Djokovic fitness scare ahead of Open tilt

Anna Harrington |

Novak Djokovic had physio treatment before cutting short his Australian Open practice on Wednesday.
Novak Djokovic had physio treatment before cutting short his Australian Open practice on Wednesday.

Novak Djokovic’s hamstring injury scare continues to hover over his Australian Open tilt after the nine-time champion required treatment throughout an exhibition practice match against Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic pushed through hamstring tightness to claim last week’s Adelaide International 1 and firm as favourite for a 10th Melbourne Park title.

He has won 34 consecutive matches in Australia, with his last defeat a shock fourth-round loss to Korean Hyeon Chung in at the 2018 Australian Open.

But his return to Australia hasn’t all gone smoothly.

Djokovic suffered left hamstring tightness in the semi-final in South Australia when also playing Medvedev and required a medical time-out, but recovered to win that game, then the final.

After beating Sebastian Korda in Sunday’s decider the 35-year-old revealed he’d worked “deep into the night” with his physio after the semi-final and to shake off the niggle in time for the following day’s final, but was confident it wouldn’t affect him at the Open.

But in Wednesday’s practice match with Medvedev at Rod Laver Arena, the first time Djokovic had played in front of the Melbourne public since last year’s deportation saga, the injury again reared its head.

The session was meant to be 75 minutes but Djokovic exited after Medvedev claimed the first set 6-4 in 36 minutes, having required treatment for the “pulling” on three occasions.

“It’s a hamstring that I had problems with in Adelaide actually last week,” Djokovic told the Nine Network later on Wednesday.

“It was against Medvedev when we played semi-finals and I played again with him in practice, a practice match.

“And I just felt it a bit, pulling, and I didn’t want to risk anything worse.

“So I played a set and then apologised to him, he was understanding, and so I just want to avoid any kind of bigger scares before Australian Open.”

Djokovic broke the Russian former world No.1 in the opening game but, when leading 3-2, received treatment, with a member of his team completing some knee extensions.

Knee extensions can be used to release the hamstring.

He only won one more game from that point.

Medvedev won the next two games and Djokovic again received the same treatment at the break when trailing 4-3 and again at 5-4, before pulling the pin when the Russian triumphed a game later.

Spanish veteran Pablo Andújar stepped in for the star Serb as Medvedev remained on court.

Djokovic is meant to play Nick Kyrgios in another exhibition match on Friday night.

The friendly practice match set was played in jovial spirits between Medvedev and Djokovic in front of a small, polite crowd of spectators who paid $20 each to watch.

Djokovic, who refused to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and caused an uproar when he arrived in Melbourne last year before ultimately being deported, received a reasonably warm welcome.

There was no sign of animosity towards Djokovic or Medvedev, who lamented his own treatment from fans in Australia last year.