Wimbledon 2017: Djokovic avoids spat with McEnroe over private life

Sometimes it does pay to stay classy Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic briskly brushed aside Adam Pavlasek under the blazing sun to progress to the third round at the All England Club – and then ran into a verbal volley from John McEnroe.

The Serb has experienced a dramatic dip in form over the past year, losing all his Grand Slam titles and slipping from the top of the ATP Tour rankings.

And McEnroe claimed he could see similarities between the infidelity scandal that rocked Tiger Woods’s career and the problems Djokovic is confronting surrounding his private life.

Rumours swirl around the tennis circuit — some of them are even true — but three-time winner Djokovic was in no mood to fan the flames or become entangled in a war of words.

“John, anybody really, has a complete right to say what they want and I respect that,” he said.

“He’s someone that has earned that right because of who he is and what he has done for our sport.

“He’s known for his bold comments and not really caring too much about being politically correct and saying whatever is on his mind.

“I don’t necessarily need to agree with it but it’s his right. I really don’t take anything personally and I always get along very well with him.”

Of the big four Djokovic will always struggle to win a popularity contest here.

Roger Federer could pull a moonie in front of the Royal Box and be even more loved, Rafa Nadal still has them swooning and it’s only a matter of time before Andy Murray gets a statue along with his knighthood.

Djokovic hardly lacks charisma, like the robotic Pete Sampras, though his smooth eloquence does have an occasional caustic edge.

However, he doesn’t have the same benefits of geography or personality to his big-name rivals. He still has a hardcore of fans though their fervour is muted in comparison and critics certainly abound.

“When somebody comes to the stands with an intention to just provoke and say things that aren’t right, that’s not in the spirit of our sport,” he added, after appearing to exchange words with the crowd at one point.

“They can support whatever player they like and I respect that. If they aren’t being appropriate with that support then it’s not acceptable. I will always confront them, I will not allow anyone to do something that is not right.”

No-one tends to mess with seven-time winner Federer though, whose image is a squeaky clean as his tennis whites.

The worshippers at the House of Fed know the days are running out for the 36-year-old and it seems to make every cheer mean that bit more, with the fear it may be the last.

He was pushed in the first set against Djokovic’s Serbian Davis Cup team-mate Dusan Lajovic but soon restored normal service to secure his third round progress 7-6, 6-3, 6-2.

“I struggled early on and couldn’t get rid of the nerves or find my rhythm but finally I started to play free and more inspired tennis,” said Federer.

“I know I should feel comfortable here but sometimes it takes time to come together on grass. I’ve been out there so many times but I still get nervous.”

Wimbledon has been a closed shop for 14 years with Lleyton Hewitt’s 2002 title the last time someone other than Federer, Djokovic, Nadal or Murray has won.

The monopoly will break one day — and Canada’s Milos Raonic, last year’s unbeaten finalist, is right up there among the men most likely to do it.

He secured a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny with 27 aces underlining his threat on a surface that is only getting quicker as it bakes and browns.

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