Novak Djokovic has battled his way into the semi-finals at the Australian Open, but not before an ugly tantrum that saw him destroy his racquet and receive a code violation.
Djokovic says he is facing the greatest injury challenge of his grand slam career after securing a place in his ninth Australian Open semi-final.
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The World No.1 survived a gruelling slugfest against German Alexander Zverev to win their quarter-final 6-7 (8-6) 6-2 6-4 7-6 (8-6) on Tuesday night.
The eight-time Open champion recovered from breaks down in the third and fourth sets to conquer sixth-seeded Zverev in a high-quality match lasting three-and-a-half hours at Melbourne Park.
However it wasn't without fireworks as Djokovic obliterated a racquet in the third set during an ugly tantrum that actually turned the match on its head.
In a fiery moment, Djokovic blasted his racquet into a number of tiny pieces, forcing a ball girl to sweep up debris off the court.
He eventually fell behind 4-1 in the third, but the release of frustration sparked Djokovic's comeback to claim the set.
"It was a relief for me, but I wouldn't recommend this kind of relief channelling," Djokovic said.
"I'm not proud of these kind of moments....I have my own demons that I have to fight with, and I'm sure everybody else has them too."
Fans were also less than impressed with Djokovic's outburst.
Players smashing their racquet in frustration in tennis is rubbish. Tell them they have to keep using it. #AusOpen
— Adam Gilchrist (@gilly381) February 16, 2021
ATP, Novak and for that matter racquet makers - must address this issue of top players like Novak breaking expensive racquets in every match.. what example are these champs setting? kids are watching and elders are appalled. How are brands like Head/yonex accepting this disgrace?
— hari (@hapra44) February 16, 2021
Change rules to dock a game for racquet smash first offense. Absolutely disgusting
— Bryce Hammerton (@HammertonBryce) February 16, 2021
Djokovic is a arrogant aggressive prat, he feigned his injury as part of his bad sportsmanship attitude ! He smashed up his racket that must have cost hundreds of pounds and taken hours to make! His behaviour was disgraceful!
— Susan rose abbey (@Susanroseabbey1) February 16, 2021
Is the Aus open just gonna ignore his bearish outburst and racquet abuse? Honestly this Novax brown nosing is getting more and more pathetic by the day! And who does that kind of impactful movement with a supposed abdominal strain??? 🤡
— Ben Gray (@BenSkyWatcher1) February 16, 2021
Novak Djokovic's injury mystery deepens
Djokovic will now meet Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev, who is making a fairytale run on his grand slam debut, in a David and Goliath final-four match-up.
Djokovic has not been training in between matches as he attempts to recover from an abdominal strain.
"I have had a rollercoaster tournament," the 33-year-old said.
"I have never experienced this kind of injury during a grand slam and (been able to) keep going.
"The positive thing is that I actually felt the best from the beginning of the second set until the end of the match that I have since when the injury happened."
Since demolishing Jeremy Chardy in the first-round, Djokovic has spent more than 12 hours on court as he chases his 18th major title, which would put him just two behind Roger Federer's record.
In an ominous sign for his rivals, including world No.2 Rafael Nadal, Djokovic has won the first major of the year every time he has qualified for the semi-finals.
The result continues Zverev's drought of having never defeated a top-10 opponent at a grand slam.
The 23-year-old had a set-point in the fourth, but was unable to take the match into a deciding set as Djokovic pulled off a remarkable victory.
"Down to the last very last shot, it was anyone's game," Djokovic said.
"A lot of nerves out there, a lot of pressure and emotionally I feel a little bit drained. It was a great battle."
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