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Persistent Novak Djokovic critic Adriano Panatta’s most controversial quotes about the tennis great



Persistent Novak Djokovic critic Adriano Panatta’s most controversial quotes about the tennis great

Italian great Adriano Panatta has become known as a tennis pundit who is not afraid of voicing his unvarnished opinions, even if it involves attacking some of the sport’s biggest stars.

During a professional career spanning from 1969 to 1983, Panatta secured 10 singles titles, including the 1976 French Open, and reached a career-high ATP ranking of world No 4.

The 74-year-old, who helped Italy win their first Davis Cup title in 1976, was the only player to defeat tennis icon Bjorn Borg at the French Open, achieving the feat twice.

When Jannik Sinner withdrew from the group phase of the 2023 Davis Cup Finals in September, Panatta slammed his 22-year-old compatriot.

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“Today, tennis players are businesses and, as such, they only think about profit, especially those around them, forgetting history and feelings,” the Italian said.

“He had already given up on the Olympic Games [in 2021], today he says no to the Davis Cup. Jannik is tired?”

While Sinner came under fire on that occasion, legendary Serbian Novak Djokovic has been the most frequent and notable target of Panatta’s criticism in recent years.

Here, we look at five of Panatta’s most controversial quotes about Djokovic.

“Let’s say there’s a big mystery surrounding him. How is he really? Is he bluffing?”

Djokovic made an impressively swift recovery to play at the 2024 Wimbledon Championships after tearing his meniscus and undergoing surgery less than a month before the tournament started.

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Panatta, though, suggested he was not convinced Djokovic had been injured and raised questions over his operation.

“Let’s say there’s a big mystery surrounding him,” Panatta said to Libero Quotidiano. “How is he really? Is he bluffing? And his recently operated knee?

“At 37, he’s not the ‘Djoker’ of the good days, but I would always be afraid to cross rackets with someone who has triumphed on Centre Court seven times.”

“For me, nothing changes – Roger Federer is the greatest”

Djokovic claimed his 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2023 French Open to stand alone as the man with the most Major singles crowns, having previously been tied with Rafael Nadal.

Panatta, however, argued Djokovic’s historic triumph changed nothing in the GOAT debate as he gave his backing to Roger Federer.

“For me, nothing changes – Roger Federer is the greatest. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics. And not even of statistics, which they like so much but leave the time they find,” the Italian told Corriere della Serra.

“Let me explain better – in the few years that he has played, Borg has concentrated more Grand Slam victories than Djokovic, Nadal and Federer combined.

“Does he (Djokovic) say he’s the best? I propose that we deal with it.”

“Have you ever seen Federer or Nadal behave the way Djokovic did tonight?”

At the 2023 ATP Finals in Turin, Djokovic was beaten by Italian home favourite Sinner in an enthralling three-set round-robin match.

Speaking to Corriere dello Sport, Panatta lambasted Djokovic for his behaviour during the contest and accused him of gamesmanship.

“Have you ever seen Federer or Nadal behave the way Djokovic did tonight? I would have bet anything that he would try for the match to break the rhythm, he always does,” said Panatta.

“First the bathroom, then the physio, he tries everything. I don’t like that attitude at all. Thank goodness Sinner doesn’t care, he stays there calmly.”

Despite Panatta’s claims, there were no significant delays during the pulsating encounter. Djokovic took a bathroom break within the time limit of a changeover and briefly received treatment on his neck, which had appeared to be causing him discomfort.

“He would become Djokovic’s nightmare, pushing him towards retirement”

After Sinner earned his first win against Djokovic in the aforementioned 2023 ATP Finals clash, the Italian downed the Serbian again in a three-set Davis Cup battle in November.

In between these two Sinner victories, the 24-time Grand Slam winner convincingly beat the 22-year-old in the final of the ATP Finals.

Panatta asserted that Sinner would become Djokovic’s nightmare and accelerate his retirement if he beat the Serb more times in 2024.

“In my opinion, if Sinner were to beat him two or three more times in 2024, he would become Djokovic’s nightmare, pushing him towards retirement,” he told Rai News 24.

“History teaches and usually repeats itself. [Bjorn] Borg quit with the arrival of [John] McEnroe, McEnroe retired when [Boris] Becker arrived.”

Sinner and Djokovic have met just once so far this year, with the former winning in four sets in the Australian Open semi-finals.

“Jannik invented a new game. Even Djokovic already seems outdated today”

In April, Sinner had won 22 of the 23 matches he had played in a stunning start to the 2024 season, and his Italian compatriot issued high praise.

Panatta assessed that Sinner had changed the sport and argued the Big Three of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal seemed outdated by comparison.

“Have you ever trained with a ball throwing machine? The ball throwing machine, as you know, never makes mistakes,” Panatta said.

“Jannik invented a new game. Even Djokovic already seems outdated today, not to mention Federer or Nadal. These players are already part of the past. But not because they resigned, but because their game no longer corresponds to what is needed today.

“I’ll even say a word to you. Even Federer at his best would have had a lot of trouble with Sinner because Jannik hits too hard, I’ve never seen him hit that hard, come on.”

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