Novak Djokovic’s full list of Australian Open outbursts as Serb chases tennis history
Novak Djokovic was always going to find himself in the spotlight on his return to the Australian Open, but following a series of outbursts – and even a sly dig at his rivals – the Serbian is instead under a magnifying glass as he chases down tennis history.
The controversial 35-year-old made global headlines as he was deported from Australia and banned from competing in the prestigious competition last year, having refused to take a Covid vaccine.
With vaccination against Covid no longer a mandatory requirement to enter Australia, the tournament’s most successful player is once again back in Melbourne and typically brushing aside his opponents as if they were mere amateurs.
Novak Djokovic is on course to make tennis history on his return to the Australian Open – but it’s not been an entirely smooth ride so far
Djokovic is now just one win away from claiming the longest-ever winning run at the Australian Open, having drawn level with Andre Agassi on 26 consecutive victories on Wednesday as he demolished Andrey Rublev to reach the semi-finals.
And, undoubtedly more at the forefront of Djokovic’s mind, he’s just two wins away from equaling current record holder Nadal on 22 Grand Slam triumphs, in what would be his 10th at the Australian Open.
But as history beckons, Djokovic is certainly not going about his business quietly. Sportsmail takes you through his rather extensive list of outbursts below.
Djokovic loses it over ‘drunk’ spectator
Djokovic may have wanted to fly under the radar – as much as possible, anyway – in his first week back in Australian Open action, but one ‘provocative’ fan proved too disruptive to ignore in his second-round clash against Enzo Couacaud.
The unseeded Frenchman has proven to be Djokovic’s toughest opponent so far at the tournament, taking the second set before eventually losing in four.
Djokovic was battling not only his opponent, but his body, needing a medical timeout having struggled with a troubling hamstring injury – one which has remained throughout the tournament.
Djokovic, in fact, felt he had another opponent to overcome, being a fan – belonging to a group of four – dressed in a Where’s Wally costume.
Djokovic lost his cool with a rowdy tennis fan at the Australian Open on Thursday
Security official talked to four fans wearing Where’s Wally costumes at the Rod Laver Arena
The fan, according to Djokovic, was trying ‘get inside my head’ from the off, but it took until the fourth set until he finally snapped.
‘The guy is drunk out of his mind,’ a furious Djokovic directed at the umpire. ‘From the first point, he’s been provoking me. He’s not here to watch tennis, he just wants to get in my head.
‘So, I’m asking you, what are you going to do about it? You heard him at least 10 times, I heard him 50. What are you going to do about it? Why don’t you get security to get him out of the stadium?’
Djokovic would eventually take the clash 6-1, 6-7, 6-2, 6-0.
Djokovic accused of Australian Open rule breaking
Djokovic’s outburst wasn’t the only incident that occurred in his win over Couacaud, with the tennis star also accused of breaking the tournament rules.
The Serb was seen receiving a water bottle – via a tournament official – with what appeared to be a note stuck on it by a member of his team during the match.
The former world No 1 carefully read what was written on the label, with fans online speculating whether he had been given instructions by his coach.
Tournament rules indicate the players are allowed to communicate verbally with their team only when they’re on the same side of the court.
A member of Djokovic’s team passed on a bottle seemingly with a freshly attached label stuck on
Djokovic took the time to carefully read the label that was on the bottle, with some suggesting it contained coaching notes from his team
If the players are on opposite sides to their team, signals must be used – which was the case when the footage of Djokovic was taken.
It’s not the first time Djokovic has made headlines for his choice of drink, having appeared to inhale a substance from his water bottle at Wimbledon last year.
And back in November, as Djokovic suffered a shock defeat to Danish teenager Holger Rune in the Paris Masters, a video emerged of his team mixing a mystery drink in the stands before a ball girl passed it to him during the game.
Another member of Djokovic’s team seemingly used his back to try and obscure vision of what was going on.
Djokovic aims a dig at his rivals
Djokovic, as well as seemingly being targeted by some of those in attendance, has also been accused of exaggerating the hamstring injury that has dominated much of the conversation regarding his chances in Melbourne.
Alex de Minaur, though later taking to social media to insist his words were taken out of context, certainly appeared to suggest Djokovic might just be playing up his injury after being blown away in their fourth-round clash.
‘I think everyone’s kind of seeing what’s been happening over the couple weeks,’ he said. ‘It’s the only thing everyone’s been talking about.
Alex de Minaur questioned how bad Djokovic’s hamstring could have been for him to perform so well
‘I was out there on court against him. Either I’m not a good enough tennis player to expose that, or it looked good to me. I just think… it’s very interesting. That’s all I’m going to say.’
Djokovic lost only five games against De Minuar, despite calling for medical timeouts in both his second and third-round matches. Rafael Nadal, meanwhile, suffered an early exit, with the injured Spaniard losing 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 to Mackenzie McDonald in round two.
The 21-time Grand Slam winner launched into a passionate defence ahead of his quarter-final against Rublev, though, insisting he isn’t given the same benefit of doubt that his rivals are.
Djokovic feels he is being singled regarding the leg issues he has been suffering in Melbourne
Serbian has taken medical timeouts in his round two and three matches at the Australian Open
‘Only my injuries are questioned,’ Djokovic told Serbian media. ‘When other players are injured, then they are the victims. When it is me, I am faking it. It is very interesting, I don’t feel I need to prove anything.
‘I have got the MRI and ultrasound both from two years ago and now. Whether I will publish that in my documentary or on social media depends on how I feel.
‘I am not interested what people are saying. It is interesting to see how the narrative surrounding me continues, narrative that is different compared to other players that have been going through similar situations. But I’m used to it, and it gives me extra strength and motivation. So I thank them for that.’
Djokovic takes aim at Aussie star Alex de Minaur
Last year Aussie star De Minaur was one of the most vocal players in world tennis addressing Djokovic’s deportation and ban from playing in the Australian Open.
‘Look, Australians have gone through a lot,’ he then said. ‘There’s no secret about that. They’ve had it very tough. They’ve done a lot of work to protect themselves and their borders.’
The 23-year-old also laughed upon finding out Djokovic had failed in his appeal and was to be deported from Australia while in a press conference with fellow Aussie Jason Kubler.
Novak Djokovic gave rival Alex de Minaur a brutal takedown after beating him in round four
The Aussie star was particularly vocal about Djokovic’s vaccination situation last year
Djokovic, clearly, had not forgotten this when they took to court on Monday. Asked not how but why he beat De Minuar quite so convincingly, Djokovic was emphatic in his response. ‘Because I wanted to,’ he said.
Djokovic wasn’t done there. Speaking to press after the encounter, he revealed the pair have no relationship, owing to De Minuar’s words and actions last year.
‘I don’t have any relationship with him,’ Djokovic told reporters. ‘I respect him as a rival, a colleague, as I respect everyone. I have no problem contacting him, congratulating him, Et cetera.
‘But I don’t have any other relationship. I don’t have any communication with him. He showed in 2022 what he thinks about me.’
Djokovic erupts after ‘send him home’ comment
Djokovic’s latest outburst came in his quarter-final clash against Rublev, after a fan urged the Russian to ‘send him home’ following last year’s deportation saga.
The Serb, despite taking the first set 6-1, was clearly upset by heckling from the Rod Laver Arena crowd and was heard urging umpire James Keothavong to take action after a fan was reportedly heard yelling: ‘Send him home Rublev, send him home’.
Djokovic later said to the umpire: ‘Can you tell the front guy to shut up or not? Every point, every single point you’re not reacting’.
Then, after winning the first set, Djokovic continued: ‘I don’t mind if he is supporting him [Rublev]. But for three or four times in a row, he has said things about me.’
Djokovic erupted again at a heckler during his Australian Open match against Andrey Rublev
The 35-year-old pointed out a fan in the crowd who shouted ‘send him home’ on Wednesday
Djokovic went on to win the match 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, in turn progressing to Friday’s semi-final, where he will play American Tommy Paul.
The tournament favourite commented on the incident – and being targeted by fans in general – after the game, stating: ‘If it keeps happening, it keeps happening.
‘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.
‘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.’
Djokovic’s controversial toilet break
If potential rule breaches, digs at his rivals and fan complaints galore weren’t enough, Djokovic is even finding himself in hot water when going to the toilet!
Djokovic was accused of ‘pulling rank’ and defying the umpire’s orders during his first-round clash against Roberto Carballes Baena when he seemingly left court without permission.
‘I need to go to toilet. Hello? Hello? Hello? I need to go to toilet,’ he told the match official when 3-2 up in the first set. With the umpire seemingly trying to prevent him from doing so, Djokovic simply turned and ran down the tunnel, exiting the court.
Australian tennis legend Mark Woodford stated in commentary: ‘I think he’s actually pulled rank there. I think that official was trying to pull him back.’
Djokovic told the umpire ‘Hello? Hello? Hello? I need to go to toilet’ and then left the court – it wasn’t clear if he got a response from Tourte
The 35-year-old then called out Eurosport for their ‘judgmental and wrong’ reporting
Djokovic later took to social media to defend himself, though, refuting the suggestions that he left without permission. It came after Eurosport tweeting ‘Novak Djokovic defied the umpire (Aurelie Tourte) to take an early bathroom break in his first match at the Australian Open.’
In a series of Instagram posts, he wrote: ‘Eurosport please get your information (sic) checked before you post something judgmental and wrong.’
The 21-time Grand Slam winner then posted again, writing: ‘Chair umpire allowed me to go to toilet but she told me I don’t have toilet break, just change over break.
‘So she told me (you didn’t capture that with camera) I had to hurry up. When I almost exited the court she called me (I didn’t hear) and it was to tell me that toilet was on the opposite side of the court.
‘I found one where I went also, and I had to be quick because of the time. I didn’t ‘defy’ her or the rules. She gave me permission and told me to be quick.
‘Next time be mindful with what you post. You have responsibility towards many sport fans that follow your page @eurosport.’
Djokovic’s father poses with a Russian flag
Ahead of Djokovic’s semi-final against Rublev, his father has now been warned about his behaviour after posing with a Russian flag that had Vladimir Putin’s face on it.
Tournament officials were forced to issue a statement after a video emerged on a pro-Russia YouTube channel showing his parent’s actions – with Australian Open regulations expressly forbid any flags in support of Russia or Belarus.
The incident came soon after Djokovic’s quarter-final clash against Rublev, when his father mingled with fans declaring their support for Russia. Tennis Australia later confirmed four spectators were removed from Melbourne Park.
Djokovic’s father, Srdan, is seen posing alongside the flag and a sympathiser who shouts ‘Long Live Russia!’ in the video.
Djokovic’s father Srdan was seen in footage with a Russian flag at the Australian Open
After watching his son’s quarter-final win at the Australian Open Djokovic’s father was seen posing with a Russian flag featuring Vladimir Putin’s face
A fan at the Australian Open was seen wearing Russia’s ultra-nationalist ‘Z’ war symbol
It’s not the first incident of this kind at the tournament. Knowingly or not, on Wednesday Djokovic was seen signing something for a man who had earlier been wearing a ‘Z’ T-shirt – Z having become the makeshift logo of the Russian invaders of Ukraine.
A statement was later issued by Tennis Australia. It read: ‘A small group of people displayed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards following a match on Wednesday night and were evicted.
‘One patron is now assisting police with unrelated matters. Players and their teams have been briefed and reminded of the event policy regarding flags and symbols and to avoid any situation that has the potential to disrupt.
‘We continue to work closely with event security and law enforcement agencies.’