Novak Djokovic was left fuming for the second time at the ATP World Tour Finals on his way to thumping alternative David Goffin to progress to the semi-finals with a 100% record. The world number two sent a ominous message to Andy Murray by overcoming the Belgian, who replaced the injured and already eliminated Gael Monfils, 6-1 6-2 at The O2 Arena to ensure he qualifies top of the Ivan Lendl group with an unblemished record from the round robin phase.
But the red mist descended on the 12-time grand slam champion once again this week in London after he was handed a time violation during the first set. Umpire Fergus Murphy reprimanded the Serbian on his way to breaking Goffin for the first time and Djokovic took his anger out on both the official and tournament supervisor Tom Barnes at the changeover.
Usually an umpire will warn a player if he is overstepping the 25-second rule before issuing a warning, but after Djokovic took 36 seconds to serve Murphy gave him an immediate warning.
The incident represents the second time Djokovic has seen red this week. He raged at a journalist who dared question him regarding an errant shot directed at his players box that bounced into the crowd during victory over Dominic Thiem – for which he received a court violation. The Australian and French Open champion is this week playing his first tournament since being replaced by Andy Murray as world number one, bringing an end to a 122-week run atop of the ATP rankings.
"I just had a conversation with Tom Barnes, the supervisor," the 28-year-old said. "I just wanted to get his view on this. First of all, I accept and I know that I'm one of the players that takes the most time. There is no doubt. I'm not running away from that.
"Every time that I'm late, if I get a so-called soft warning or pre-warning, I'll accept it and I won't say a word. But I think it's fair, correct and respectful towards the player and to the game if you go over the first time, let's say, over the limit, that you at least get a heads up. That's all I'm asking for, to be honest. I'm not the only one who has that kind of, I guess, mindset and perspective and opinion about this.
"I know that the rules are strict, you have to follow. But there should be a kind of a feel, a sense for the game. It was the fourth game of the match, after a long point, the first time I went over, a few seconds, he gives me a warning. I didn't think that was supported by, I guess, the right facts. That's why I wanted to have a conversation and understand why. I guess it was as it was."
Defending champion Djokovic improved his hopes of replacing Murray and claiming the year end world number one after completing his third group stage victory. Goffin had not played since his hopes of qualifying for the season-ending tour finals by right were ended at the Paris Masters, and it showed from the outset against a revitalised Djokovic.
Two breaks in the opening set, either side of a time violation while leading 3-1, was enough for the Serbian to surge into the ascendency in front of a subdued and depleted crowd in Greenwich. Goffin had won 12 times in 2016 after losing the first set, but hopes of a comeback were dashed early in the second set.
The five-time champion never looked back and two further breaks in the second set ensured Goffin's first ever ATP Final match ended in a damp squib. Djokovic collects 200 further ranking points, which if Murray fails to progress from the John McEnroe group, however unsatisfactorily, would be enough to end the season back as the king of the men's game.
Later on Thursday [17 November] Milos Raonic and Thiem will battle it out to join Djokovic in the semi-finals when they clash in the final group match.