This Tuesday evening, Novak Djokovic will challenge Rafael Nadal in his favorite lair for a gala quarter-final at Roland-Garros. Passed by all states in 2022, the world number one hopes to secure his place in the last four and get a little closer to his 21st grand slam title. After weeks of turmoil, the Serb finally finds good feelings on the courts as evidenced by his victory in Rome 15 days ago and his good start on the side of the Porte d’Auteuil.

Nevertheless, if we gauge the applause meter, Djokovic will always be behind his Spanish rival. For a long time, the story between “Nole” and the public has not been obvious. Needing affection, the Serb waited until the last US Open and an epic final loss to Daniil Medvedev to receive a standing ovation.

If tennis fans have not yet adored Djokovic as they were able to do with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, it is quite the opposite of players on the circuit. From the WTA to the ATP, the figure of the Serb has never been flayed, despite his troubled period during the Covid and his reluctance towards the vaccine. It must be said that the world number one has always struggled to defend his family in the face of developments in modern tennis and its sometimes infernal calendars. In August 2020, he notably founded the Professional Tennis Players Association, a new player defense union. He thus raised his voice in the face of the lack of clarity about player Peng Shuai, who was missing for a while in China.

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When he was unable to play the last Australian Open last January, several players stepped up to protest and give him their unwavering support. If some made fun of him by nicknaming him “Novax Djocovid”, for his part the world of tennis was united with him. “What I know is that Novak is always the first to defend the players. But none of us defended it. Be strong Novak,” Alizé Cornet wrote on Twitter. The Frenchwoman is not the only one to have disapproved of this decision. If the Australian government has decided to expel him after several days of imbroglio, many players in the little yellow ball have expressed their incomprehension.

Andy Murray had thus pointed out a dysfunction on the BBC. “It’s not good for the tournament, because it would be better if all the best players could participate. There are obviously going to be a lot of questions about what happened and the situation we found ourselves in. I know Novak, he is someone I respect and against whom I played. I don’t like that he finds himself in this situation and I don’t like the fact that he was taken into custody. Finally, coach Patrick Mouratoglou said that Djokovic’s principles should not cause so much debate. “I think someone who sticks to their beliefs, even if the overwhelming majority of people go against them, deserves complete respect, regardless of our opinion on the matter. »

Within the circuit, Novak Djokovic seems untouchable and this is not limited to the controversy in Melbourne. Many players underline his fair play on the courts, like the current world number 2, Daniil Medvedev, last February. “Novak is telling the truth. Whenever I have achieved something, and not only me, you can see it for a lot of players, Novak always congratulates everyone […] I invite you to find a single match where Novak said bad things about his opponent , and did not congratulate him. That’s how he is. »

This discrepancy between the opinion of the players and that of the public is quite striking. Even the young guard shares this opinion on a Djokovic underestimated by the greatest number. “Novak has told me a lot of good things,” Roland-Garros revelation Holger Rune said recently. It’s funny because it’s always Federer and Nadal who are named as the good guys, but when it comes to the new generation, I think it’s Novak Djokovic who gives us the most”, as if the Switzerland and the Spaniard had perhaps forgotten to prepare the continuation with their cadets, unlike a world number one more attentive to this kind of detail.

Nevertheless, this Tuesday evening, the Philippe-Chatrier will still be to the advantage of a Nadal in search of a fourteenth coronation on Parisian clay. If Djokovic manages to beat him a third time at Roland-Garros, after 2015 and 2021, the public may admire him like his friends.