Former pro and renowned tennis entertainer Mansour Bahrami believes Novak Djokovic “suffers” from the fact he is “unloved” and urged fans to show the Serbian respect.
Bahrami declared that Djokovic is “the greatest player in history” irrespective of whether people like him and criticised spectators for “whistling” the tennis legend simply for winning.
Djokovic will face world No 4 Jannik Sinner in the final of the 2023 ATP Finals in Turin on Sunday as he looks to add a seventh title in his superb 2023 season.
The world No 1 is seeking revenge on the 22-year-old Italian, who defeated him in three sets en route to compiling a 3-0 record in the group stage of the event.
Sinner overcame third-ranked Daniil Medvedev in three sets in the semi-finals, while Djokovic produced a stunning display to dismantle No 2 seed Carlos Alcaraz in straight sets.
The 36-year-old Serbian is looking to surpass his great rival Roger Federer by claiming a record seventh title at the year-end championships.
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In an interview with DH Sports+, Bahrami, a former French Open runner-up in doubles, argued the 24-time Grand Slam champion deserves better treatment from crowds.
“He is unloved, and he suffers from that. But you have to have respect for this boy. He is the greatest player in history. We may not like it. I understand. But we must not assassinate him. If you don’t like it, don’t applaud it, but don’t whistle at it,” said the French-Iranian.
“He wins and we whistle him. What did he do wrong? Nothing! He suffered from this for a long time. Now I think he manages to take a step back from this situation. He’s a great pro. We must not forget that he fell into the same era as [Rafael] Nadal and [Roger] Federer, two very popular players.
“He did everything to be loved. Sometimes too much for me. He’d better play his matches, win them and go home. People think it’s fake. This is not true. He loves the public and he wants the public to love him.”
Since retiring in 2003, Bahrami has become famous in tennis for his trick shots and humourous antics during exhibitions and invitational matches.
Respected commentator and former player Mark Petchey questioned the lack of support Djokovic received during his win over Hubert Hurkacz in Turin.
“I find it really disheartening at times when I hear that kind of support for Hurkacz. Maybe they want three sets, maybe they don’t understand the significance that Novak might go through even if he doesn’t win,” said the Brit during commentary for Amazon Prime Video.
“I just feel Novak is at this stage of his career that, even if you don’t agree with every decision that he has made, no genius across all walks of life has always made decisions you always agree with.
“But I do feel that as he strides atop of the men’s game at this stage of his career and given all the sacrifices and sporting moments he has given to us, I hope the crowds around the world in the final vestiges of his career give him the love and support and the embrace that all of that hard work deserves.
“I would hate to feel that every time he sits in this situation that all that cascades down from these stadium walls because I just don’t think it’s fair. I understand it against Sinner, with an Italian crowd, but in this situation (against Hurkacz), it just wouldn’t happen for Roger [Federer] and Rafa [Nadal] and it’s just not right.”
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