Bengaluru, September 7: American tennis great John McEnroe feels world No.1 Novak Djokovic will hereafter have to live up with the bad guy tag following his disqualification from the US Open for striking a line judge with a ball.
The Serb was defaulted at 5-6 down in the first set of his match against Pablo Carreno Busta after a ball he swiped in frustration hit a female official in the throat.
The 33-year-old posted an apology on Instagram, vowing to take away valuable lessons that would aid his "growth and evolution as a player and human being."
McEnroe, whose own behaviour frequently landed him in hot water with officials during his playing career, said Djokovic had buckled under the pressure.
"The pressure just got to him. I think a lot has been going on off the court," McEnroe, who was disqualified in the fourth round of the 1990 Australian Open after being handed three code violations, was quoted as saying by ESPN.
"It's obviously affected him and whether he likes it or not, he's going to be the bad guy the rest of his career.
"If he embraces that role, I think he could recover. He's got a lot of things going for him, but this is a stain that he's not going to be able to erase."
After the premature end to his bid for an 18th Grand Slam, Djokovic left the grounds without attending a press conference and McEnroe, a four-time US Open champion, said the Serb should have faced the music instead of apologising on social media.
"You got to man up. It made no sense to me. In the past I've seen him take responsibility when he's blown it. In this case it makes it even worse," he said.
"So what if he apologised on Twitter... that's not good enough."
The US Open disqualification is the latest in a string of controversies involving Djokovic, who earlier this year attracted widespread criticism for the organisation of the Adria Tour event at the height of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The competition had failed to adhere to social distancing guidelines and resulting in several players - including the Serbian - testing positive for COVID-19.
(With inputs from Agencies)