Novak Djokovic was met with a chorus of boos on Court Philippe-Chatrier as he started the defence of his French Open title.
And three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe, 63, slammed those who chose to heckle the Serbian sensation by claiming the taunts made "no sense."
Djokovic, 35, was involved in a heated stand-off with Australian Open officials at the turn of the year after he landed in Melbourne without receiving the required covid-19 vaccination. Amid accusations that he'd lied on his visa application, the reigning champion was deported from the country with rival Rafael Nadal claiming victory in his absence.
The world no.1 finally returned to grand slam action on Monday where he swept aside Japanese opponent Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 to take his place in the second round. Though the Parisian crowd were seemingly rooting for an upset with sections heard loudly jeering Djokovic throughout the contest.
Forming part of Eurosport's commentary team for the championship, ex-pro McEnroe was flabbergasted by the crowd's treatment of the 35-year-old. He said: "I don’t know why they’re booing him. I mean, my goodness. Are you kidding me?"
Fellow broadcaster and ex-British no.1 Tim Henman replied: "But he won’t like it, will he?" McEnroe in turn said: "No he won’t. He shouldn’t. Why would they boo that? ‘He’s trying too hard, let’s please boo him!'"
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Henman then asked his colleague: "Do you think the crowd think he should be showing sympathy to his opponent?" To which McEnroe replied: "I have no idea what they’re thinking. It makes no sense."
After besting 'King of Clay' Nadal in the semi-final during last year's championship, Djokovic has now set his sights on claiming a record-equalling 21st grand slam trophy. His Spanish counterpart claimed his latest honour at the start of the year in Melbourne – with Djokovic forced to watch from afar following his deportation.
It was also feared that the Serbian would miss the chance to defend his Roland Garros title but those concerns were lifted when the French government altered their vaccination regulations.
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