Novak Djokovic’s quest for a calendar Grand Slam got off to a bizarre start as he snubbed the crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium after his first round win.
The World No 1 survived a spirited challenge from 18-year-old Holger Rune to win 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-1.
But at the end of the match Djokovic did not acknowledge the crowd, who he mistakenly thought had been booing him.
The night sessions fans had got into the match after Rune snatched the second set from the Serb. They started chanting, ‘Ruuuune,’ which sounded a lot like boos.
I was confused and thought they were booing too. They’re chanting “Rune” #USOpen
— Madison Keys (@Madison_Keys) September 1, 2021
“I didn’t know what they were chanting honestly. I thought they were booing,” Djokovic said.
“I don’t know, yeah, it was not ideal atmosphere for me to tell you that. But I’ve been in these particular atmospheres before, so I knew how to handle it.”
Djokovic wasn’t the only one who misunderstood the crowd. Commentators, tennis players and experts were also left confused.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021
Rune himself told media at times he too thought the crowd may have been booing Djokovic.
“At one point they were cheering for me; another point they were booing,” he said.
“I was like, What is going on? All of a sudden, after the match I heard they said ‘Rune.’ When I heard that, I was happy because I didn’t understand it in the match.”
Djokovic said he wished the crowd was supporting him but knows it is “not always possible”.
“That’s all I can say,” he added.
“I’ve been focusing on myself and what I need to do. I guess I have to just see how it feels on the court and try to keep it together. That’s all I can do.”
History-chasing Djokovic, who has won eight of the past 12 Grand Slam events, will next face 121st-ranked Tallon Griekspoor.
Djokovic would complete the first men’s singles calendar-year Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 by winning the crown on the New York hardcourts.