Tennis legend John McEnroe has spoken about the popularity of Novak Djokovic compared to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal but made it clear that “he is a credit to our game”.
The top seed and defending champion fended off a typically feisty Nick Kyrgios in the final, 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6(3), to claim his seventh Wimbledon crown and 21st Grand Slam title on Sunday.
In an explosive, heated and tense battle, Djokovic simply had too much for Kyrgios when it really mattered, and after a very challenging year so far, the Serb was able to add another Wimbledon title to his collection, moving one behind Roger Federer. In so doing, he also closed the gap to one Grand Slam singles title behind his other great rival, Rafael Nadal.
McEnroe said that although Djokovic sometimes gets booed – most notably at the French Open earlier this year – and is not as popular as his great rivals Federer and Nadal, he is still a very important figure in the world of tennis and deserves more respect. He believes the same applies to Daniil Medvedev, who is also not afforded the same affection.
“He [Medvedev] didn’t deserve that [being booed], nor did Djokovic deserve it at the French [Open]. When they played, they were booing him when he came out,” McEnroe told GQ in an interview to promote the new documentary ‘McEnroe’.
“Djokovic, you may not like him as much as Nadal or Federer, but he’s a credit to our game for god’s sakes.
“Medvedev, to me, hasn’t recovered from that [Australian Open final] loss emotionally. Not just because he lost, but because of the crowd.
“I was different. I had the ability to have a crowd. I had the greatest round of applause in the match I lost at the French against [Ivan] Lendl. 90 per cent of the people were clapping for me, then somehow by the end, I had got them all clapping against me. That takes talent, to have a crowd that loves you, hate you by the end!”
Eurosport’s Mats Wilander and Alex Corretja gave their views on how Djokovic’s seventh Wimbledon triumph changes the men’s GOAT debate in the wake of his latest crown.
“I don’t even know how he can do that,” Corretja said of Djokovic’s unbelievable record at Wimbledon. “The control of the emotions, how good you have to be as a tennis player, a human being, as a professional, the consistency.
“It’s almost impossible to understand, but I’m very happy for Novak. It has been a difficult year. He is past Roger and is chasing Rafa again, so the race is still there. I think it is very interesting for the sport in general. It’s good that Novak keeps on winning because he is such a professional player.
“I cannot even believe it. We all thought Pete Sampras’ 14 Grand Slams were never going to be reached. They went over that with 20, and now, again, Novak is chasing Rafa. I think it is interesting while both are healthy; we are waiting for Roger, of course.
“But for the moment, we go into the US Open without knowing if Novak is going to be able to play. It looks like he is not going to be able to. I think it was just good for him to be able to win another major and then wait to see what will happen in New York.
“I think it is phenomenal winning seven Wimbledons. This is something unreal, and he is someone who is very special.”
Wilander added: “To Novak Djokovic, I don’t think it makes any difference whether he is the world No. 7 or world No. 1. For him, it’s all about Wimbledon titles and Grand Slam titles and being the best in history.”
On Kyrgios, he said: “It will be interesting to be a fly on the wall as Nick recovers. He won’t have regrets looking back at this final because it would have been great to win, but it could have been too much for the future of his career.
“It could be the best result because it will motivate him to keep coming back. He knows he can win a Grand Slam, he was so close. He is so fun and when he behaves like how he did today, it’s outside what we think is ‘normal’, but Nick, please stay healthy and keep it up.”
Corretja said of Kyrgios: “I think he is learning how to be himself, but at the same time, be a good tennis player. In a couple of weeks, he will realise and be pumped to continue growing, and if he becomes a little bit more consistent, he will be super difficult to beat here.
“Soon Djokovic won’t be here and Rafa won’t be here, and he [Kyrgios] is probably the one with the best grass-court game. So Nick has a chance in the future to win here, and I am sure he will be motivated. He had a great grass-court season, and I’m sure he will be back and will control his emotions.”