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McEnroe: Novak Will Be Bad Guy For Rest of His Career

By Richard Pagliaro

John McEnroe knows all about major meltdowns and being booted from a Grand Slam.

The Hall of Famer believes Novak Djokovic's default from the US Open fourth-round today is a permanent tattoo that will brand the world No. 1 as "the bad guy the rest of his career."

More: Djokovic Defaulted From US Open After Hitting Lineswoman

The ESPN analyst advised Djokovic to embrace the villain role to emotionally recover.

"The pressure just got to him," McEnroe said on ESPN. "I think a lots been going on off the court and it’s obviously affected him. Now whether he likes it or not he’s gonna be the bad guy the rest of his career. It’s gonna be interesting to see how he handles it.

"If he embraces that role I think he could recover. He’s got a lot of things going, but this is obviously a stain he’s not gonna be able to erase whether he likes it or not. It’s emotionally how will he be able to deal with this moving forward? What type of reaction will he get from other players? What type of reaction will he get from fans when they start returning to these sports arenas?"

Of course, McEnroe has extensive experience confronting those issues.

Thirty years ago, the mercurial McEnroe was famously defaulted from his 1990 Australian Open fourth-round match while leading Mikael Pernfors and fined $6,500 after an outburst of bad behavior including smashing a racquet and unleashing a torrent of abuse at umpire Gerry Armstrong. 

Former world No. 1 McEnroe, who is friendly with Djokovic, said the 17-time Grand Slam champion compounded problems by blowing off the mandatory post-match press conference today. McEnroe said Djokovic needed to "man up", take responsibility for his behavior and called Djokovic's apologetic Instagram post "just not good enough."


This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok. I‘m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being. I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I’m so sorry. Cela ova situacija me čini zaista tužnim i praznim. Proverio sam kako se oseća linijski sudija, i prema informacijama koje sam dobio, oseća se dobro, hvala Bogu. Njeno ime ne mogu da otkrijem zbog očuvanja njene privatnosti. Jako mi je žao što sam joj naneo takav stres. Nije bilo namerno. Bilo je pogrešno. Želim da ovo neprijatno iskustvo, diskvalifikaciju sa turnira, pretvorim u važnu životnu lekciju, kako bih nastavio da rastem i razvijam se kao čovek, ali i teniser. Izvinjavam se organizatorima US Opena. Veoma sam zahvalan svom timu i porodici što mi pružaju snažnu podršku, kao i mojim navijačima jer su uvek uz mene. Hvala vam i žao mi je. Bio je ovo težak dan za sve.

A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) on

"I’m just amazed, amazed, he did something as boneheaded as that in situation when he was the overwhelming favorite," McEnroe said. "So what if he lost his serve to Carreno Busta? It's really inexplicable. What we’re trying to do is understand it.

"I don’t understand why he didn’t go to press either. I gotta say you gotta man up there. That’s dumb. It made no sense to me because normally in the past I’ve seen him take responsibility when he’s blown it.

"In this case it just makes it even worse that he didn't show up. So what if he apologized on Twitter on the way to the plane. It’s just not good enough."

Photo credit: Laver Cup