ROD LAVER ARENA — Novak Djokovic was once again forced to complain to an umpire about the Australian Open crowd but did not let the incident bother him as he brushed aside Andrey Rublev 6-1 6-2 6-4, a record-equalling 26th win in a row in Melbourne.
Djokovic was already in control of the early stages of the match at 4-1 with a break and was challenging the Rublev serve once again when a heckler at the southern end of the stadium was heard shouting “send him home” between points, an apparent reference to the Serb’s deportation from Australia last year.
The nine-time champion in Melbourne has been overwhelmingly positively received in Australia this year, his first trip to the country since a controversial exemption from vaccine requirements was overturned by the government.
And aside from the occasional interruption, Djokovic has been in exemplary form, dropping just one set and keeping up his winning run, which is now level with Andre Agassi’s run from 2000 to 2004: Djokovic has not lost an Australian Open main draw match since shock defeat to Hyeon Chung in 2018.
But it seemed as though Djokovic’s mind might be start to wander when he complained to the chair umpire James Keothavong during his clash with Rublev.
“I don’t mind if he is supporting him,” Djokovic said after taking the opening set 6-1.
“But for three or four times in a row, he has said things about me.”
However, he needed scarcely another 90 minutes to wrap up the win over Rublev and book a semi-final clash with American Tommy Paul.
Djokovic vs hecklers
It is not the first time that Djokovic has been troubled by the Australian crowd, albeit generally by a minority of individuals rather than anything more widespread.
When he took on France’s Enzo Couacaud in the second round, four men dressed up as “Where’s Wally” were removed by security after Djokovic singled them out.
“The guy’s drunk out of his mind. From the first point he’s been provoking. He just wants to get in my head,” he complained to Fergus Murphy, the umpire on that occasion.
“So I’m asking you, what are you going to do about it?
“You heard him at least ten times, I heard him 50 times. What are you going to do?
“Why don’t you get security to get him out of the stadium?”
And when Djokovic, in his third-round destruction of Australia’s Alex De Minaur, lined up to serve at 6-2 4-0, one fan shouted out: “Did you get a jab for your leg, Novak?”
This time Djokovic took matters into his own hands, saying: “No need to do these kind of comments please.”