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Djokovic on Norrie Spat: Fight Fire with Fire

By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Absorbing a body blow smash from Cameron Norrie, a fired-up Novak Djokovic responded with a declaration of defiance.

World No. 1 Djokovic defeated Norrie 6-3, 6-4 rolling into the Rome quarterfinals for the 17th consecutive year then issued a parting shot: bring the disrespect and you may get dusted.

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Subduing Norrie in an emotionally-edgy clash that popped with spicey gamesmanship and stare downs, Djokovic said afterward he will not tolerate mind games.

The left-handed Norrie nailed Djokovic, whose turned his back and was walking away from thet net, in the ankle with a smash in the second set.

While Norrie's strike did not appear deliberate and he immediately raised a hand in apology, it absolutely annoyed Djokovic who stared down the British left-hander in response.

While Norrie operated within the rules, Djokovic suggests it was disrespect on dirt. Pointing out Norrie took an injury time-out right before he served for the match and was repeatedly pumping himself up shouting out loud "come ons!", Djokovic said the Brit pushed the boundaries of sportsmanship and ticked him off.

"It was not so much maybe about that, but it was maybe a combination of things," Djokovic told the media in Rome. "From the very beginning, I don't know, he was doing all the things that were allowed.

"He's allowed to take a medical timeout. He's allowed to hit a player. He's allowed to say C'mon in the face more or less every single point from basically first game.

"Those are the things that we players know in the locker room it's not fair play, it's not how we treat each other."

Tennis Express

World No. 13 Norrie carried a 4-1 record vs. Top 10 opponents in 2023 onto court and was playing for his first win over Djokovic in three meetings.

You can argue Norrie was doing exactly what he should be doing: trying to make the world No. 1 uncomfortable on every level playing for the biggest win of his career and letting Djokovic know he would be in his face from the first point to the last. 

Ultimately, Djokovic said Norrie's mind games only added more fuel to his competitive fire.

"He brought the fire, and I responded to that," Djokovic said. "I'm not going to allow someone behaving like this just bending my head. I'm going to respond to that.

"That's all it is. What happens on the court, we leave it on the court, and we move on."

Continuing his quest for a seventh Rome championship, Djokovic raised his Rome record to 67-10. Djokovic will face world No. 7 Holger Rune, who beat the Serbian superstar in the 2022 Paris Rolex Masters final, for a Rome semifinal spot.

Photo credit: Getty