Novak Djokovic was less than pleased with Cameron Norrie when the Brit accidentally hit him with the ball during their Rome Masters clash. The top seed gave the world No 13 a death stare as commentators called Norrie out for his “unnecessary” decision.
Djokovic and Norrie’s round-of-16 clash got tense as the Brit broke the world No 1 for the first time in the match. The 13th seed was a set and break down early in the second set when he finally had two break points at 1-2.
On the second, the Serb abandoned a point when he realised he was about to lose it, with Norrie having the court wide open for a smash. As Djokovic walked back to the baseline, the Brit dumped the ball right into his opponent’s ankles – prompting the 35-year-old to whip his head around and give his opponent a death stare.
Commentators audibly gasped at the incident as Djokovic approached the net to stare down at the other side of the court while Norrie put his hand up to apologise. But Mark Petchey called Norrie out for choosing to hit the ball at the top seed when the whole court was free.
“Well I’ve got to say in Novak’s defence here, he had given up the point. That ball didn’t need to go anywhere near him,” Mark Petchey said on Prime. The pundit also questioned whether the delay at the start of the match contributed to frustration for Norrie, who had to wait for Djokovic to finish his treatment.
“And there obviously is a lot between the two of them whether it’s the start or whatever, but here is what happened,” he continued. “And if you watch it I mean it’s a brilliant get from Novak, it was a terrific drop shot from Cam. But Novak has turned his back here, I mean it’s not as though Cam needs to worry about him picking it up.
“I just don’t know what was going through Cam’s mind to be honest, it is kind of unnecessary. And I can assure you if it was around the other way, he wouldn’t have liked it either. So you can understand this reaction from Novak.”
Djokovic went on to win the match 6-3 6-4 and Petchey doubled down on his comments afterwards, saying: “Look, I’m sure he was irritated to some degree that he was delayed, he’s somebody that’s kind of jacked up and ready to go but this is where it happened.
“I mean, there will be some people that say Novak shouldn’t have turned his back. But to be honest, in tennis, that’s a sign that you’ve given the point up. You can put it anywhere you want, you can roll it over, I’m not going to steal the point back. I know Cam was looking at the ball but I kind of know as a tennis player, you know where your opponent is in that moment.
“And he’ll probably have a little bit of regret that he did that but in the heat of the moment maybe he just wanted the point so badly that he kind of lost his way a bit. But I do think what was unnecessary personally.”
Meanwhile, Nick Lester remarked that Djokovic’s reaction was also likely down to Norrie’s half-hearted attempt of an apology, as he gave a brief wave. “I think the irritation from Djokovic’s point of view is that it was a fairly brief apology,” he said.
Petchey agreed and added: “He was waiting for something a bit more. He would’ve been OK I think, and there you can see at the end he gave him the no-look handshake which was pretty obvious that it was going to come. I wondered whether Cam was actually going to apologise at that point for that moment but by the fact that he hasn’t apologised for it twice, then you know he meant it.”
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