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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Thursday, April 11, 2024

Hearing jeers in his ears for inspecting a ball mark, Novak Djokovic turned mockery to music today. 

Cupping his hand to his ear, a smiling Djokovic waved his arms in the air as if conducting an orchestra.

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That crowd engagement energized the world No. 1.

Djokovic won 11 of the last 15 games, muting Musetti 7-5, 6-3 to reach his 10th Monte-Carlo quarterfinal and first since 2019.

Asked about the incident afterward, Djokovic said he's not seeking crowd conflict.

However, when the whistles come, the Serbian superstar vowed to stand his ground.

"I try to transform the energy into something that is constructive for me. I'm not looking for trouble with crowd," Djokovic told the media in Monte-Carlo. "You know, I'm not there coming out, Okay, start whistling at me and I'll play better. It's not the kind of mentality I have.

"But if people start to react in a certain way that I don't think I deserve, you know, I don't think it's fair, if I don't think it's anyhow explainable, then, you know, I'll react back."

At the ATP Finals in Turin last November,  Jannik Sinner slammed down a smash punctuating a thrilling 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) Turin triumph over Djokovic snapping Djokovic's 19-match winning streak and scoring his second career victory over a world No. 1.

Prior to serving at 5-6 in the decider, Djokovic sat on his court-side seat waving his arms like a classic conductor orchestrating Italian fans as they cheered for Sinner.

Of course, Djokovic has responded to foes and fans he's felt disrespected by in past matches. 

Moments after dismissing Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(4) to reach his record-tying 10th US Open final last September, Djokovic emphatically hung up on Shelton mimicking the 20-year-old American's trademark celebration of hanging up a phone on opponents.

The world No. 1 was asked about his declarative derision in an interview with French publication L'Equipe.

Djokovic said that semifinal was personal and his motivation simple: diss him and he will respond.

“It was a reaction against him, he did not behave properly, with respect, on court, and before the match,” Djokovic told L'Equipe. “If anyone one places himself in the unsportsmanlike zone, I react.”

Shelton smiled off Djokovic's jab in his post-match presser saying "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Hall of Famer John McEnroe told Tennis Now, Grand Slam king Djokovic is the greatest champion he's ever seen turning crowd taunts into finishing fuel.

"He's the greatest that I've ever seen, by far, when the crowd is against him," McEnroe told Tennis Now. "I had some times where that took place certainly, many times. It felt like never to the extent of Novak. I didn't handle it nearly as well.

"For a while, you get inspired. Eventually it wears a little thin and old. You're like, How come I can't get some love in a way? When I got some love, that was when my game went down. I wasn't good enough to win, unfortunately.

"Novak has been able to find that perfect sort of sweet spot where he's able to use that as fuel, and in his 30s gotten better. I wish I knew. I wish I had known when I played.... That is the greatest quality he's got without a doubt... Novak is the best by far of having the crowd against him and turning it around."

Photo credit: Alex Pantling/Getty