Novak Djokovic could again find himself on the wrong end of crowd support at Rod Laver Arena in tonight’s Australian Open final, despite being an eight-time champion.
That’s the call from Aussie quad wheelchair superstar Dylan Alcott, as world No.1 Djokovic goes up against the in-form Daniil Medvedev.
Russian star Medvedev is similar to the ever-polarising Djokovic in that he revels in feeding off the crowd, whether they are with or against him.
His underdog status and willingness to provoke may well see him get the bulk of crowd support over Djokovic, despite the Serbia boasting the most men’s singles titles in Australian Open history.
“I want to get the crowd on my side,” Alcott said on Wide World of Sports’ The Morning Serve, when discussing Medvedev’s plan for the Sunday night final.
“Novak Djokovic has a bit of a tendency to get a bit upset with the crowd, especially here in Australia, when he’s an underdog [for crowd support].
“And he really endeared himself to the crowd, Medvedev, the other day. By the end of the Stefanos [Tsitsipas] match, they were pumped, they were loving him. If he gets the crowd on side, we’ve seen that before. Then it’s going to be a ring-a-ding-ding battle.”
Aussie doubles legend Todd Woodbridge recalled how Medvedev astonishingly turned the crowd in his favour at the 2019 US Open, having been the tournament’s arch villain until he played Rafael Nadal in the final. Medvedev’s big-hearted recovery from two sets down to force an epic five-setter (which he ultimately lost) earned him sudden adoration from the New York crowd.
“The US Open … the crowd hated him during the tournament,” Woodbridge said.
“And then, from two sets to love down against Rafa, he got back in and he brought them [the New York fans] with him. He understands what it means and how to use that.”
Alcott added: “I was there that night – they were pro-Medvedev over Rafa near the end. I couldn’t believe it.”
Alcott said that against Tsitsipas, Medvedev began to gain support when he trolled the Melbourne crowd over an incredible down-the-line backhand winner, waving his fingers mockingly in the air and playing up to his bad-guy billing.
“I’m telling ya, a bit of that stuff early, us Aussies, we’ll get around him [against Djokovic],” Alcott said.
Djokovic became perturbed during last year’s Australian Open final when the Melbourne crowd began to barrack for opponent Dominic Thiem, who he eventually beat in five sets.
While Djokovic has long had to accept that he doesn’t boast the universal popularity of Nadal and Roger Federer, it seemed to come as a shock that he was not favoured against a lesser rival in a venue where he has long reigned.
Yet true to form, Djokovic ended up using the snub to inspire himself to a defiant victory.
“That’s been a big part of his story when he’s on the court, it using the fans as energy; whether it be positive or negative,” Woodbridge said.
Nine tennis presenter Tom Rehn predicted that the bulk of the Rod Laver Arena crowd may barrack for Medvedev, rated a huge chance to win but still the underdog as he tries to win his maiden Grand Slam title, against a man boasting 17.
“It’s fascinating that the other night against Tsitsipas, the crowd’s all Tsitsipas and now they’ll be 80 per cent probably [for] Medvedev,” Rehn said.
“It’s just the way it goes – we love an underdog, don’t we?”