Melbourne – Novak Djokovic says it’s a “gamble” to continue playing at the Australian Open and that his abdominal injury could have an impact on the rest of his season. The world No. 1, however, is prepared to take the risk.
The Serbian, an eight-time champion in Melbourne, sustained a “muscle tear” during a thrilling five-set win over Taylor Fritz on Friday. He didn’t train the following day and took to Rod Laver Arena on Sunday evening dosed up on painkillers as he topped big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic in four sets to reach the quarterfinals.
Djokovic said the pain was “bearable” and he “somehow managed to find a way and win.”
He didn’t plan to train again on Monday, hoping to work on his recovery ahead of a clash against No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev.
“I mean, it’s kind of a gamble, that’s what the medical team told me,” he said. “It’s really unpredictable, you can’t know what’s going to happen with you once you’re on the court.
“You’re not gonna save yourself or think about going for that point or this shot or that shot. It just pulls you. It’s normal. Playing at this level, you just want to give it your all.
“It could cause much more damage than it is at the moment, but also could go in a good direction.”
The 33-year-old refused to say what exactly the problem was, although his abdomen was taped against Raonic and he said after his win over Fritz that was it “a tear of the muscle.”
“I know what it is, but I don’t want to talk about it now,” Djokovic said, wary of giving Zverev any extra ammunition. “I’m still in the tournament. I hope you guys understand that. I don’t want to speculate too much about it.”
Djokovic’s win over Raonic was his 300th at a Grand Slam, making him the second player in history to reach the mark after Roger Federer, who has 362.
It also kept him on track for an 18th Grand Slam title in his bid to close in on the record of 20, which is shared by Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic’s drive for more Grand Slam crowns is the reason he hasn’t pulled out, and he made it clear he would’ve withdrawn from any other tournament.
Playing on, though, could sideline him after Melbourne.
“I have talked a lot with my own medical team and also the medical team of Tennis Australia — Australian Open,” he said.
“They all share the opinion that there is a slight, very slight, slim chance that I will make a significant damage that would take me out of the tour for whatever, some extended period of time.
“So, yes, there is always a risk that the injury will get worse, but they don’t think it’s going to be very significantly worse that it’s going to jeopardize my entire season.
“So it will jeopardize, depending on how I go here, certain tournaments that are coming after Australian Open that I was maybe thinking to play.”
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