair umpire should have acted sooner, adding: “It’s just unnecessary because why should we as players be put in a position where we have to always react when it’s been two hours. It’s not been 10 minutes. This is what I mind, and this is why I felt the need to go out there because I had enough, you know?

“I can tolerate five, six times somebody telling me something, but there is a limit. That limit was crossed, and I stepped in and I asked the chair umpire, is he going to do something about it or not? He did, and I thanked him.

“I feel like it’s unnecessary for me or any other player to be put in this position after long time that match is already going, during of the match has already been two hours. It’s plenty of time for supervisor, chair umpire, whoever is responsible, to react before a player.”

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