Questions have been raised after Novak Djokovic’s loss to Holger Rune in the Paris Masters final, following vision of ‘incredibly suspicious’ behaviour from his team in the players box earlier in the tournament.
Djokovic was outclassed by Rune, who at 19 became the youngest player since Boris Becker to win the tournament.
However it was the actions of those in his players box during the semi-final against Stefano Tsitsipas that commanded attention post-game, after video showed them attempting to conceal their preparation of a drink bottle which was subsequently handed to Djokovic by a ball kid.
Video shows Djokovic’s team realising they were being filmed preparing the substance, with one person moving around to block the camera’s view of what was happening.
There is no suggestion Djokovic or his team have broken any rules, however veteran tennis writer Ben Rothenberg said it was understandable questions were being raised.
It follows a similar incident at Wimbledon, in which Djokovic described what had been prepared for him as a ‘magic potion’ while refusing to elaborate on the contents.
Rothenberg said the ‘optics are strange’ and argued Djokovic’s team needed to come clean.
“I’ve always thought there should be more transparency about the substances players take, particularly during matches, but I’ve also rarely thought anything was likely amiss,” he said on Twitter.
“But golly, the body language in this video is bizarre. What does the Djokovic team think needs hiding?”
“I think rivals (and the public and the officials governing the sport) should get to know. I don’t think there should be secret substances being ingested during competition.
“I’m accusing no one of anything here, but what an incredibly suspicious way to start acting when you suddenly notice that you’re being filmed. Hope Djokovic and/or his team get asked about this today in Paris, and that they don’t just accept his previous “magic potions” answer.”
Novak Djokovic stunned by Holger Rune in Paris Masters final
The 19-year-old defeated Djokovic 3-6 6-3 7-5 in Sunday’s final, fending off the six-time champion at the indoor hardcourt event to earn a place in the top 10 for the first time and becoming the first Danish man to reach such giddy heights.
Rune also becomes the first player since the ATP rankings were launched in 1973 to have beaten five top-10 players in the same tournament, other than at the season-ending ATP Finals.
His scalps on the route to his maiden Masters 1000 final included Hubert Hurkacz, Andrey Rublev, No.1 Carlos Alcaraz – who retired injured when trailing in their quarter-final – and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Now, Rune can add last year’s Paris champion Djokovic to that list, defeating the 21-time grand slam winner who had described his young opponent as the future of tennis on the eve of the final.
Rune becomes the youngest Paris Masters champion since an 18-year-old Boris Becker triumphed in 1986, and he did it the hard way too, coming from behind after Djokovic made the stronger start.
Djokovic broke Rune’s serve in the fourth game to lead 3-1 and take an early grip, soon seeing out the opening set.
Yet Rune charged 3-0 ahead in the second and grew in confidence. There was even a Djokovic-like raised fist after getting the better of his illustrious rival in one thrilling rally.
Djokovic roared ahead in the decider, but not intimidated by the occasion, Rune struck back to recover the early break.
Rune then broke to lead 6-5, as his Serbian opponent became erratic.
Nobody beats Djokovic without a fight though, and the Serb carved out six chances to break back in the next game.
Rune survived them all and clinched victory on his second match point when Djokovic, who had been chasing a record-extending 39th ATP 1000 title, netted on the half-volley.