Novak Djokovic told rowdy British fans to “shut up” after leading Serbia to a 2-0 victory in the Davis Cup quarter-finals in Malaga.
The world No.1 showed his annoyance with a section of the 5000-strong British support by cupping his ear and blowing ironic kisses at the end of the first set of his 6-4 6-4 victory over Cameron Norrie.
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When the same group of fans began drumming during Djokovic’s on-court interview, the Serbian responded: “Learn how to respect players, learn how to behave yourself,” before adding, “no, you shut up, you be quiet”.
It was a sour end to what was a disappointing evening for Britain, with the writing on the wall once Jack Draper fell 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (8-6) to Miomir Kecmanovic in a opening rubber that was virtually a must-win.
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On his spat with the supporters, Djokovic said: “In the Davis Cup, it’s normal that sometimes fans step over the line but, in the heat of the moment, you react too, and you show that you don’t allow this kind of behaviour.
“They can do whatever they want, but I’m going to respond to that. I was trying to talk and they were purposely starting to play the drums so that I don’t talk and they were trying to annoy me the entire match. So we had a little bit of a chat in the end.”
Britain’s dramatic success against France in Manchester in September had sent them through to the final eight event for the first time in the revamped format.
Novak Djokovic blows a kiss to the crowd. Credit: Fran Santiago/Getty Images for ITF
The tie did not get under way until 6.10pm, more than two hours later than billed, because of the over-running first match of the day between Italy and the Netherlands.
Britain, missing the injured Andy Murray and Dan Evans, had banked on Draper winning the opening singles and their strong doubles partnership of Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski.
But world No.55 Kecmanovic produced a brilliant performance to prevail in a fierce battle.
That left Norrie needing to overcome record 24-times grand slam champion Djokovic for the first time in his career to keep the tie alive.
That never looked likely, however, as Djokovic, who won three of the year’s four grand slam titles and last week’s ATP Finals for a record seventh time, dissected the world No.18.
Djokovic gestures to the crowd after Serbia’s win. Credit: Fran Santiago/Getty Images for ITF
Earlier Sinner won his singles match and then paired up with Lorenzo Sonego to claim a doubles victory as the former champions beat the Netherlands 2-1.
Sinner and Sonego overcame Tallon Griekspoor and Wesley Koolhof 6-3 6-4 as Italy reached back-to-back semi-finals in the premier men’s team competition for the first time since three successive last-four appearances between 1996 and 1998.
“It means a lot to me,” Sinner said. “But more importantly we’re through to the semi-finals. It’s the first time I can experience this.”
Botic van de Zandschulp had earlier beaten Matteo Arnaldi 6-7 (8-6) 6-3 7-6 (9-7), before Sinner downed Griekspoor 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 to level the tie.
Dutch captain Paul Haarhuis, who was a part of the team that lost to eventual champions France 22 years ago, made a late swap with Griekspoor replacing Jean-Julien Rojer for the doubles tie while Filippo Volandri brought Sinner in for Simone Bolelli.
The changes worked well for both teams in a high-octane clash but Sinner and Sonego won the crucial points in front of a boisterous crowd to send Italy through.
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