New York, August 18: Taylor Fritz insisted he was complimenting Novak Djokovic when he said it was better for every other player that the world number six would not be featuring at the US Open.
Djokovic has not featured in a competitive match since defeating Nick Kyrgios in the final at Wimbledon on July 10.
Due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, Djokovic has been refused entry to the United States and as such is not competing in the Western & Southern Open and is also set to miss out at Flushing Meadows, where he reached the final last year.
Fritz, meanwhile, advanced to the last 16 of the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday by defeating Kyrgios in straight sets.
In his post-match press conference, the American – who is in the hunt for a third title of 2022 – declared "it's at least good for every player if Novak is not in the draw" when explaining his mixed feelings over the situation, with Fritz also having said it is a shame Djokovic will not be playing.
Yet the world number 13 has now had to bat away criticism of his comments.
"Nothing new just me getting ripped for making a joke about Novak being better than everyone," Fritz wrote on Twitter.
"The issue with press transcripts is it's just raw text and it’s not clear the manner in how things are said, what I jokingly said felt like a compliment to Novak more than anything else."
Fritz has faced Djokovic on five previous occasions, losing all of those matches. He will have to overcome Andrey Rublev to make the quarter-finals in Cincinnati.