Novak Djokovic told a group of British fans to “shut up” as they tried to drown out his interview with musical instruments after their team were knocked out of the Davis Cup by Serbia.
Britain lost the quarter-final 2-0 as Cameron Norrie was unable to inflict a rare defeat on the world number one.
“You should learn how to show some respect,” Djokovic told the fans.
Jack Draper was beaten 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (8-6) by Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening match of the best-of-three tie.
That result meant Norrie had to beat 24-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic for the first time in his career.
But Djokovic showed his class as he cruised to a 6-4 6-4 win and set Serbia up for a semi-final against Italy on Saturday.
After an assured and drama-free performance, Djokovic had the spiky exchange prior to his on-court interview, challenging the small number of British fans who act as the team’s band.
He had celebrated at the end of the first set by blowing a kiss to a British supporter heckling him and also cupped his ear in their direction at the end of the match.
“It’s normal that sometimes fans step over the line and in the heat of the moment you react too, and in a way show that you don’t allow this kind of behaviour,” Djokovic said.
“They can do whatever they want, but I’m going to respond to that. That’s what happened.
“I was trying to talk and they were purposely starting to play the drums so that I don’t talk and they were trying to annoy me the entire match.”
Britain, who last won the Davis Cup in 2015, will not automatically qualify for the 2024 knockout stage after their quarter-final exit in Malaga.
Unless they receive a wildcard for the Final Eight, Leon Smith’s team will have to negotiate the same path as this year – a qualifying tie early next year, followed by the round-robin stage.
Djokovic takes another step towards another trophy
Despite being in the twilight of his career, 36-year-old Djokovic’s powers are showing little sign of diminishing.
In another extraordinary season, Djokovic has won the Australian Open, French Open and US Open titles, with his only defeat at a major coming against Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.
On Sunday, he further underlined his superiority by rounding off the tour season with a record seventh title at the ATP Finals in Turin.
Now he is aiming to cap a spectacular year, even by his standards, by adding the Davis Cup to his enviable trophy haul.
Djokovic’s supremacy this season – and the gulf between him and most of his rivals – was further emphasised by a dominant performance against Norrie.
Norrie has been a fixture inside the world’s top 20 for three successive seasons but was short of the quality needed to really damage Djokovic.
Djokovic took two of his 12 break point opportunities, while Norrie was only able to win eight points on the Serb’s serve.
Serbia will now face Italy after world number four Jannik Sinner inspired them to victory over the Netherlands earlier on Thursday.
Draper edged in decisive moments in opener
Considered one of the rising stars of the ATP Tour, Draper is still a novice in Davis Cup terms.
But the 21-year-old left-hander had been thrust into the pressurised situation of knowing he would probably have to win his singles match if Britain were going to advance – barring Norrie inflicting a first Davis Cup singles defeat in 12 years on Djokovic.
Following injuries to Dan Evans and Andy Murray, Draper was the natural choice to open the tie against Serbia even though he only made his competition debut in September’s round-robin stage.
Possessing a thunderous serve and clinical forehand from the baseline, Draper is ranked 60th in the world on the back of strong form in recent weeks.
Injuries ruined his first eight months of the season, but a run of 17 wins from his 21 previous matches going into the Davis Cup tie left him feeling confident in his body and mind.
There was little to choose between Draper and 55th-ranked Kecmanovic – but it was the Serb who executed better in the crucial moments.
Two double faults from Draper in the first-set tie-break – for 2-0 and 5-2 respectively – proved particularly costly.
“It’s difficult knowing that Cam has to go and play Djokovic after, and that’s seemingly a must-win match for me,” Draper said.
“I back Cam but it’s definitely a tough challenge to go out there knowing that there is a lot more pressure on me to win the match.
“That’s the kind of pressure that if I want to be a top player, I have to cope with and perform under. It’s tough not to get the win today.”