Legendary tennis player and outspoken commentator John McEnroe has hit out at Novak Djokovic before Sunday night's Australian Open final against Daniil Medvedev.
Djokovic is chasing a record-extending ninth title at Melbourne Park and an 18th overall major - a feat that would put him just two shy of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's all-time record haul.
Serbia's World No.1 has been a polarising figure at the year's first grand slam with tennis fans questioning the extent of his injury concerns.
Djokovic insisted after his third round match against American Taylor Fritz that he was suffering from an abdominal tear and may not be able to play another match.
Not only did he play the next match, Djokovic disposed of Canadian Milos Raonic in the fourth round, Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals and surprise packet Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals.
Djokovic said after the Karatsev match that it was the best he'd felt all tournament, which merely heightened scepticism about his injury from within the tennis world.
Speaking on video hook-up before Sunday's final, McEnroe tried to explain the perception that many observers have that the Serbian's injury issues come when he's up against it in a match.
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) February 21, 2021
McEnroe says he believes part of Djokovic's mindset is the need to be loved like his great rivals Federer and Nadal are around the world.
“He’s always trying to get the same level of respect of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who are two of the greatest class acts and players of all-time. So that’s been difficult for him,” McEnroe said on Nine.
“I had a similar thing back in my day trying to get the respect of Borg and Connors. And he’s done for the most part an absolutely tremendous job.
“But sometimes when he feels disrespected he tries to get, this is my theory, those injuries come. He probably isn’t 100 per cent but he plays it for all it’s worth and I don’t blame him for a second, he plays within the rules.
“All of a sudden he beats Taylor Fritz in five sets, will he even finish the tournament? Will he play against Raonic? Yes he will play against him and somehow he comes back with a miraculous recovery in the semi-finals, and watch out in the finals.
Djokovic went into Sunday night's decider against Medvedev as the raging favourite, having never lost in any of his previous finals at Melbourne Park.
However, red-hot Russian third seed Medvedev has a huge chance to create his own history and extend his stunning winning streak to 21 matches.
Medvedev has not tasted defeat since November and has won three of his last four matches against Djokovic - including a straight sets thumping in the ATP Finals in London.
Djokovic perfect in previous Aus Open finals
As well as a flawless eight from eight finals wins at Melbourne Park, Djokovic will also be playing his 28th Grand Slam final. It will be the Russian's second.
"Of course it contributes to more confidence, prior to coming into the finals, knowing that I never lost in the finals or semi-finals just makes me feel more comfortable being on the court," Djokovic said.
"But each year is different, although it does have a mental effect on me. Maybe on my opponents, I don't know, but on me it does definitely have a positive effect.
"But it's not a decisive factor in the way the match is going to go forward, because each year is different."
Medvedev, who has dropped just two sets so far, knows that despite having all the momentum, he goes into the final as the underdog.
"He's the favourite because he didn't lose. On eight occasions that he was here in the semis he won the tournament," said the 25-year-old.
"Me, I'm... the challenger, the guy that challenges the guy who was eight times in the final and won eight times. And I'm happy about it.
"I know that to beat him you need to just show your best tennis, be at your best physically maybe four or five hours, and be at your best mentally maybe for five hours," he added.
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