Thursday 22 August 2019

'There is no reason for you to attack me' - Novak Djokovic in tetchy exchange with media over his defence of Justin Gimelstob

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his second round match against Denis Kudla
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his second round match against Denis Kudla

Jonathan Veal

Novak Djokovic had a much more uncomfortable time in the press room than during his second-round win over Denis Kudla at Wimbledon.

Djokovic, the president of the ATP Player Council, came under fire for his continued defence of disgraced board member Justin Gimelstob, who pleaded 'no contest' to a battery charge in a California court in April after attacking a man in front of his wife and child.

Gimelstob eventually resigned from his position as a player representative on the board in May, but the Serbian has been a vocal supporter of his close ally.

Asked whether he had read the victim impact statements from Randall Kaplan, a friend of Gimelstob's ex-wife, and his spouse, which attributed the miscarriage of their baby to the attack, Djokovic was on the back foot.

"I will read it. I haven't read it," he said. "I've spoken to Justin. He has explained to me that he still is going through the process, the legal process. He's not done yet on the court. Obviously I know only his side of the story.

"I've had, as I mentioned before, a really good relationship with Justin. I think he needs to take time to deal with this serious matter.

"If he in the end of this whole process is proven guilty, I mean, obviously there is no support from my side for him to be part of the sport."

The reporter then informed Djokovic that, under California law, by pleading no contest, Gimelstob was officially considered guilty, which irked the reigning champion even further.

"Listen, I will go through the documents. I can speak to you next time," he said.

"There is no reason for you to attack me.

"I just don't feel it is necessary for you to point a finger at me specifically for something that he has or hasn't done.

"There is no reason for you to talk to me in that way because I feel like you're pointing the guilt at me for some reason for what he has done or for supporting him.

"I am telling you I have a very good relationship with him, and I always have. I'm not going to lie about that.

"But if he is guilty about committing a crime, as you said, or whatever has happened that night, that obviously changes things around for his future role in our sport.

"But if that is not the case, then I'm just saying, if that is not the case, then he is a huge asset for our sport and our players."

That was far more dramatic than his time on Centre Court as he strolled to a 6-3 6-2 6-2 win.

Djokovic, going for a fifth Wimbledon crown, will undoubtedly face sterner tests ahead but maybe not until the semi-finals after the draw has opened up favourably for him.

He faces Hubert Hurkacz in the next round - a Polish player who is enjoying his best ever grand slam run.

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