Novak Djokovic has opened up on the toll the pressure of being compared to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal can take on the World No.1 after a heartfelt admission following his victory over Milos Raonic.
Djokovic has once again divided the tennis world after the World No.1 said his bid for a record ninth Australian Open title was in serious doubt after claiming he suffered an abdominal tear, which occurred during his match against Taylor Fritz, could be too much to overcome against the big serving Canadian.
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But the 17-time Grand Slam champ fuelled further scepticism over his fitness by refusing to confirm details of his mysterious abdominal injury after powering his way to a 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory and into the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Many questioned the severity of his injury, despite appearing to be in pain throughout the match against Raonic.
But Djokovic opened up about the pressure and the toll constant criticism can take on him.
The 17-time Grand Slam was asked, in Serbian, why he felt his victory against Fritz (injured) was portrayed differently to Federer's victory against Tennys Sandgren last year at the Australian Open when he was also injured.
“That’s like opening Pandora’s box. If we begin to discuss that, we won’t finish this evening. Presumably there are millions of different reasons,” Djokovic said, according to Tennis Majors.
“Truthfully, I have mostly made peace with it. I cannot say that it doesn’t sometimes get to me – of course an injustice or an unfair portrayal by the media affects me. I am a human being, I have emotions and naturally I don’t enjoy it.
"I would sincerely like to have a good relationship with them, but it seems that this is not always possible. I do my best to focus on the positive things and the positive articles.”
“I have the power only to control that which I am doing, not that which others are writing about me, how they judge or criticise me. After all, that is up to them and has nothing to do with me, I can’t influence it.
"I’ve been on the tour now for more than 15 years and anyone who has followed tennis knows my evolution both as a player and as a person. I have never had a problem with expressing what is on my mind and that is something which some people may not like.”
Tennis world in the dark over Djokovic injury
The World No.1 drew more criticism during his four-set victory over Raonic after some claimed he couldn't have performed that well if he had an abdominal tear.
Serena Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was one to question whether Djokovic had made the injury sound worse than it appeared.
But Djokovic said if it wasn't a Grand Slam tournament, he might have withdrawn due to the extent of his injury.
Looking at his performance so far vs Raonic, it is difficult to believe that Novak has an abdominal muscle tear... https://t.co/z9ffpafvCG
— Patrick Mouratoglou (@pmouratoglou) February 14, 2021
"I didn't hit a tennis ball yesterday ... I tried to use every single hour possible to recover and give myself at least a little bit of a chance to step on the court, which I have done," Djokovic said.
"As I said on the court, if I'm part of any other tournament other than a grand slam, I definitely wouldn't be playing.
"But it's a grand slam. It matters a lot to me at this stage of my career, of course.
"I want to do everything possible in this very short amount of time to get on the court."
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