Novak Djokovic described his third-round win over Taylor Fritz as one of the best of his career. But the match ended with real doubts lingering over the Serbian’s chances of winning the title. Both players performed excellently, with Djokovic coming through 7-6 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 in an intense battle, but it was an injury picked up by the world #1 that saw the match stretch into a fifth set.
Despite the match being levelled at two sets all, a wounded Djokovic refused to give up. Clearly hampered by an apparent tear in his side, his movement was very restricted and he looked hurt in every shot he made. Heading into the fifth set, it was looking as if Djokovic was heading out.
However, he showed the world why he’s been at the top of the men’s game for so many years. Fighting through the pain, he broke Fritz twice in the fifth set to seal victory. His reaction at the end said it all, treating the win as if it was his first grand slam title. He then went on to claim afterwards that it was one of the biggest victories of his career. As inspiring as this was, it really shows how severe knew his injury was.
Milos Raonic will always be a tough player to face no matter the circumstances. His serve is one of the best the game has ever seen, and he has an exceptional forehand to back it up. His return game has improved greatly over the years and his net play is dangerous. The Australian Open is also a tournament where he has performed well in the past, reaching the semifinals in 2016 where he took Andy Murray to five sets. While Djokovic has handled him well in the past, this won’t be an easy fourth-round match.
Given Djokovic’s injury struggles, this won’t be a comfortable match for him should he decide to play. Raonic will be hammering down serves all day at him and will pressuring the serve of Djokovic. If Novak’s movement is restricted, it could be a very tricky encounter to win.
Reportedly, Goran Ivanisevic has said that Djokovic will not be training today before his meeting with Raonic and is seeking further medical advice. This doesn’t bode well for the eight time champion. If the injury is more severe than we first thought, he may not want to risk causing further damage to his body.
It would be a huge disappointment for the sport if Djokovic is unfit to play. His reign over this tournament has been one of the most impressive displays of dominance tennis has ever seen, and being prevented from winning another title here will be gutting for the world #1. He will undoubtedly do everything in his power to put himself in a position to compete.
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt about Djokovic over his career, it’s that he can never be counted out. If he declares himself fit to play Raonic, do not expect a conservative performance. He will be raring to go and determined not to give Raonic any free points. Even when not at 100%, Djokovic is one of the best at finding a way to pull through and emerge victorious.
This is a difficult one to call due to the unusual circumstances surrounding the situation, so only time will tell. If the match goes ahead, Raonic will be looking to exploit Djokovic’s injury and make him move as much as he can. The longer the points are, the trickier it will be for Djokovic to survive. However, if he’s in less pain and the injury is subdued, the long points won’t matter. It all comes down to how he feels before the match.
The following hours will be nervous for Djokovic while he awaits to see how he is feeling. If he’s ready for it, he will no doubt offer up a highly competitive affair. If he finds a way past Raonic, it will still come down to his side injury and whether he can compete with the rest of the draw as the tournament marches on.
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