Novak Djokovic injury: Will world No 1 quit Australian Open before Milos Raonic match?

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Novak Djokovic is battling an injury at the Australian Open that may not just hamper his ability to retain his crown but force him out of the tournament without getting back on court. The 17-time Grand Slam champion is looking for a third successive triumph in Melbourne and a record-extending ninth overall, but it is not yet certain whether or not he will play his fourth-round match against Milos Raonic. Express Sport looks at the latest news about the Serbian’s fitness.

What’s happened?

Djokovic beat American Taylor Fritz 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 in three hours and 25 minutes on Friday morning (UK time) – but had to overcome injury struggles to clinch his victory.

The 33-year-old was troubled by a side muscle problem during the match and the issue required him to take an off-court medical timeout.

After returning to court, Fritz took sets three and four before Djokovic rallied in the fifth to make the next stage of the tournament.

This is the 14th time in which Djokovic will contest the quarter-finals of the calendar’s opening Grand Slam.

The reigning Australian Open champion is looking to win his first major in 12 months having been defaulted at the US Open before his French Open final loss to Rafael Nadal.

What’s the latest?

Djokovic skipped practice at Melbourne Park on Saturday to instead undergo medical examinations on his injury.

Speaking the same day, Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said of Djokovic: “We’ll see him. He’s resilient, he’s tough. He’ll wake up today and he’ll figure out what it is and he’ll go and get the appropriate treatment.

“The way he was, those two sets, I was pretty surprised [he was able to win the match].

“But I’ve seen him play enough times here, this is his court, he gets comfortable on it and he just picks his game up and up and he’s that good.

“So his health is going to be important and we’ll make a decision later on today on when he plays tomorrow.”

What has Djokovic said?

Djokovic called the win over Fritz “one of the most special” of his career and said of his injury on court: “Everything was working fine for me, and then beginning of the third set I made this quick move on the return going to the forehand, rotating there, and I just felt a tear, I felt something happen.

“Went out for medical timeout when I was tested, evaluated. I have huge pain, I took the highest dose of anti-inflammatories possible.

“It did kick in end of fourth, beginning of the fifth when I actually started to move and I could actually start to rally with him from back of the court. Until that moment, it was only serve for me and kind of hoping and praying that I’m gonna get an easy ball after my serve so I could just go for it.

“That’s what I’ve done. I honestly don’t know how I won this match. I’m very proud, at the same time sad and worried, because it’s definitely something serious happening with my injury.

“Yeah, I don’t have much time to recover for the next match. Definitely not training tomorrow.

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“I’m coming here to evaluate further more with doctor and medical team, and do some ultrasound and understand what’s really going on so that the doctor and medical team can prescribe best possible treatment and the only possible treatment that I could even have the slightest chance to go out in less than 48 hours.”

Djokovic added: “I really don’t know, my friend [if I will play Raonic]. Right now I’m – well, I know it’s a tear, definitely, of the muscle. So I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days. I don’t know.

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m gonna step out onto the court or not.I am just very proud of this achievement tonight. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

When does Djokovic play Raonic?

Provided he does not pull out before then, Djokovic is scheduled to play Canadian Raonic on Saturday morning (in the UK).

The fourth-round match is expected to get underway on the Rod Laver Arena no earlier than 9.15am UK time.

The world No 1’s clash with Raonic will be the final match of the evening session on day seven of the tournament.

Djokovic has an 11-0 record to maintain against the big-serving 30-year-old, including quarter-final wins at the Australian Open in 2020 and 2015. 

Fritz casts injury doubt

Djokovic’s defeated opponent Fritz has suggested that the top-ranked Serbian overexaggerated his injury during their match.

“If he was really, really injured, he wouldn’t have kept playing,” the 23-year-old said afterwards.

“He looked like he was struggling in the third and fourth, he didn’t look like he was struggling in the fifth.

“Maybe he fought through it. I’m happy for him he had such a good recovery.

“Fifth set, he looked pretty good to me! I have to give credit in the fifth set, he was really good. Nothing like the third and fourth set.

“He was serving unbelievable, two first serves and barely missing any spots.”

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