Novak Djokovic finally got the love he's been craving from the US Open crowd for 2 weeks during his painful final defeat
- Novak Djokovic is tennis' most polarizing star, but finally got the love he wanted Sunday night.
- At the US Open, that was more apparent than ever in the Serbian's relationship with the crowd.
- After getting angry at them in the early rounds, he said they "touched his heart" in the final.
Novak Djokovic is tennis' most polarizing star.
The Serbian boasts millions of adoring fans from across the globe. However, whether its organizing a tour in the middle of a pandemic, declaring his stance as an anti-vaxxer, or accidentally hitting line judges with balls - he's never far from controversy.
At this year's US Open, that polarizing nature was more apparent than ever before as Djokovic endured a will ride with crowd that culminated in tearful display in the final.
In the tournament's early rounds, the 34-year-old received very little affection from the fans at Flushing Meadows as he began his chase for a record breaking 21st career Grand Slam.
"Obviously, you always wish to have the crowd behind you, but it's not always possible," Djokovic said after his fourth round win over Jenson Brooksby.
"That's all I can say. I mean, I don't know. 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."
In the quarterfinals against Matteo Berrettini, he again made his feelings towards the crowd, which was cheering his every mistake, clear.
Annoyed by the lack of support, Djokovic raised his finger to his ear during the first set, while he later stopped and stared at the member of the crowd.
In the fourth set, his temper got the better of him as he hit an out-of-play ball across the court toward the umpire's chair, narrowly missing a group of ball kids standing at the side of the court.
"Be a little bit careful smacking tennis balls around in random directions," the ESPN commentator Chris Fowler said at the time.
-Live Tennis (@livetennis) September 12, 2021
Come the end of Sunday's final, however, things had come full circle, with both crowd and player getting what they seemingly wanted.
Djokovic lost to Daniil Medvedev in straight sets, but he finally received the adulation he had been longing for all tournament.
Ahead of the final game of the third set with Medvedev preparing to serve for the championship, the crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium began cheering Djokovic's nickname, "Nole, Nole, Nole."
Overcome with emotion, he sat in his chair during the changeover and cried into his towel.
"I felt something I never felt in my life here in New York," he explained during his on-court interview.
"The crowd made me very special. They pleasantly surprised me. I did not expect anything, but the amount of support and energy and love I got from the crowd was something that I'll remember forever.
"That's the reason on the changeover I just teared up. The emotion, the energy was so strong. It's as strong as winning 21 grand slams. That's how I felt, honestly. I felt very, very special. They touched my heart, honestly."
-US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 12, 2021
As raucous applause rang around the stadium, a banner with Djokovic's face in the stands read: "Like it or not, greatest of all time."
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