Djokovic says critics accusing him of a “fake” injury are fueling Melbourne’s run

Novak Djokovic has responded to critics accusing him of “faking” a hamstring injury by saying it boosts his motivation to win the Australian Open title.

The condition of the Serbian’s left leg was the main topic of conversation at Melbourne Park after he arrived at the tournament recovering from an injury and then took medical breaks in his second and third round matches.

But he still won both and then sent off Alex De Minaur with a ruthless fourth round display on Monday, losing only five matches.

Speaking to Serbian media in quotes reported by Tennismajors.com, Djokovic responded to those who asked if he was really injured, saying: “I leave the doubts to those people – let them doubt.

“Only my injuries are in question. When other players are injured, they are the victims, but when it’s me, I pretend. This is very interesting. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone.

“I have an MRI, ultrasound and everything else, both from two years ago and now. Whether I post it on my document or on social media depends on how I feel. Maybe I’ll do it, maybe not.

“Right now, I don’t care what people think and say. It’s fun, it’s interesting to see how the narrative around me unfolds, (a) a narrative that is different from other players who have gone through similar situations.

“But I’m used to it and it gives me extra strength and motivation. So I thank them for that.”

Two years ago, Djokovic suffered an abdominal muscle injury during his third round match against Taylor Fritz before winning the title. There were other matches, notably the 2015 final against Andy Murray, where he seemed to be fighting hard just to recover and win.

But he was not always able to play through injuries. He retired during the 2017 Wimbledon quarter-finals due to an elbow problem, while at the 2019 US Open a shoulder problem led him to pull the plug in the fourth round.

His most recent loss in Australia, in the fourth round to Chung Hyeon in 2018, prompted him to undergo elbow surgery.

Novak Djokovic withdrew from a match at Wimbledon in 2017 due to an elbow problem

Novak Djokovic withdrew from Wimbledon match in 2017 due to elbow problem (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The reaction can be compared to that of Rafael Nadal, who finished the French Open on crutches last year due to a chronic foot problem and was widely praised for his efforts to win another title.

Djokovic may also have had extra motivation against De Minaur due to the Australian’s reaction to his attempts at the Australian Open last year.

De Minaur complained that the deportation saga was a distraction from other players and said: “Like any other tennis player, if you wanted to come to the country, you had to be double vaccinated. It was up to him, his choices, his judgment.”

Speaking of the Australian, Djokovic said: “I respect him as a rival, a colleague because I respect everyone. I have no problem contacting him, congratulating him, etc. But I don’t have any other relationship. I do not have any contact with him. In 2022, he showed what he thinks of me.

When asked about Djokovic’s injury, De Minaur said: “I think everyone can see what has been going on for a few weeks. It’s the only thing everyone talks about.

“I was there in court against him. Either I’m not a good enough tennis player to reveal it, or it looked good.

The 23-year-old took to social media on Tuesday to express his frustration with reporting his comments.

“I hate how the media always creates controversy and takes things out of context to make headlines,” he wrote. “Yesterday I was defeated and outclassed. Maybe we’ll focus on tennis for once. I’ll go back to work and get better, you can count on that. Thank you, Australia.”

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