- Novak Djokovic dominated his way to the US Open quarterfinals with a win over Jenson Brooksby.
- In the early stages, Djokovic appeared frustrated with the crowd’s tepid support.
- Eventually, the crowd came around thanks to a few sublime rallies that iced the match.
Novak Djokovic is chasing history at the US Open.
The top-ranked player in the world is now just three wins away from completing a Grand Slam — winning all four of tennis’ marquee tournaments in a calendar year. If Djokovic can achieve the feat at Arthur Ashe Stadium over the next few days, he’ll be the first men’s player to do so since Rod Laver in 1969.
But even on the cusp of history, Djokovic just wants to be loved — a feat that has sometimes proven more difficult than winning on the court.
In his Round-of-16 match against American Jenson Brooksby, Djokovic found himself up against both a feisty opponent and the crowd.
After dropping the first set to Brooksby, Djokovic locked in and dominated the rest of the match. But even with the Herculian effort, the crowd seemed not entirely behind Djokovic.
In the third set, Djokovic won an impressive point and implored the crowd to give him some more love. He received some cheers but looked somewhat disappointed in his ultimate reception.
Along with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Djokovic has defined a generation (honestly, maybe two or three generations) of men’s tennis. But despite Djokovic likely surpassing the other members of the “Big 3” in grand slam victories, and now on the cusp of a feat that neither Nadal nor Federer ever accomplished, he doesn’t receive the same resounding support the other two enjoy.
It’s a fact of which Djokovic is keenly aware.
“Obviously, you always wish to have the crowd behind you, but it’s not always possible,” Djokovic said when asked about his relationship with the crowd in the early rounds of this year’s US Open. “That’s all I can say. I mean, I don’t know. I’ve been focusing on myself and what I need to do. I guess I have to just see how it feels on the court and try to keep it together. That’s all I can do.”
At the US Open, in particular, it’s not all that surprising that the crowd might be a little hesitant to embrace Djokovic. Last year at the tournament, played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Djokovic accidentally hit a line judge with a ball he smacked in frustration after losing a game. While the infraction didn’t appear to be intentional, it resulted in Djokovic being bounced from the tournament.
A year later, the US Open crowd has been somewhat suspect of getting behind Djokovic during his matches at Arthur Ashe. In the tournament’s early rounds, they backed the underdog challengers hoping to take him down.
But like any crowd, there are ways to win them over.
As Djokovic worked towards finishing Brooksby in the fourth set, he won a pair of points that put the match on ice. The crowd erupted, and Djokovic finally looked more pleased with his reception.
With three matches potentially left in Djokovic’s march to a US Open title and the Grand Slam honors that come with it, the Serbian will have plenty of chances to continue to win over the crowd should he go on to lift the trophy.
But like the title, the crowd’s love at Arthur Ashe Stadium is something that is won, not given.