Ever since he won his match against Taylor Fritz despite picking up an abdominal injury two days ago, Novak Djokovic kept the tennis world in expectation of a possible withdrawal as he felt it was a ‘tear’.
I have felt better, that’s for sure. I didn’t have much preparation for this match. I didn’t hit a tennis ball since two nights ago and the last match point Novak Djokovic
He didn’t practice on Saturday and no doubt requested a late match to give himself as much time to heal as possible.
The mystery remains as to what the injury was for he did turn up to face Mils Raonic for a place in the quarter-finals showing only brief moments that he was carrying any form of pain.
The world number one, who has a reputation of feigning such things, was strong and fit enough to take on the big serving Canadian and despite dropping a set, pulled himself into the quarter-finals, 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 6-1.
Explaining his situation later on Eurosport, Djokovic said he pushed himself because it was a grand slam but, had it been any other event, he would have withdrawn.
“It’s not ideal,” the 33-year-old said. “I have felt better, that’s for sure. I didn’t have much preparation for this match. I didn’t hit a tennis ball since two nights ago and the last match point.
“I have warmed up a couple of hours before tonight’s match and I really wanted to see how I would feel. If I wasn’t in the condition I would pull out. It was a big cloud of doubt over whether I was going to play or not.
“But it’s a Grand Slam and for me at this stage of my career this means everything. Four events of the year I give everything I possibly have in me to have a chance to compete, so if it was any other tournament I probably wouldn’t be playing.”
Djokovic will now play his 12th AO quarter final against Sascha Zverev on Tuesday with the Serbian aiming to win the men’s singles title at Melbourne Park for a record ninth time.
While Raonic had the potential to be a tricky match-up for Djokovic, Zverev will present a better test of the world number one’s fitness having totted up his 50th grand slam victory when he defeated Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic in straight sets.
The sixth seed was tested in the first two sets but found it easier in the third, sealing his 6-4 7-6(5) 6-3 victory with an ace.
“I’m happy with the three-sets win, especially in the beginning it could have gone both ways,” Zverev admitted.
“He was playing amazing tennis, I thought.”
Lajovic, the 23rd seed, found a groove in the second set after being outplayed in the first, but could not come through in a tense tie-break.
Zverev closed out victory in comprehensive fashion in the third set as he continued his fine form at the first Grand Slam of the new season.
The 23-year-old has dropped only one set en route to the last eight and he will need to be on top form to beat the defending champion, injured or not.