By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic does not feel antagonized by lack of fan support when facing his biggest rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in major finals on the ATP Tour, Serbia’s world number one said on Tuesday.
Tennis pundits have often suggested that Djokovic gets infuriated as well as galvanized by overwhelming support for Federer and Nadal when he locks horns with them, but the 32-year-old from Belgrade offered a different view.
“I’ve read a lot of stuff suggesting that I am disliked but I really don’t have that impression, especially off-court,” Djokovic told a news conference at his tennis academy in the Serbian capital.
“Even if that was true, why would I want to add fuel to the fire?
“I don’t want to stir up negative emotions. I have no ill feelings for people who don’t support me. Having said that, I am not proud of my occasional reactions on the court as my passion gets the better of my self-control at times.
“I will always admit that I do make mistakes and I always try to learn from them. You reap what you sow and it is never my intention to generate bad energy.”
Djokovic conceded that there were places where he has less support than in others.
“It is a fact that most fans support Federer and Nadal against me but that’s due to what they represent in world tennis,” he added.
“It doesn’t mean that fans hate me and it certainly doesn’t mean that I need to turn Serbia against the rest of the world just because fewer people support me in Grand Slam finals.”
Djokovic won his 17th overall major honor last month at his favorite hunting ground in Melbourne, where he captured his eighth Australian Open title amid vocal support from local Serb expatriates.
The atmosphere was in stark contrast to last year’s Wimbledon final, where Djokovic forced Federer into submission after five dramatic sets despite raucous fan support for the Swiss maestro, who has won a record 20 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic revealed how he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the face of adversity.
“When they chanted ‘Roger, Roger’ I willed myself into believing they were chanting ‘Novak, Novak’,” he said.
“Sometimes it does give me an impetus. But honestly, I do prefer having the crowd on my side. Where would you rather be, in a place where 10,000 fans are with you or against you?”
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Christian Radnedge)