Novak Djokovic has admitted he almost quit during his five-set tussle with Taylor Fritz on Friday night, while also conceding he's not sure if he'll be able to play in the next round.
The defending champion says that, "god willing", he hopes to line up in Sunday's fourth round match with Milos Raonic despite a suspected torn stomach muscle that almost derailed him against Fritz.
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"I know it's a tear, I don't know if I'll be able to recover from that in two days," Djokovic said after his titanic battle with Fritz, which ended in the early hours of Saturday morning.
"I don't know if I'll be able to step out on court, I don't know.
"I honestly don't know how I won that match. I'm very proud and at the same time sad and worried.
"I was hopeful whatever was happening there was going to feel better, and toward the end of the fourth it started to get better.
"I couldn't do much on the return I was just going for my shots and it managed to work."
The World No.1 admitted his chances are quite slim.
"Let's see," he told Mats Wilander on Eurosport.
"I don't have a great experience with (muscle) tears in terms of continuing in tournaments so it's kind of in the clouds for me at the moment whether I'm going to step out on the court in two days.
"I'm a bit worried because I don't know what's going on. I think it's a tear ... Hopefully, god willing I'll be able to play."
The eight-time Australian Open champion admitted he very nearly retired hurt, such was his distress when he called for the trainer while in agony in the third set.
"I knew right away that something not so great was happening," he said.
"I don't want to talk about the intensity or the level of injury and pain; it's not going to matter much because people don't understand what you go through on the court," he said.
"But the way it felt definitely at the beginning of that third set when I got my first medical time-out, I was debating really strongly in my head to retire because I couldn't move, I couldn't rotate, I couldn't return.
"The only thing I could do is serve - and that's what got me out of the trouble."
Djokovic says it’s a torn muscle. People are saying if it really is, 99% chance he’s done in the tournament.
The things to observe: will he say at some point “turns out it wasn’t a tear, but a (injury)?” If he wins AO with a torn muscle, then how did he do it? And finally...
— Andy Rolemberg (@RolembergAndre) February 12, 2021
Wimbledon gets cancelled with DJokovic as two times defending champion.
Hits a lineswoman and gets disqualified at the US Open.
Injury at #AusOpen.
Not the best of luck for Novak lately.
— Saša Ozmo (@ozmo_sasa) February 12, 2021
It’s so sad to see djokovic injured
— GenieCiciEli KikiAljonaBibi (@NoronhaWTA) February 12, 2021
This is a sad way for Djokovic to go out of the competition #AusOpen
— Football Einstein (@UnitedEsquee) February 12, 2021
Any idea when we expect to hear about the extent of the Djokovic injury? I've been researching for an hour about possible oblique injuries & recovery times, learnt a lot actually. #AusOpen
— DanRodenby (@DRodenbyTennis) February 12, 2021
Novak Djokovic hails special Australian Open win
Djokovic said the 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 victory under these circumstances was "one of the best moments I've had in my career."
He also reflected on a unique occasion which saw the match start in front of a boisterous crowd and end without spectators after they were directed to leave at 11.30pm with Victoria about to go into COVID-19 lockdown for five days.
"Nothing surprises me any more with what we're experiencing globally," said Djokovic, when asked what he felt about the enforced mid-match exodus.
"Obviously, it's a unique experience for me - to play half of the match in front of a crowd and half of the match without the crowd. I've never experienced anything like that before.
"I'm just hoping that, for my own sake, I'll be able to play and, for the sake of this tournament, we'll be able to have a crowd very quickly."
As for Fritz, the American said he would be surprised if Djokovic was unable to play his fourth round match against Raonic.
"He obviously wasn't looking too good in the third and the fourth sets, but I mean he looked pretty good to me in the fifth," Fritz said.
"If he can play like he played in the fifth, I don't see why he wouldn't play. He'll beat pretty much anyone."
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