Novak Djokovic: ‘I thought I would not be able to play’

A nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is through to his 15th fourth round in Melbourne. However, the top favorite had to deal with three rivals and a hamstring injury he picked up in Adelaide. Djokovic was not confident about playing the Australian Open, with his left leg causing many troubles. However, he battled past three opponents to remain in contention, hoping for a better run against Alex de Minaur. Novak felt good against Roberto Carballes Baena in the first round, delivering a bagel in the third set and marching over the top. The Serb missed his chances in the second set against Enzo Couacaud, losing it in the tie break before taking charge and bringing the victory home.

The real test came in the third round, and Novak passed it despite an evident struggle. Djokovic needed a medical timeout in a 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Grigor Dimitrov in three hours and six minutes. Both players had more winners than unforced errors, and Grigor was more aggressive. Djokovic delivered five breaks and lost serve three times to emerge at the top and set the clash against Alex de Minaur. Novak prevailed in the opener and gave his best in the following two sets to seal the deal in straights and preserve energy ahead of another challenging duel.

Novak Djokovic struggled with an injury against Grigor Dimitrov.

“I made a good start in all three matches, feeling well. However, the leg started to get worse after some moves, and the pills did not always work either. It was a roller coaster. To deal with my opponent and an injury requires a lot of mental and physical strength, but it is what it is. I’m grateful for being able to play. Before the tournament, I thought that would not be possible. I’m still here and still holding on. I felt good against Grigor initially. Then it went up and down with my leg. I found a way to win an exciting match after over three hours.

We could have gone the distance if I had lost one of these sets and played for God knows how long. We already had some matches over five hours during this tournament, and this looked to be another one. I’m just very fortunate to get through in straight sets. I did not want to pull out of the tournament because I wanted to see how it would feel on the court. The first match was good, and I struggled a lot in the second. I had a few terrible moments against Grigor, but I survived and pulled it through. I do not know what awaits me in the next match, but I’m hoping for the best,” Novak Djokovic said.