Novak Djokovic calls out Italian Open opponent over lack of sportsmanship after getting hit by ball
For Novak Djokovic, there’s a difference between following the rules of the game and good sportsmanship.
During his Round of 16 match against Cameron Norrie at the Italian Open on Tuesday, the 22-time Grand Slam champion felt his opponent lacked the latter.
Djokovic was hit with the ball early in the second set of the match after he conceded a point to Norrie.
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The Serbian tennis pro, who is defending his title in Rome, had turned his back to the net, which both players had approached and seemingly conceded the point when Norrie hit the ball into the back of Djokovic’s leg.
Djokovic shot an icy glare back at Norrie as he headed back to the service line, but it wasn’t just an isolated incident that led him to call out his opponent after securing his place in the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4 win.
“I did watch the replay when he hit me. Maybe you could say he didn’t hit me deliberately,” Djokovic told reporters during his post-match press conference.
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“It was not so much maybe about that, but it was a combination of things. From the very beginning, I don’t know — he was doing all the things that were allowed. He’s allowed to take a medical timeout. He’s allowed to hit a player. He’s allowed to say, ‘Come on,’ in the face more or less every single point from basically the first game,” he continued.
“Those are the things that we players know in the locker room it’s not fair play, it’s not how we treat each other, but again it’s allowed.”
Djokovic went on to say that he’s had a good relationship with Norrie over the years and called him “a very nice guy off the court,” but said his “attitude” during their match on Tuesday left him confused.
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“It is what it is. He brought the fire, and I responded to that. I’m not going to allow someone behaving like this and just bending my head. I’m going to respond to that. But that’s all it is. What happens on the court, we leave it on the court and we move on.”
Djokovic has advanced to the quarterfinals of the Italian Open for a consecutive 17th time. He will next face seventh-seeded Holger Rune in a rematch of the Paris Masters final that the 20-year-old Dane won in November.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.