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Novak Djokovic uses Wimbledon crowd’s ‘disrespect’ as fuel as he moves closer to another title

Storm Sanders was Australia’s hero after she won the first singles rubber before returning for the deciding doubles match alongside 38-year-old Samantha Stosur.

Winner Serbia’s Novak Djokovic speaks during an interview and reacts to the cheering of the crowd at the end of his men’s singles tennis match against Denmark’s Holger Rune on the eighth day of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 08, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AFP

Novak Djokovic is just one example of a superstar athlete who manages to find motivation wherever possible. Serena Williams, Michael Jordan and Tom Brady are others who come to mind.

With Djokovic, it often derives from — or at least his perception that there are — crowds who are against him. At Wimbledon, the 24-time Grand Slam champion was certain that people in the stands were drawing out the pronunciation of his opponent’s last name to sound like they were booing … and Djokovic, to use a meme-generating phrase associated with Jordan, took that personally.

He objected to the “disrespect” he thought was being directed his way at Centre Court on Monday night while moving a step closer to an eighth title at the All England Club.

“I played in much more hostile environments, trust me,” Djokovic told the rowdiest folks there. “You guys can’t touch me.”

It’s not the first time Djokovic was riled up by spectators cheering against him — he famously described pretending chants of “Roger! Roger!” (as in Federer) were actually his own two-syllable name, “Novak! Novak!” — and probably won’t be the last.

Djokovic, who will be back on Centre Court on Wednesday against Alex de Minaur, turns it into fuel.

“Some of the greatest athletes of all time feel slighted a lot. They use it to give them inspiration: ‘I’m going to beat you,’” James Blake, a former professional player who reached No. 4 in the rankings, said Tuesday. “In the grand scheme of things, what went on yesterday wasn’t a huge deal. But he used it for motivation, so good for him. I’m sure it’s not easy every day. You’re the greatest of all-time already and you want to push yourself to beat someone that’s fired up to play you. So you use whatever you can use.”

As 2003 Wimbledon runner-up Mark Philippoussis described it, Djokovic “wants to hear ‘boo,’ to be honest with you, because it makes him play better. If I were to play him, I’d just give him compliments on a change of ends.”

Djokovic was asked after his straight-set victory over Holger Rune — “Ruuuuuune!” sounds like “Boooooo!” — in the fourth…

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