Novak Djokovic's abdominal injury was the talk of the tennis world after his five-set win over Taylor Fritz in the third round of the Australian Open - but one prominent figure says it could be all smoke and mirrors.
The Serbian world No.1 reportedly tore a muscle in his abdomen during his victory over American star Fritz on Friday, noticeably struggling during the third and fourth sets before rallying to win the deciding fifth frame.
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Speculation was rife as to the extent of the injury in the lead-up to Djokovic's fourth round match against Milos Raonic.
However news of Djokovic's injury, which required a medical timeout during the third round clash, was met with a degree of scepticism among certain high-profile figures.
Fritz said he thought Djokovic was fine throughout the deciding fifth set, while notorious Djokovic antagonist Nick Kyrgios mocked the reigning Australian Open champion for taking the medical timeout in the first place.
However perhaps the most damning criticism came from Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who suggested Djokovic was not above making his injuries appear worse as a means to get in the head of his opponents.
In an interview with Tennis Majors, Mouratoglou said while Djokovic had never 'faked' an injury, the Serbian star was not necessarily above embellishing the extent of any niggles he had.
“Sometimes, Novak plays a bit with the mind of the opponent when he’s in trouble, pretending he’s giving up. And then, boom, he plays again,” Mouratoglou said.
“He’s done that a lot of times in the past, OK, but he never fakes an injury.”
🗣️💬 @pmouratoglou : "Sometimes, Novak (Djokovic) plays a bit with the mind of the opponent when he's in trouble, pretending he's giving up. And then, boom, he plays again. He's done that a lot of time in the past, OK, but he never fakes an injury." #Thread #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/YetT845E2a
— Tennis Majors (@Tennis_Majors) February 14, 2021
Mouratoglou wasn't the only prominent tennis figure to suggest Djokovic was laying it on to an extent, with former Australian doubles champion Todd Woodbridge unconcerned by the reports of his injury.
“He’s going to be fine,” Woodbridge said prior to Djokovic's fourth round clash against Raonic.
“I’d say the rest of the field, watch out, because we've seen him do these types of things before - have a bit of a hiccup and still win majors.”
Thiem laments 'bad day' after Open exit
World No.3 Dominic Thiem was left to lament a combination of a bad day, physical issues and a red-hot Grigor Dimitrov after crashing out of the Australian Open fourth round.
Two days after completing a stunning five-set turnaround against Nick Kyrgios, Thiem copped a 6-4 6-4 6-0 thrashing, with Dimitrov ripping through the final set in just 21 minutes.
The third seed was reluctant to use tiredness from his third-round match as an excuse, instead writing the loss off as a mix of factors.
"(It was) a combination of some things, some little physical issues, plus a real bad day, plus the fact that, well, he's a great player," Thiem said.
"So a combination of those three things, and a result like that can happen.
"(I had) some little physical issues. I don't want to go closer to them. I don't want to find any excuses.
"But the thing also is that I'm also not a machine. I mean, sometimes I would like to be, but there are really, really bad days.
"As soon as you're not 100 per cent there on the court on this level, then results like this come up, and that's exactly what happened today."
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