Britain’s number 1 Cameron Norrie has opened up about his bad-tempered encounter with Novak Djokovic in Rome a fortnight ago, describing the Serbian’s late arrival on the pitch as something “I’ve never seen from any player “.
In their fourth-round encounter in Rome on May 16, Djokovic opted for extra time on the physio bench after fine-tuning something in training, and thus arrived more than 10 minutes after the scheduled 11 a.m. start.
To further frustrate Norrie, Djokovic never apologized for the delay. Telegraph Sport understands Djokovic was fined for being late and Norrie was furious at the time over what he perceived as disrespect.
It fueled an edgy encounter which saw Norrie hit Djokovic on the back of the ankle with an overhead smash. After the game – which Norrie lost 6-3, 6-4 – Djokovic complained about his opponent’s behavior, saying: “He has the right to take a medical time-out.”
He has the right to hit a player. He is allowed to say “Go” to his face more or less at every point in the first game. [But] those are the things that, we players know in the dressing room, that’s not fair play.
But Norrie defended himself this week in Paris, and stressed that “whether it’s a tennis match or not, you show up on time for anything. “He wanted more time on the physio bed and the game was scheduled for 11. And we went out maybe 11, 12, 13 [minutes late]I don’t think he saw a problem there,” Norrie said.
“He never said anything to me. And he never apologized. I asked [the officials]: ‘Was it good to do that?’ They said, ‘Yes, it’s in the rules. After 15 minutes, it is faulted. I said, ‘Okay.’ And I continued to warm up. I’ve never seen this before, but I think it’s in the rules from what they said.
One of the most easy-going characters in the locker room, Norrie always has a tendency to rein in if he feels disrespected. He sometimes complained about receiving second-rate court assignments, for example.
It turns out that Norrie was then embroiled in another disagreement Monday at Roland Garros. At the start of his five-set victory over Benoit Paire, he lost a point for embarrassment. This penalty is usually reserved for players who yell “Come on!” in the middle of a rally, though the mics on court Suzanne Lenglen only picked up a slightly prolonged growl. Later, Norrie told reporters that “for him [the chair umpire] to meddle in it was absurd.
“I’m really motivated to win every point”
Going back to the Roman row, Norrie said he didn’t know where Djokovic was standing (in midfield, back turned) when he sent the offensive smash. As for his post-rally celebrations, which Djokovic had complained of being “in the face”, he seemed genuinely puzzled.
“In all sports, I love to see players compete and really stand up for games and really want to win,” Norrie said. “I compete as hard as I can. I’m not trying to distract the other guy. I’m really motivated to win all the points I can. That’s the only time anyone had a problem with it.
“I didn’t think I was in his face at all,” Norrie added. “I think if anyone knows me, I’m pretty vocal in some games. It was a normal tennis match for me. I felt my hip a little and took the medical time out. It’s in the rules. And if he were to see the physio for 10 minutes and it helped him, I think that’s in the rules. I didn’t know the rules, but I know them now. It’s good. But I’m usually a pretty punctual guy. I can’t really identify with that.
Having once again outclassed his compatriots to become the last Briton to qualify at a Slam, Norrie will continue his French Open campaign on Wednesday against Frenchman Lucas Pouille.
It’s another interesting draw, as Puglia was one of the human stories of this tournament. A former top 10 player, he underwent elbow surgery in 2020 and then sank into depression and alcoholism. Now in better health and trying to rebuild his career, Pouille became the lowest-ranked player [at No 675] win a match at Roland Garros in a decade by beating Jurij Rodionov on Sunday.
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