John McEnroe sounds off on 'unfair' thing that has been done toward Novak Djokovic

McEnroe gives his take on how Djokovic has been treated compared to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

by Dzevad Mesic
John McEnroe sounds off on 'unfair' thing that has been done toward Novak Djokovic
© Getty Images Sport - Stacy Revere

John McEnroe is the first to acknowledge that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have absolutely deserved to be so loved and respected by fans but adds that he doesn't think the same when it comes to "the unfair treatment" that Novak Djokovic has been given. 

On the court, Djokovic managed to beat out his two biggest rivals for the two biggest records - the 37-year-old Serb is a record 24-time Grand Slam champion and he is also the one with the most weeks at the world No. 1 spot. But while Djokovic was surpassing Federer and Nadal in record books, one thing never changed much - fans never stopped showing extreme support for Federer and Nadal while the Serb still deals with hostile crowds and boos.

“Rafa and Roger have legendary reputations, deservedly so. They’ve been incredible. Novak has not only equaled them but surpassed them in overall achievements, which seemed impossible,” McEnroe told British newspaper i.

“Both of those guys, Rafa and Roger, they are total class acts. They are loved and respected around the world. Novak gets the unfair treatment. He’s the villain, the bad guy.

“I guess you need a good guy and a bad guy in a way. It can help the sport when you have rivalries like that. I think it’s been unfair, honestly, because he is great for the game, on and off the court.”

John McEnroe and Novak Djokovic
John McEnroe and Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

McEnroe on Djokovic 'turning lemons into lemonade'

McEnroe - who is widely recognized as one of the most interesting tennis figures - has an idea of how Djokovic feels in certain situations. During his career, McEnroe won seven Grand Slams but his fiery personality didn't sit well with everyone. 

While McEnroe figured out a way to win, his seven Grand Slams are still far away from Djokovic's 24. But the American tennis icon is happy to see the 37-year-old using hostile crowds as fuel and being the one with the last laugh. 

“He’s been able to do something that I wasn’t able to do nearly as well which is turning lemons into lemonade. When people want to see the underdog or someone else winning, he somehow uses that as fuel to help him. That’s an incredible quality which you can’t underestimate," McEnroe said. 

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Shaun Botterill

Since the pandemic, the feeling is that the criticism and scrutiny on Djokovic has never been higher. And in late 2023, Djokovic revealed that having the crowds against him only fuels him to win on the biggest stage. 

“The amount of pressure and stress is so much higher if you have crowd against you. Absolutely. But (laugh) for most of my career, it was mostly hostile environments for me. I kind of learned how to thrive in that environment," Djokovic said on 60 Minutes in late 2023.

“And people think that it’s actually better if, if they don’t like me so that it kind of gets the best out of me in terms of tennis. It did happen. But at the same time, I actually enjoy more (laugh) being in an environment where, you know, I have nice, nice support.”

McEnroe on if he could work with Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in the booth

After a great tennis career, 65-year-old McEnroe also found success working in tennis broadcast. Now that Federer is retired and Nadal and Murray nearing the end as well, there are many tennis fans who would love to see those greats giving a shot to the booth. 

Asked about the prospect of working with the Big Four in the booth, McEnroe said he would absolutely have nothing against it.

John McEnroe
John McEnroe© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

“I’d welcome it. I wouldn’t mind working with them if they were doing it. I’d love to, it’d be fun," McEnroe said. 

"Andy’s got that dry sense of humor. I don’t know him that well, but everything I hear off the court, he likes to be light-hearted and have fun. It depends how he would approach it but I’ve heard him a little bit talk about some matches, and he obviously knows a game inside out. He’d have obviously the insight of having played a lot of these players so from that standpoint, it would be quite interesting.

“But I don’t anticipate Roger doing tennis commentary. He’s got a lot of other things going on.”

Federer was thinking about making his tennis broadcast during last year's Wimbledon but he ultimately didn't do it after realizing that he wasn't ready to return to tennis in that role.

Novak Djokovic Roger Federer Rafael Nadal