Novak Djokovic says he would’ve already retired from any tournament other than the grand slams due to the injury he’s currently facing during the Australian Open.
Two nights after “tearing” a muscle in his abdomen during a five-set win over Taylor Fritz, the world number one returned to Rod Laver Arena off “no preparation”.
Instead the Serb spent the entire 48 hours rehabbing his injury and trying to get into a position where he could face, and beat, big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
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“There was no preparation, basically, for this match,” Djokovic said on-court post-match.
“I used every hour I had since I finished the last match to recover, to try to put myself in a position where I had a possibility to compete. My physio has done a great job.”
Some players, including Nick Kyrgios, suggested Djokovic had been exaggerating the injury over the past two days while Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou said Djokovic sometimes “pretends he’s giving up” to fool opponents.
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Djokovic certainly didn’t look at his absolute best in the four-set win over Raonic – it was the first time he’d ever been taken to a fourth set by the Canadian.
Helpfully Raonic is not the type of opponent to try and extend points and win drawn-out rallies.
“I think the report card coming out of this for him is very positive,” Nine’s Todd Woodbridge said on commentary.
“(He’s) maybe not at 100%, but we’re still seeing him play quality tennis, he’s moving well, he’s served incredibly well. He will be somewhat happy.”
However Djokovic suggested he would’ve withdrawn before the Raonic match if this wasn’t a grand slam, and didn’t know if he’d be fit enough to play until just before the match.
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“If it’s any other tournament other than a Grand Slam, I would retire, withdraw from the event, that’s for sure,” he said.
“But because it’s a Grand Slam, I want to give my best to try and get on the court and recover.
“I didn’t know before I finished my warm-up today, three hours before I entered the court, whether I’m going to play or not. When it warmed up it was fine; during the match today it was kind of on and off.”
Djokovic faces young gun Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, who took him to the brink less than a fortnight ago in the ATP Cup and won his fourth-round match in straight sets.