“He will be the villain for the rest of his career,” says John McEnroe of Novak Djokovic

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Novak Djokovic hitting a linesman with a ball has become one of the lasting images of an already bizarre tennis season.

The 18-time Grand Slam winner was disqualified from the US Open, a tournament he was favorite to win to close the gap out of Rafael Nadal’s total of 19 Grand Slam wins and Roger Federer’s 20.

With the French Open set to start at the end of the month, the world No.1 still has an opportunity to add to his all-time record during this shortened season – but has the Serbian tarnished his reputation?

Seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe, famous for his explosions on the pitch, believes the incident will have an impact.

“The pressure just got to him, I think,” McEnroe, himself disqualified from the 1990 Australian Open for misconduct, told ESPN. “… Now whether he likes it or not, he’ll be the bad guy for the rest of his career.” It will be interesting to see how he handles it. ”

“I didn’t say he couldn’t recover,” McEnroe added. “If he takes that role, I think he could recover, absolutely.” He continues the story, he tries to get past Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer].

“He’s younger, we all know that. He’s got a lot going for him, but it’s obviously a stain he won’t be able to erase, whether he wants to or not. ”

Djokovic left Flushing Meadows without speaking to the media, but wrote an apology on his Instagram account, saying he was “extremely sorry to have caused him such stress”.

McEnroe knows all too well how hard it is to shake a reputation as a “bad boy” in tennis and is surprised that someone with as much experience as Djokovic makes such a mistake.

“Just when you think something crazier couldn’t happen [in 2020], it happens, ”he added. We talked before the event that the only way Novak to lose is to fight.

“I hadn’t predicted in my wildest dreams that this would happen. So it’s terrible for everyone, it was a rookie mistake. ”

The disqualification is the latest incident in what has been a difficult summer for Djokovic. First, he hosted a tournament in Croatia that broke social distancing rules and resulted in him and a number of top players testing positive for COVID-19.

Then he led a new separatist players association, the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), drawing criticism from Federer and Nadal.

KYRGIOS COMMENCE TWITTER POLL

Nick Kyrgios, often dubbed the “bad boy” of today’s tennis generation, released a tongue-in-cheek Twitter poll asking what his punishment would have been in the same situation.

“Trade me for wild cards [Djokovic’s] incident. “Accidentally hit the kid in the throat,” how many years would I be banned? “, He asked.

Five, 10, and 20 were the options, with 20 winning by a considerable margin at the time of writing.

“We’ll get you out of jail now,” replied US player Tommy Paul.

Former British tennis player Tim Henman, who was disqualified under similar circumstances when he hit a girl with the ball at Wimbledon in 1995, believed Djokovic had made a mistake in not facing the media after the incident .

“Unfortunately, he makes the error worse,” he told Prime. “He has to face it, apologize and accept that he made a mistake. In essence, by running away, it’s going to last longer. ”

12-time Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King said officials made the right decision.

“First, I hope the linesman is okay,” she tweeted. “The rule is the rule. It’s unfortunate for everyone involved, but in this specific situation, the default choice was the right one. ”

Djokovic has been undefeated so far in 2020, with a 26-0 record heading into Sunday’s game against Pablo Carreno Busta. Former tennis player Steve Darcis jokingly praised the one person who managed to break Djokovic’s victory – the linesman.

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