Novak Djokovic tells British fans to ‘shut up’ after Davis Cup demolition job

Novak Djokovic gestures to the crowd during his win over Cameron Norrie
Novak Djokovic gestures to the crowd during his win over Cameron Norrie - Getty Images/Fran Santiago

World No 1 Novak Djokovic knocked Great Britain out of the Davis Cup and then turned on a group of supporters in fury as they chanted and played instruments during his post-match interview.

“We’re going to have a good sleep tonight, keep going, keep going,” said Djokovic, as boos rang out from other fans who were upset at the interruption of his interview. “Learn how to respect players ... No, you shut up. No, you be quiet.”

The offending fans were the so-called Barmy Army, linked to Stirling University. They are among the travelling factions whose seats are reserved by the Lawn Tennis Association so the British team can rely on vocal courtside support.

Later, in the interview room, Djokovic complained that these cheerleaders had been niggling away at him all through the match. He had flared up earlier, halfway through his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Cameron Norrie, when he cupped an ear in their direction and blew them a frosty kiss.

“They were trying to annoy me the entire match,” Djokovic told reporters. “Disrespect, but that’s something I have to be prepared for. In the Davis Cup, it’s normal that sometimes fans step over the line, but in the heat of the moment, you react too. You [want to] show that you don’t allow this kind of behaviour.

“They can do whatever they want, but I’m going to respond to that,” he added. “That’s what happened. And in the end, I was trying to talk and they were purposely starting to play the drums so that I don’t talk.”

However much umbrage Djokovic might have taken at the British fans, there was remarkably little disruption from ill-timed shouts during the whole day’s play. Big nights on Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York are usually far rowdier than this.

It seems possible that Djokovic may have been looking for something to rile himself up with. He is at the end of an exhausting season in which he won three of the four majors, and the limbs must be feeling heavy. Perhaps this was the equivalent of a batsman barking “What are you looking at?” at a passing fielder when they need to boost their adrenaline levels on an otherwise flat day.

It would certainly be a mistake to rein in the animal spirits of Davis Cup crowds, as the British team captain Leon Smith pointed out during his own interview. The best ties are the noisy ones,” said Smith. “You know, when it’s flat and dead and no one’s clapping, no music, it’s pretty boring.

“That’s one of the things that’s good about Davis Cup and the team competition – actually, you’re meant to make noise. And there is always a bit that goes over [the top], comments. I could hear a couple. I don’t think it’s that bad. So, no, I would hate to see it quietening down, because there’s enough quiet tennis as it is. There was no animosity [between the two teams]. I think he [Djokovic] was just a bit p----- about a bit of the noise coming from behind. Like I say, I don’t think it was that bad.”

It is ironic now to think that Djokovic once flirted with the idea of taking British citizenship. His mother Dijana met the LTA in 2006 to discuss what funding opportunities might be available. But the idea of abandoning Serbia was too painful in the end – and ever since then, he has been a scourge of British hopes.

For the lion’s share of Andy Murray’s career, it was Djokovic who stood between him and the biggest prizes, winning five of the seven major finals that they contested. Murray was absent on Thursday because of a niggling shoulder problem, but it wouldn’t have made any difference: Serbia were just too good.

While Norrie’s defeat might have sealed Britain’s fate, it wasn’t the key match-up of the night. Everyone knows that Djokovic is his present form is virtually unbeatable (even if Jannik Sinner might have a shot when Italy take on Serbia in Saturday’s semi-final).

For this reason, the most significant contest was always going to be the opener, which pitted Jack Draper - the emerging 22-year-old - against Miomir Kecmanovic. Although Kecmanovic was ranked slightly higher, at No55 to Draper’s 60, he had lost their only previous meeting on the tour, which came in Lyon in May.

Draper went out looking for a reprise of that result, and made an early statement when he fired down three aces in his opening service game. Indeed, he went through the match without dropping serve at all. The problem came when he was at the other end, when he couldn’t make any impression on Kecmanovic’s serve either.

Two beefy servers, two shaky return games: it was always going to come down to tie-breaks. And this is where Draper cracked. He sent down a couple of double-faults in the first-set tie-break, which was an unfortunate way to give up both points and psychological real-estate. Kecmanovic might be a slightly shaky closer at times, judging by a 30 per cent win ratio in deciding sets this season. But here he was rock-steady, completing his 7-6, 7-6 win with a pinpoint serve down the “T”.

Jack Draper of Great Britain reacts during the Quarter-Final match against Miomir Kecmanovic
Jack Draper goes through the mill during his crucial defeat by Miomir Kecmanovic - Getty Images/Francisco Macia

The very fact that Kecmanovic was selected for Serbia’s second singles slot had come as something of a surprise, given that Laslo Djere is ranked far higher at No.33 in the world. But then Djere prefers clay, whereas Kecmanovic’s precise, steady game functioned brilliantly on this slowish indoor hard court.

The British masterplan was to hope for split singles matches and then unleash the doubles pairing of Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury, who both rank among the world’s leading specialists. But it didn’t come to that, and they will now have to return to the qualifying round in February in defence of their position in the Davis Cup World Group. Unless, for some reason, they should be granted a wild card into next year’s finals.

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