LONDON (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic criticized the Center Court crowd after he rediscovered his old fire to knock British hope Kyle Edmund out of Wimbledon in a red hot third-round clash on Saturday.
Outplayed in the opening set in a frenzied atmosphere fueled by England’s World Cup quarter-final victory earlier, the three-time champion hit back to claim a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory and move ominously into the second week.
Djokovic vented his fury at times, with himself, his coaching box and the fans, and was royally heckled and jeered when he was given a time violation warning by the umpire when he served at 3-2 in the third set.
The 31-year-old 12-times Grand Slam champion was undaunted though and the hostile atmosphere seemed to galvanize him.
Djokovic said he had no problem with the time violation but was critical of the behavior of the crowd — saying it was the worst he had witnessed on the famous old court.
“It was a Davis Cup-like atmosphere. I expected them to support Kyle, obviously. But at times they were slightly unfair to me. That’s how it goes,” Djokovic told reporters.
“I thought the crowd’s reaction after (the time violation) was quite unnecessary. A couple guys really, you know, pretending they were coughing and whistling while I was bouncing the ball more or less to the end of the match.
“Those are the things obviously that people don’t get to see or hear on the TV. I just think it’s not necessary.”
Djokovic, the 12th seed, said the Center Court atmosphere was more hostile than when he played Andy Murray in the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 Wimbledon final.
“It was not like this, definitely. No, the crowd was very fair when I played against Andy. Obviously they support their player. There’s nothing you can say about that.
“But today there was just some people, especially behind that end where I got the time violation, they kept on going, they kept provoking...
“I’m going to show that I’m present, as well, that they can’t do whatever they feel like doing.”
He sprung to the defense of Edmund, though, after the 23-year-old saved a break point in the fourth set when TV replays showed that the ball had bounced twice before he reached it.
Djokovic was furious with the umpire but said it was unfair that some on social media had branded Edmund a cheat.
“I don’t think he deserves that. Kyle is a very nice guy. I know him and have tons of respect for him, his team. We get along very well,” Djokovic said.
“You couldn’t know. He was running towards the ball and he just hit it and he dropped his racquet. He couldn’t know.”
Djokovic will face Russian youngster Karen Khachanov on Monday in his 44th fourth round match in a Grand Slam.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge