‘Not fair play’: Novak Djokovic blasts Cameron Norrie ‘attitude’ after fiery Italian Open match

Novak Djokovic reacts after reaching the Italian Open quarter-finals  (REUTERS)
Novak Djokovic reacts after reaching the Italian Open quarter-finals (REUTERS)

Novak Djokovic accused Cameron Norrie of unsporting behaviour during their fiery Italian Open clash on Tuesday, with the Serbian taking issue with more than just the contentious smash from the British No 1 that struck him on the ankle.

Djokovic progressed to the quarter-finals of the Italian Open with a 6-3 6-4 victory but the most notable incident of the match came as Norrie broke serve in the second set with a body shot that was drilled into Djokovic’s legs.

Djokovic had turned his back on the ball in midcourt, giving up on the point, as Norrie was presented with an easy smash at the net - only for Norrie, seemingly unintentionally, to power the ball at his opponent.

Djokovic turned and flashed a chilling look in Norrie’s direction, as the 27-year-old held up his hands in apology, and there was a frosty exchange at the net after the match when the players shook hands.

While Djokovic did not accuse Norrie of deliberately targeting him afterwards, the six-time Italian Open champion said he had been bothered by his opponent’s shouts after winning points as well his decision to take a medical timeout after Djokovic broke to serve for the match.

The 11am scheduled start time in Rome was delayed by around 15 minutes after Djokovic visited the treatment room before the match, which may have been why Norrie was so visibly disgruntled during the contest.

When asked about his reaction to the smash and whether he thought Norrie had intentionally hit him, Djokovic said: “I did watch the replay when he hit me. Maybe you could say he didn’t hit me deliberately. I don’t know if he saw me. I mean, you can always see where the player is positioned on the court. The ball was super slow and super close to the net. I just turned around because the point was over for me.

“It was not so much maybe about that, but it was maybe a combination of things. 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 the 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. But again, it’s allowed.

“I got along with Cameron really well all these years that he’s been on the tour. We’ve practised with each other. He’s very nice guy off the court, so I don’t understand this kind of attitude on the court, to be honest. But it is what it is. He brought the fire, and I responded to that.

Norrie took a timeout at 6-3 5-4 down (REUTERS)
Norrie took a timeout at 6-3 5-4 down (REUTERS)

“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.”

Djokovic wrapped up victory after the incident with Norrie lacking the offensive weapons and making too many errors in the baseline rallies to trouble the six-time Italian Open champion.

Norrie, who had lost both his previous meetings with Djokovic, dropped serve at the start of the contest and was kept at arm’s length through the rest of the opening set, with Djokovic putting on a tactical masterclass.

Norrie withstood pressure after the smash incident to hold his serve until 4-4, when Djokovic made the decisive move to reach the last eight.

“It was an early start today, strange conditions,” Djokovic said on Amazon Prime Video.

“I finished my warm-up 10 minutes before I went on court so I was rushing a bit with everything. I’m just glad to overcome today’s challenge in straight sets and move on.”

The 35-year-old was serving noticeably slower than usual but he was coy on the reason for an early morning visit to the treatment room.

“Every day is something,” he said. “Thankfully I was able to play and finish the match so hopefully tomorrow I will feel even better.”

Includes reporting from PA