One of Novak Djokovic’s close friends is seriously worried his 2020 US Open snafu is only the tip of the iceberg.
Retired Slovak tennis star Daniela Hantuchova pulled no punches while speaking about her longtime friend on Amazon UK’s broadcast of the event and alluded to a larger anger management issue that Djokovic needs to address.
“It feels like sometimes the anger comes out of control,” she said of the current world No. 1.
Hantuchova, 37, is close with Novak and his wife, Jelena, as well as Djokovic’s coach Marian Vajda, who is also Slovakian. Her comments come in the wake of the 17-time grand slam champion’s controversial disqualification from the US Open this weekend for haplessly hitting a line judge in the throat after having his serve broken against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth-round.
“I care so much about him and respect everything he is doing for our game,” she said, “but I just hope there is a lesson to be learned, even if this one came at the worst possible time, where pretty much the only thing standing between him and an 18th grand slam title was himself, with all my respect to the other players.”
Djokovic, 33, has an ardent fanbase known as the “Nolefam,” which is dwarfed by the that of his peers such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He has garnered criticism for questionable opinions about vaccines and his bifurcation from the ATP Players’ Council. Most recently, he came under fire for holding the Adria charity tour in June amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision that many in the tennis community felt was reckless, especially in light of the limited social distancing measures. Djokovic was spotted partying at a Serbian nightclub in a who’s-who of European tennis days before the event was shuttered after multiple players — including Djokovic — contracted the coronavirus.
“So many times he has the right intentions, it’s just with the timing he’s not getting it right, like the Adria Tour,” Hantuchova said. “There’s no problem with running an exhibition tour like that, just not when the whole world stops. Same with the ATP stuff. Sure things need to change, but not right now.”
After Monday’s drama, Jelena posted a cryptic message on social media, which comes from “The Wisdom of Tao.”
“If you let yourself be blown to and fro, you lose touch with your root. If you let restlessness move you, you lose touch with who you are,” she wrote on Twitter.
Djokovic stormed off the Flushing Meadows grounds without speaking to the media.
“Unfortunately he’s compounding the error. He needs to face up to it, apologize and accept he made a mistake,” retired British tennis player Tim Henman said during Amazon’s coverage. “By, in essence, running away, it’s going to go on longer.”
Djokovic did apologize to the line judge immediately, but was later overheard criticizing the her reaction and the Serb star later issued a mea culpa on Instagram, though it seems the damage to his already sullied image had been done.
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling OK,” he wrote. “I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. … As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being. I apologise to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behaviour.”