Novak Djokovic was involved in a bizarre exchange with the chair umpire during his brutal Italian Open elimination only days out from the French Open. Djokovic once again looked well below his best as he lost to fiery youngster Holger Rune 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 with the Serbian never really threatening to steal victory.
Rune was confident heading into the match against Djokovic having won their meeting at the end of last year at the Paris Masters. And Rune showed why he will head into Roland Garros as one of the favourites as he offered very little to a lacklustre Djokovic in the first set.
Drama erupted in the second set, which saw Rune explode at the umpire. A looping Djokovic shot appeared to go long on serve at 2-3, but it was called good. Rune stopped the rally to call down the chair umpire to correct the call.
However, chair umpire Mohamed Lahyeni checked the ball mark and said the ball was in. Hawkeye later showed the ball went long.
Rune was furious and ended up losing the game after a horrible overhead smash went wayward. "It's all happening, this is wanted the fans wanted. They wanted some drama," the commentator said.
The mishap allowed Djokovic to claw his way back into the game and take the set with Rune flustered at the chair umpire's decision. Not long later it was Djokovic's turn to call out Lahyeni.
Rune came out in the third set, after a rain delay, and upped his game again to take the match away from Djokovic. And Djokovic became perturbed at Lahyeni when he was a break down after a the chair umpire announced the scores in Italian and English just before his serve.
Novak Djokovic to umpire in Holger match:
“What’s the drama of waiting between English & Italian to call the score? Are you acting here or what?”
This is comedy at its finest 😂
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) May 17, 2023
After Lahyeni announced the 15-30 score in Italian, Djokovic started his service rhythm. Lahyeni then announced the score in English, before giving Djokovic a time violation.
The World No.1 erupted and called out the umpire for what he believed was theatrics. "What's the drama? For waiting between English and Italian. What are you acting here? Why do you call the score after 20 seconds?"
Djokovic was venting his anger having languished through the match slightly below his best. And he couldn't recover as Rune followed up his Paris Finals win over Djokovic with another huge victory against the 22-time grand slam champion.
Novak Djokovic not worried about French Open
The match served as a worry for Djokovic who was clearly struggling to find his rhythm in the first set having been dealing with a persistent elbow injury for a month. Djokovic has now failed to reach the semi-final in Monte Carlo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and now Rome.
While many tennis fans might be doubting whether Djokovic is arriving in Paris with the ability to compete for the title, the champion himself has no doubt he will be the man to beat.
“I know I can always play better,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. “Definitely am looking forward to working on various aspects of my game, of my body, hopefully getting myself in 100 percent shape. That's the goal.
“I always like my chances in Grand Slams against anybody on any surface, best of five. Let's see how it goes.”
Djokovic also addressed his loss to Rune and had no excuses as he showered the 20-year-old with praise. "Obviously in these kind of conditions, it's very difficult to get the ball past him," Djokovic added.
"He's very, very fast, very quick. Great anticipation. Just a very talented, dynamic player, all-around player.
"He was just better. He played too good for me for most parts of the match. I did have a bad start of the third set. I think that's where the match kind of shifted to his side. He kept his nerves and deserved to win.”
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