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Australian Open 2023: Why Novak Djokovic is world class even in pain

Novak Djokovic did not run smoothly at all.

After the first sentencing, the Serb had to be treated longer for the first time, his face grimacing in pain. A similar picture emerged in the final stage of the third set and during and shortly after a few rallies it was clear to see that his left thigh was giving him trouble.

“It’s a certain movement that triggers it. I prayed it didn’t happen this time, but it happens every game. I have to deal with it. I call the physio and I take pills. This isn’t ideal, but it’s about finding a way,” explains Djokovic in the Eurosport interview.

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As a spectator, however, you had to fear the worst, or to put it another way: the match would be abandoned.

Djokovic exclusively on a thigh problem: “Every game happens”

Indeed, Djokovic won the Rod Laver Arena match in three sets against a very good Grigor Dimitrov. So wasn’t that as bad for the 35-year-old as it looked?

Becker defends Djokovic: ‘He knows he has problems’

The reading that Djokovic exaggerates or uses his pain tactically contradicts this Boris Becker at Eurosport vehemently.

It may be ‘annoying’ to some viewers that ‘Novak moves normally during rallies and then runs like he’s injured’, admits the 55-year-old, who coached Djokovic from 2013-2016.

“World class!” Dimitrov thwarts Djokovic with a backhand jump

“But I’ve known him for a long time and I know he has problems with his thighs,” says Becker. “Novak can grit his teeth on important points, but also let go in less important moments.”

Becker speaks of “heaven and hell”

Kevin Krawietzdouble Grand Slam champion in doubles, was surprised by the appearance of the fifth in the world rankings in the Eurosport studio.

“You don’t know how showy it is. But I don’t want to accuse him of anything because he’s really in pain,” the 30-year-old said. Becker shares Krawietz’s view. “Sometimes you think he’s bluffing or he can’t finish the game.”

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There’s a bit of “heaven and hell,” admits Becker. “It also makes it difficult for the opponent.” On the other hand, it speaks to Djokovic’s sincerity that he is open to playing with painkillers. “Most of the other players take it too, but don’t say anything.”

Rittner recalls 2021: “Already seen for Djokovic”

Barbara Rittner, Eurosport specialist wonders if Djokovic’s performance is reminiscent of that at the Australian Open two years ago, when the exceptional player tore an abdominal muscle in the third round. “It’s like deja vu, but in the end he still won the tournament,” said the national coach.

Even then, this tenacity aroused suspicion. “I know there’s a lot of speculation that people are wondering if I’m injured and how I can recover so quickly because it’s impossible. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Djokovic replied. to his detractors.

Decisive thriller! Djokovic and Dimitrov rip fans out of their seats

The Serb “learned to deal with pain. He knows his body well and is incredibly aware of it,” says Rittner. The chance to equal Rafael Nadal’s record 22 Grand Slam titles in Melbourne is a huge boost. “Novak doesn’t want to give up and fight – he wants to win the tournament for the tenth time.”

Djokovic: The Australian Open was on the brink

Shortly before the Australian Open it looked like it wouldn’t be possible, Djokovic now admits. “I’m just very grateful to be able to play. From what it looked like just before the tournament started, I didn’t think it would be possible.”

For the gallery! Djokovic plays around the net

To achieve his big dream, the superstar still needs to win four games, including the round of 16 on Monday against hometown hero Alex de Minaur, in tough conditions. It “doesn’t look good at all, to be honest,” Djokovic admitted after his second-round win over Enzo Couacaud in an interview with Eurosport journalist Barbara Schett.

That shouldn’t stop Djokovic from winning his matches in the second week of the tournament either.

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