Djokovic charms US crowd with McEnroe rally

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Novak Djokovic launched a charm offensive at the US Open on Monday, marching into the quarter-finals and then thrilling the late-night crowd with a hit against former champion-turned commentator John McEnroe.

Twelve months ago, the Serb incurred the wrath of the New Yorkers by beating Andy Roddick and then irked the fans in a prickly courtside interview, prompting loud jeers.

On Monday, he had them eating out of his hand again as he thrashed Czech Radek Stepanek 6-1 6-3 6-3 before impersonating McEnroe and then playing some points against the four-time US Open champion, who had been commentating on his match.

"First of all I would like to thank all the crowd for staying late," Djokovic told the fans.

"New York is a big place and there have been many big matches here at night. It's a privilege for me to play at night. I hope I have more chances to do it."

Djokovic has become well-known for his impressions of many players, including Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal, but has cut down on performing them in public of late.

But as McEnroe made his way down from the commentary box, he gave an encore, sending down a serve in the American's familiar style before yelling "You cannot be serious" when his shot missed the line.

When McEnroe arrived, in trousers and a full-sleeved white shirt, the two played a few points and Djokovic bowed in reverence as the 50-year-old McEnroe hit a winning volley.

"It actually was quite funny and the crowd loved it. And Johnny, of course, made a small favour coming down," said the Serb. "It wasn't easy playing in jeans and suit and collared shirt but it was a lot of fun.

"I like to entertain the crowd. That makes me happy as well. Playing with Johnny Mac and having fun, I think that's what the crowd want, and especially in this hour, these night matches make this tournament very special."

He will get back down to the serious stuff on Wednesday when he plays Fernando Verdasco, the 10th seed from Spain in the last eight.

"I think Fernando's been playing the tennis of his life." Djokovic said. "He reached the semis of the Australian Open and he is physically much stronger. He is fit and believes he can beat the other top players.

"But I think overall I played really well today. I played aggressive and I didn't allow him to control the match, that was the key."