Djokovic's history of meltdowns after racket smash at Australian Open

Novak Djokovic’s temper reared its ugly head with on-court MELTDOWN against Alexander Zverev… but world No 1 has history with his US Open disqualification, rowing with fans at the ATP Cup and ignoring Covid to put on disastrous Adria Tour last summer

  • Novak Djokovic lost his cool during his Australian Open quarter-final match 
  • At 3-1 down in the third set to Alexander Zverev, he threw a tantrum on court 
  • The Serb has a history of meltdowns and controversial moments in his matches 
  • He was disqualified from the US Open last year when he hit a ball at a line judge
  • Djokovic rowed with the chair umpire and scolded the crowd at the ATP Cup  

‘Sometimes the anger comes out of control,’ said Daniela Hantuchova, a close friend of Novak Djokovic.

She was speaking after his dramatic disqualification at the US Open in which he aimlessly hit a ball in the direction of line judge Laura Clark, catching her in the throat. 

The world No 1 is not the most placid of characters on court, part of the reason he has been so successful with 17 Grand Slam titles to his name. 

Novak Djokovic unleashed hell on the court at the Australian Open on Monday evening

A ball girl was left to sweep up loose debris from Djokovic’s racket smashing on the court

But often he can erupt like a volcano on court with no-one safe from his wrath, whether that’s chair umpires, fans or, as Clark discovered, line judges. 

On Monday it was the court that took a beating as Djokovic, down 3-1 in the third set to Alexander Zverev, sent a return crashing into the net to give Zverev the advantage and a chance to extend his lead to 4-1, which the German took with an ace on the following point.

A primal scream was let out and he hammered the court furiously with his racket – something that is not uncommon amid a Djokovic meltdown.

In wake of his his latest on-court meltdown, Sportsmail charts some of Djokovic’s most iconic controversies, on and off the court.  

Court takes a beating in win over Zverev

Djokovic is rarely one to hide his emotions and he wasn’t ready to mask his annoyance in set three of his quarter-final with Zverev. 

The world No 1 can often show both sides of his personality during a match – the sublime as well as the ridiculous. Both got an outing in the win over Zverev.  

Djokovic reacted furiously to losing the deuce point at 3-1 in the third by screaming and slamming his racket into the ground. 

The world No 1 lost his temper while 3-1 down in the third set against Alexander Zverev

One, two, three, four, five times the racket smashed against the court, sending various fragments of plastic across the Rod Laver Arena surface.  

The Serb then sat at the back of the court to sulk before incredibly asking for a ball kid to clean up the mess he himself had caused.

Racket abuse brings about penalties by umpires but it wasn’t until after he threw his racket at his bag that he was given a warning.

Djokovic did manage to regain his composure and took the third set 6-4 and clinched the fourth set after winning a tie-break 8-6 to secure a 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 win.

After the win he believed the racket smashing was in fact a positive moment in helping him toward victory. 

‘When I broke that racket, things started to shift for me in a positive direction,’ Djokovic said.

An Australian Open official was left to collect the stricken racket from the Rod Laver Arena

‘It was a relief for me, but I wouldn’t recommend this kind of relief channeling. Of course I’m not proud of these kind of moments. When I break the racket, of course I’m not proud of that.

‘You go through a lot of different emotions. You go through a lot of inner battle, and everyone is different. 

‘I have my own demons that I have to fight with, and I’m sure everybody else has them too. 

‘Everyone has their own way of dealing with that. To me it happens and then today it actually helped, even though I don’t intentionally do it in order for it to help me.’

Demons is one word for it but this was far from a one off. 

Monte Carlo Meltdown 

A classic on Djokovic’s evergrowing rap sheet.

Again it was amid a victory but that doesn’t begin to tell the story of how one racket was smashed to pieces on the clay and another found its way into the crowd.

His impatience at being unable to put away German veteran Philipp Kohlschrieber was getting to him and he soon began hammering his implement into the clay when repeatedly being broken in the second set. 

The world No 1 was incensed after he saw his serve broken by Philipp Kohlschreiber

A steward recovered Djokovic’s racket and handed it back to him after he threw it in the crowd

Djokovic was handed an official warning for his first angry outburst, and soon afterwards he could consider himself very lucky to escape being given a point penalty after his racket ended up in the crowd.  

The Serb frantically chased a wide ball and subsequently threw his racket at the ball, landing it in the crowd.

It actually ended up on some covered seats rather than those gathered in the front rows and so he was very lucky indeed nobody was injured. 

The meltdown was a sideshow to his performance as he sealed an arduous 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory in the second round match. 


Unquestionably the most high-profile on-court faux-pas of Djokovic’s career to date. Probably his most regrettable, too. 

Djokovic was kicked out of Flushing Meadows after he angrily swiped a ball away that struck female line judge, Laura Clark, in the throat.

He initially pleaded that the woman was not seriously hurt but Djokovic eventually walked off and later apologised for ‘causing her such stress’, saying his swipe was ‘so unintended, so wrong’.  

Djokovic, holding an unbeaten record in 2020 at that stage, pleaded for leniency with officials. 

Djokovic was then frustrated and fired a ball behind which struck the lineswoman in the throat

‘She doesn’t have to go to the hospital for this,’ he said as he stood at the net, a shocked look across his face. 

‘You’re going to choose a default in this situation? My career, Grand Slam, centre stage?’ 

Djokovic, despite his protestations, was defaulted, kicked out and was later and being fined his £190,000 prize money.

Djokovic eventually went on to address the matter himself with a statement on his social media. 

He wrote: ‘This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok.

‘I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. 

Djokovic, of Serbia, checks on a lineswoman after hitting her with a ball at the US Open

In an apology on Instagram, Djokovic said the situation left him feeling ‘really sad and empty’

‘As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being.

‘I apologise to the US Open tournament and everyone associated for my behaviour. 

‘I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I’m so sorry.’ 

Unfortunately the damage was already done and when Djokovic calls time on his esteemed career, this will be one of the most iconic moments to go with each of his Slam successes.

Furious ATP Cup row with umpire… and then the crowd!

Over he went, furious with chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani for not being allowed to challenge a call. 

The first set was in a tie-break and with the match finely poised, Djokovic was teetering on the edge before he was enraged.   

A double fault from opponent Kevin Anderson gave Djokovic and Team Serbia a 2-0 lead. 

But the crowd began to make excessive noise during rallies and when the mini-break was retrieved at 3-2, Djokovic wanted answers. 

He argued with chair umpire Lahyani as he did not let him challenge the call for a winner Djokovic believed was out.

Djokovic (left) spoke to umpire Mohamed Lahyani as he made a winning start to the ATP Cup

 Djokovic swung his racket at the air and thumped a ball towards the roof as he lost his temper

A livid Djokovic then yelled at the crowd with them cheering in the midst of the rally. 

He swiped his racquet through the air and shouted venomously in their direction in case the message wasn’t clear.

Djokovic also hit a ball into the stadium roof just to further complete a classic meltdown for the Serb. 

‘It was in the heat of the moment,’ he said the following day. ‘I’m sorry if I offended anyone.’

Adria Tour fiasco 

Controversy just seems to cling to Djokovic like a shadow and his decision to put on an exhibition tournament, known as the Adria Tour, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Picture the scene, some of the games leading players celebrating in a bar with no masks on at the height of a global pandemic and some partied by taking their shirts off.

In fairness to Djokovic at the time of his project the virus was receding in Serbia, and the government there later accepted that regulations may have been relaxed too soon. 

However, there appeared to be an almost concerted effort to defy any social distancing conventions at the two events which took place before the tour was abandoned as many participants – including he and his wife Jelena – contracted the virus. 

Djokovic’s ill-fated Adria Tour came under scrutiny after players were pictured out partying

Participants Grigor Dimitrov, Viktor Troicki and Borna Coric also all contracted the virus

Djokovic declined to be tested with everyone else at the second event in Croatia before testing positive back in Belgrade – not a good look.

He became the sixth direct participant in his exhibition series to catch the disease after Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki as well as Djokovic’s fitness trainer Marco Panichi and Dimitrov’s coach Christian Groh.

While most of the world bunkered down to isolate, Djokovic and the other participants were seen repeatedly getting up close and personal in everything from fun football kickabouts to escapades in nightclubs. 

Speaking at the end of June, a remorseful Djokovic said: ‘I am so deeply sorry our tournament has caused harm. 

‘Everything the organisers and I did the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions.  

‘We believed that the tournament met all health protocols and the health of our region seemed in good condition to finally unite people for philanthropic reasons.

‘We were wrong and it was too soon. I can’t express how sorry I am for this and every case of infection.’

Djokovic (centre) with Dominic Thiem (left) and Alex Zverev during the Adria Tour

Djokovic and some of his fellow tennis stars partied in a Belgrade nightclub, with some of the players taking their shirts off during the riotous evening

But in a strange twist, Djokovic later became incensed at criticism levelled towards him as he called out a ‘witch-hunt’ against his character. Suddenly public opinion was back to painting him as a villain. 

‘Lately I only see criticism, very malicious,’ he told Sportski Zurnal. ‘Obviously, there is something more than that criticism, as if there is an agenda, as if it were a witch-hunt.

‘Someone has to fall, some person, some big name to be the main culprit for everything. I leave it to others to say if that is fair, I don’t think it is, I think that we must learn from all of this and to adapt as we go along.’

A very public – too public – lesson learned.  

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