Novak Djokovic’s outstanding recovery at the Australian Open sparked a debate on Tuesday and raised the question: when is an injury not an injury?
The Serbian, 35, struggled with a left hamstring problem ahead of the start of the Grand Slam last week as he chases a record 22nd major tournament crown.
The hot favorite needed medical attention during matches, wore heavy belts and said a few days ago that he couldn’t train.
It seemed that the injury could derail his tournament altogether.
And yet he was there on Monday, burly still there, but the former world number one was free to move around Alex de Minor’s home hope 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and into the last eight.
It was an ominous warning of intent from Djokovic, and he subsequently said that the hamstring had been so improved that “I didn’t feel any pain.”
He thanked his medical team and said he was taking anti-inflammatory drugs, which he does not like to do.
“Honestly, it was exhausting to be involved in so many different procedures and machines and stuff that we do,” he said.
At the post-match press conference, De Minor, who noted how well Djokovic could move around the court, was asked about the opponent’s hamstring and all the turmoil around him.
“It’s the only thing everyone is talking about,” the 23-year-old said.
“Today I was there on the court against him. Either I’m not a good enough tennis player to expose it, or … it seemed good to me.
Subsequently, the Aussie took to Twitter on Tuesday to lash out at headlines that had taken his comments as calling into question just how injured Djokovic really is.
Speaking to Serbian media in Melbourne Park, Djokovic said that suggestions that he exaggerated or even faked an injury only motivated him more.
– ‘Exploded’ –
Djokovic’s left foot has sparked much discussion about how often tennis players compete with injuries and why a player chooses to exaggerate or even feign an injury.
In addition to Djokovic, injuries have hampered a number of players in Melbourne, including Sebastian Korda on Tuesday, who retired after a quarter-final match against Karen Khachanov.
World No. 9 Taylor Fritz tweeted that 80 percent of players are “always dealing with something (severity levels vary) but honestly everyone is always a little upset.”
“The media always focuses only on the best guys, so their problems are given more attention,” said the American.
“Also, some players are more vocal about injuries than others.
“I don’t think people feign injuries, I think sometimes players stretch out the severity of an injury because it takes the pressure off and helps them play better.”
Daria Savil, who was born in Moscow but now represents Australia, highlighted how often players compete with pain and pain.
“Nagging play, pain play, even chronic pain play is not an injury,” she tweeted.
“Injury is something that hurts you enough to keep you from competing. Trust me, I fucking know.”
The world number 56 missed most of 2020 and 2021 due to injuries but said he “played for 6 years with chronic Achilles tendon pain”.
As for Djokovic, he is “a machine and he can probably take more pain than others,” Saville said.