After an explosive Wimbledon final, Mail Sport looks at Djokovic’s history of on-court eruptions

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It was a familiar scene, albeit in an unfamiliar setting. 

Novak Djokovic had not lost on Centre Court for over ten years. Ten years and nine days, in fact, as Andy Murray, Wimbledon champion in 2013 and the victor on that day – on Sunday watching in the crowd – would have hastened to add. 

But after Carlos Alcaraz ended the pair’s first-ever match-up prematurely at this year’s French Open, the prodgial Spaniard wasn’t prepared to falter with his second swing at arguably the greatest men’s tennis player of all time (and indisputably the most decorated). 

As Djokovic stumbled on the storied show court, old, bad, habits began to re-emerge. A red mist descended as the Serb was broken in fifth set, and Djokovic careened his racket into the net post, leaving it unusable.  

‘Sometimes the anger comes out of control,’ said Daniela Hantuchova, a close friend of Novak Djokovic, after the player was dramatically disqualified at the US Open in 2020 for aimlessly hitting a ball in the direction of line judge Laura Clark, catching her in the throat. 

Novak Djokovic is an exceptional player with an exceptional temper to match his tennis form

Novak Djokovic is an exceptional player with an exceptional temper to match his tennis form

The Serb lost a historic 46th grand slam final against the young pretender Carlos Alcaraz (left)

The Serb lost a historic 46th grand slam final against the young pretender Carlos Alcaraz (left)

As Djokovic stuttered in the face of an end to his era, a not-uncommon red mist descended

As Djokovic stuttered in the face of an end to his era, a not-uncommon red mist descended

In the wake of his latest eruption, Mail Sport runs the rule over his most eye-catching controversies, on and off the court.  

Blaming the net post in Wimbledon defeat 

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. After drawing level with Rafael Nadal’s titanic grand slam record at the Australian Open in January – and doing one better than the injured Spaniard on his favourite surface at the French – Djokovic’s record eighth Wimbledon title was going to set him up for an as-yet unchieved goal. Victory would have put the Serb in spitting distance of a calendar grand slam, something not completed by a men’s player in the last 50 years.

In his way, however, was Alcaraz, the supreme control of his powers on Centre Court in his first-ever Wimbledon final and hungry for glory after his spectacular claiming of the second and third set. 

Although Djokovic had edged the fourth, a crucial break for the Spanish starlet in the third game saw Djokovic vent his fury at a match slipping through his fingers by smashing his racket against the net post. 

The explosion visibly dented the polished wood and contorted the world number two’s racket head – the player received a conduct violation from umpire Fergus Murphey to a chorus of boos from the crowd, already firmly in Alcaraz’s favour. 

The defending champion smashed his tennis racket in frustration during the Wimbledon final

The defending champion smashed his tennis racket in frustration during the Wimbledon final 

Djokovic lost his serve in the fifth set to cause the frustration and was given a warning

Djokovic lost his serve in the fifth set to cause the frustration and was given a warning

Commentator Andrew Castle told BBC viewers he thought the outburst was ‘understandable’. 

‘He has just lost his serve in the fifth set,’ the former player added. Djokovic would serve only once more before handing over his title to Alcaraz. 

After the match, Djokovic gave a predictably terse explanation for his actions, saying: ‘There’s no much to talk about that. 

‘(It) was frustration. I had break points in the second game. Yeah, just tough, tough couple of points.

‘He played amazing to break my serve, which was enough to win the fifth (set).’

There was a happy ending for one fan, however, who caught the racket that Djokovic coolly tossed into the crowd before his on-court interview. 

As per BBC Sport, a man named Milan – a London-based compatriot of the Serbian’s – caught the racket. 

‘At the end of the game, I simply asked Novak, “Can I have your broken racket?”,’ he said. ‘And he said “yeah, why not?” and just gave it to me.’ 

Monte Carlo Masters Meltdown (Part I)

It’s perhaps an understatement to say that Djokovic hasn’t had the happiest time on the red clay in Monte Carlo. Although the Serb has won the Principality’s tournament twice, in 2013 and 2015, something about the Riviera clime has brought out the worst in a great competitor, and on more than one occasion, emotions have run high. 

Facing Lorenzo Musetti in April this year, the top seed swiped the first set, but things grew a little more helter-skelter in the second, with the pair sharing a mammoth nine breaks of serve as the match ran into its second hour. 

On the last of these, Musetti nabbed a 6-5 lead that allowed him to start serving out for the tie, which Djokovic’s simmering tensions bubbled over. Walking over to his chair during the change of ends, the Serb stomped his Asics tennis shoe down firmly onto the strings of a propped up racket, concertina-ing the frame which became wedged firmly in the clay. 

After missing out on play in the United States due to his vaccination status Djokovic was keen to impress in Monaco

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After missing out on play in the United States due to his vaccination status Djokovic was keen to impress in Monaco

He was handed a code violation by the umpire Aurelie Tourte, who he had previously tangled with at the start of the set after he believed Musetti had struck his shot long. 

Djokovic commanded the umpire down from her chair to come and look at the mark on the baseline, arguing that Tourte wasn’t ‘showing (him the mark)’ as she explained her call, their discussion soundtracked by a volley of boos and jeers. 

Television Hawk-eye had the ball long too, but on the clay at Monte Carlo, the technology wasn’t in use. Eventually, Musetti held onto momentum through gritted teeth during the nearly three hour contest, and won 4-6 7-5 6-4. 

A temper tantrum in Tokyo 

In one of his most high-profile meltdowns, Djokovic’s thwarted ambitions to complete a so-called ‘golden slam’ with a medal-winning Olympic performances were taken out on his rackets in the Japanese capital in 2021. 

Playing against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in their bronze medal match, Djokovic had claimed the second set after losing the first when he sent a rocketing forehand volley at the net skirting wide of the sidelines to put his opponent 3-0 up in the third. Close to his target, Djokovic warmed up for this year’s Wimbledon final and handed the net post a pummelling, the noise ricocheting around the near-empty stands. 

Thank goodness they were, as only a few games earlier, Djokovic had lobbed his racket out to the plastic seating in disgust after failing to catch a dropshot on the run, clearly inspired by the freedom to unleash his temper a spectator-less match could afford him. 

Representing Serbia, Djokovic was unable to challenge for a 'golden slam' at Tokyo in 2021

Representing Serbia, Djokovic was unable to challenge for a ‘golden slam’ at Tokyo in 2021

Furious with his failure to keep in a volley at the net he smashed his racket into the net post

Furious with his failure to keep in a volley at the net he smashed his racket into the net post

Earlier in the tie Djokovic had wafted his racket into the spectator-free stands in the capital

Earlier in the tie Djokovic had wafted his racket into the spectator-free stands in the capital

There was a whiff of bad sportsmanship about his Olympic run too, as after losing to Carreno Busta 4-6 7-6 3-6, Djokovic withdrew from his mixed doubles bronze medal match later the day, forcing his partner, Nina Stojanovic, to miss out at her own medal run. The Serb’s stated reason for withdrawal was a shoulder injury, however.  

An igniminious return to the Australian Open

After his attempt to compete in Melbourne in 2022 was foiled by his vaccination status, and Djokovic was later deported from the country, it was with one eye on redemption that the number four seed returned to compete for a possible tenth Australian Open title. 

But his journey to eventual glory at Melbourne Park was a checkered one, with the crowd unable to truly forget the controversial events of the previous year. 

Trouble was brewing from the second round, when Djokovic grappled with receiving constant heckles from one particularly visible spectator during his match against Enzo Couacaud, part of a group dressed up as Where’s Wally. 

Increasingly wound up by the taunts from the spectator, Djokovic stormed over to the chair umpire and shared his concerns in an urgent fashion. 

‘The guy’s drunk out of his mind, from the first point he’s been provoking me,’ Djokovic told chair umpire Fergus Murphy. ‘He’s not here to watch tennis. He just wants to get in my head.

‘What are you going to do about it? Why don’t you get security to get him out of the stadium?’

Djokovic remonstrated with the umpire

He said the fan was 'drunk out of his mind'

Just one match into his Australian Open return, Djokovic lost his cool with a rowdy tennis fan

Djokovic lost his cool with a rowdy tennis fan at the Australian Open on Thursday

He demanded the umpire kick the fan out after he was heckled during his game in Melbourne

A security official spoke to four fans wearing Where's Wally costumes at the Rod Laver Arena

A security official spoke to four fans wearing Where’s Wally costumes at the Rod Laver Arena

As a security official tried to calm the Wallys, Djokovic knuckled down and saw out the match in four sets to win 6-1 6-7 6-2 6-0. But more torment met him in the first set of his quarter final against Andrey Rublev. 

Hearing the voice in the crowd urge Rublev to ‘send him home’ – calling his deportation to mind – Djokovic urged umpire James Keothavong to take action against the fan. 

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‘Can you tell the front guy to shut up or now? Every point, every single point, you’re not reacting.’ 

After Djokovic saw out the opening set and claimed the win 6-1, he returned to the subject, adding: ‘I don’t mind if he is supporting (Rublev). But for three or four times in a row, he has said things about me.’

The Serb was on an unshakeable march, however, and he eventually made it to the final without dropping a single set. Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 7-6 7-6 to extend his towering record at the tournament, and announce his return Down Under. 

The world number two confronted the umpire for a second time whilst facing Andrey Rublev

The world number two confronted the umpire for a second time whilst facing Andrey Rublev 

Rain sparks a row in Rome 

Whilst the lightest of scattered showers might halt play in SW19, clay can take a little more of the weather, but Djokovic’s outburst at the Rome Masters in 2021 suggested that the chair umpire might have been playing with proverbial fire. 

Facing Taylor Fritz in the round of 32, when the heavens opened, the chair umpire was happy for play to continue in the second set, and as it continued, Fritz – who lost the first set – levelled the tie 5-5. 

Furious that play hadn’t been called to a halt, Djokovic challenged the umpire’s decision, yelling: ‘How much more do you want to play?’ 

The umpire said he was going to ‘check the court’, but Djokovic was plainly disatisfied with the answer. 

‘I asked you three times!’ Djokovic argued. ‘You’re not checking anything!’

He then made his way off the court and into the tunnel prematurely, before the umpire suspended play a few minutes later. 

When play resumed three hours after that, tempers had settled – and Djokovic saw off Fritz with a no-nonsense straight-sets victory.  

Court takes a beating in win over Zverev 

The world number two can often show both sides of his personality during a match – the sublime as well as the ridiculous. Both got an outing in a win over Zverev at the Australian Open in 2021.  

Djokovic reacted furiously to losing the deuce point at 3-1 in the third by screaming and slamming his racket into the ground. 

Djokovic unleashed hell on the court at the Australian Open against Alexander Zverev in 2021

Djokovic unleashed hell on the court at the Australian Open against Alexander Zverev in 2021

The then-world number one lost his temper while 3-1 down in the third set against his rival

The then-world number one lost his temper while 3-1 down in the third set against his rival

A ball girl swept up loose debris from Djokovic's racket smashing during a brief break in play

A ball girl swept up loose debris from Djokovic’s racket smashing during a brief break in play

One, two, three, four, five times the racket smashed against the court, sending various fragments of plastic across the Rod Laver Arena surface.  

The Serb then sat at the back of the court to sulk before incredibly asking for a ball kid to clean up the mess he himself had caused.

Racket abuse brings about penalties by umpires but it wasn’t until after he threw his racket at his bag that he was given a warning.

Djokovic did manage to regain his composure and took the third set 6-4 and clinched the fourth set after winning a tie-break 8-6 to secure a 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 win.

After the win he believed the racket smashing was in fact a positive moment in helping him toward victory. 

‘When I broke that racket, things started to shift for me in a positive direction,’ Djokovic said.

An Australian Open official was left to collect the stricken racket from the Rod Laver Arena

An Australian Open official was left to collect the stricken racket from the Rod Laver Arena

‘It was a relief for me, but I wouldn’t recommend this kind of relief channeling. Of course I’m not proud of these kind of moments. When I break the racket, of course I’m not proud of that.

‘You go through a lot of different emotions. You go through a lot of inner battle, and everyone is different. 

‘I have my own demons that I have to fight with, and I’m sure everybody else has them too. 

‘Everyone has their own way of dealing with that. To me it happens and then today it actually helped, even though I don’t intentionally do it in order for it to help me.’

Demons is one word for it but this was far from a one off. 

Monte Carlo Masters Meltdown (Part II)

A classic on Djokovic’s evergrowing rap sheet, and another explosive outing in Monaco. 

Again it was amid a victory but that doesn’t begin to tell the story of how one racket was smashed to pieces on the clay and another found its way into the crowd.

His impatience at being unable to put away German veteran Philipp Kohlschrieber was getting to him and he soon began hammering his implement into the clay when repeatedly being broken in the second set. 

Djokovic became incensed after he saw his serve broken by veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber

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Djokovic became incensed after he saw his serve broken by veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber

A steward recovered Djokovic's racket and handed it back to him after he threw it in the crowd

A steward recovered Djokovic’s racket and handed it back to him after he threw it in the crowd

Djokovic was handed an official warning for his first angry outburst, and soon afterwards he could consider himself very lucky to escape being given a point penalty after his racket ended up in the crowd.  

The Serb frantically chased a wide ball and subsequently threw his racket at the ball, landing it in the crowd.

It actually ended up on some covered seats rather than those gathered in the front rows and so he was very lucky indeed nobody was injured. 

The meltdown was a sideshow to his performance as he sealed an arduous 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory in the second round match. 

US Open disqualification 

Unquestionably the most high-profile on-court faux-pas of Djokovic’s career to date. Probably his most regrettable, too. 

Djokovic was kicked out of Flushing Meadows in 2020 after he angrily swiped a ball away that struck female line judge, Laura Clark, in the throat.

He initially pleaded that the woman was not seriously hurt but Djokovic eventually walked off and later apologised for ‘causing her such stress’, saying his swipe was ‘so unintended, so wrong’.  

Djokovic, holding an unbeaten record at that stage, pleaded for leniency with officials. 

Frustrated, Djokovic fired a ball complacently and his shot struck the lineswoman in the throat

Frustrated, Djokovic fired a ball complacently and his shot struck the lineswoman in the throat

‘She doesn’t have to go to the hospital for this,’ he said as he stood at the net, a shocked look across his face. 

‘You’re going to choose a default in this situation? My career, Grand Slam, centre stage?’ 

Djokovic, despite his protestations, was defaulted, kicked out and was later and being fined his £190,000 prize money.

Djokovic eventually went on to address the matter himself with a statement on his social media. 

He wrote: ‘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.

‘I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. 

The player went to check on Clark after the shocking incident, which was far from intentional

The player went to check on Clark after the shocking incident, which was far from intentional  

In an apology on Instagram, Djokovic said the situation left him feeling 'really sad and empty'

In an apology on Instagram, Djokovic said the situation left him feeling ‘really sad and empty’

‘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 US Open tournament and everyone associated for my behaviour. 

‘I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I’m so sorry.’ 

Unfortunately the damage was already done and when Djokovic calls time on his esteemed career, this will be one of the most iconic moments to go with each of his Slam successes.

Furious ATP Cup row with umpire… and then the crowd!

Over he went, furious with chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani for not being allowed to challenge a call during an ATP Cup match in 2020. 

The first set was in a tie-break and with the match finely poised, Djokovic was teetering on the edge before he was enraged.   

A double fault from opponent Kevin Anderson gave Djokovic and Team Serbia a 2-0 lead. 

But the crowd began to make excessive noise during rallies and when the mini-break was retrieved at 3-2, Djokovic wanted answers. 

He argued with chair umpire Lahyani as he did not let him challenge the call for a winner Djokovic believed was out.

Djokovic spoke to umpire Mohamed Lahyani as they tussled over whether the Serb could mount a challenge

Djokovic spoke to umpire Mohamed Lahyani as they tussled over whether the Serb could mount a challenge

Djokovic swung his racket at the air and thumped a ball towards the roof as he lost his temper

 Djokovic swung his racket at the air and thumped a ball towards the roof as he lost his temper

A livid Djokovic then yelled at the crowd with them cheering in the midst of the rally. 

He swiped his racket through the air and shouted venomously in their direction in case the message wasn’t clear.

Djokovic also hit a ball into the stadium roof just to further complete a classic meltdown for the Serb. 

‘It was in the heat of the moment,’ he said the following day. ‘I’m sorry if I offended anyone.’

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