Watch: Novak Djokovic confronts heckler & on challenging him to prove he is tough guy

Djokovic got into it with a heckler during his Australian Open match against Alexei Popyrin.

by Dzevad Mesic
Watch: Novak Djokovic confronts heckler & on challenging him to prove he is tough guy
© Getty Images Sport - Daniel Pockett

Novak Djokovic said it was better not to publicly say what he was told by a heckler but confirmed that he confronted him and asked him to come down from the stands and say those same words to his face.

On Wednesday, defending Australian Open champion Djokovic was in action at Melbourne Park. Leading two sets to one and tied 2-2 with Alexei Popyrin in the fourth set, Djokovic lost his cool and unloaded on a heckler from the stands. 

Reading from Djokovic's lips, it was pretty evident that he was daring him to come down so they could address that. However, everything finished without any incidents as the heckler seemingly calmed down after that moment. 

When it comes to Djokovic's tennis, that incident didn't have any negative impact on the Serb, who went on to complete a 6-3 4-6 7-6 (4) 6-3 win over Popyrin. To no one's surprise, Djokovic was asked post-match to reveal the details regarding his moment with a heckler.

“I mean, you don’t want to know," Djokovic said when asked what he was told by the fan.

“There was a lot of things that were being told to me on the court, particularly from that corner, and the same side the other corner. I was tolerating it for most of the match. At one point I had enough, and I asked him whether he wants to come down and tell it to my face.

“When you confront somebody, unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the courage to come down. That’s what I was asking him. If you have courage, if you’re such a tough man, tough guy, come down and tell it to my face, and let’s have a discussion about it.

“He was apologizing from far away. That’s all it is.”

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Daniel Pockett

Djokovic on finishing off Popyrin after his incident with a heckler

At the moment of the incident, Djokovic and Popyrin were tied to two games apiece in the fourth set. Then, Djokovic went on to serve out the fifth game and earn the first break of the set in the following game for a 4-2 lead. After serving out the seventh game, Djokovic opened a 5-2 lead. 

In the eighth game, Djokovic had a chance to win his fourth consecutive game and seal the win but Popyrin saved three consecutive match points to survive for another game. Djokovic maybe missed out on three consecutive match points in the eighth game he realized his fifth match point in the following game to complete a three-set win over Popyrin.

Djokovic's level improved after the incident and the Serb himself acknowledged that the moment with a heckler may have given him a positive spark.

“Maybe that was needed,” Djokovic said.

“Look, I don’t want to be in those types of situations. Yeah, I was flat I guess emotionally. Game-wise I was quite flat for some part of the match, end of second set, most of the third set. Maybe that was needed for me to be shaken up a bit and start to find the kind of intensity on the court that I needed to have all match.”

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Daniel Pockett

Coco Gauff learning from Novak Djokovic

Gauff, the reigning US Open champion and widely regarded as one of the best players in the game, showed massive for Djokovic after revealing that she is watching the Serb's tape and trying to learn how to return like the record 24-time Grand Slam champion.

Although Gauff is just 19, she has been around the WTA Tour for several years now. Over the last six months, Gauff has made a major improvement in her game, which led to her winning her first Grand Slam and WTA 1000 titles.

On Wednesday, top-ranked American female tennis player Gauff saw off fellow compatriot Caroline Dolehide 7-6 (2) 6-2 to reach the Australian Open third round. After the match, Gauff was asked if she had changed anything in the way she returns serves since her early days on the Tour. 

Answering the question, Gauff revealed that she has been actually learning from Djokovic how to position herself and return serves. 

"I've watched a lot of Novak because I want to return like him. He's probably the best returner. Yeah, he definitely is. I want to return like him. If you look at his swings on the returns, it's not like full cuts. It's a lot shorter and abbreviated to when he actually hits," Gauff explained.

Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Meanwhile, Djokovic is set to battle Tomas Martin Etcheverry for a place in the Australian Open round-of-16, while Gauff will be taking on another American, Alycia Parks.

When Djokovic and world No. 32 Etcheverry meet at the Australian Open, it is going to be their third meeting. Previously, Djokovic beat Etcheverry at the Masters events in Rome and Paris last year. 

Novak Djokovic Australian Open Alexei Popyrin