Aussie tennis star Arina Rodionova has taken a particularly cheeky shot at Novak Djokovic over the saga revolving around his injured hamstring at the Australian Open earlier this year. The 33-year-old made reference to speculation about the seriousness of Djokovic's on his way to a record 10th title at Melbourne Park.
Rodionova had hamstring injuries at top of mind after she was forced to withdraw from the quarter-final of an ITF event on home soil against fellow aspiring star, Olivia Gadecki. A hamstring complaint appeared to be the reason why, with Rodionova posting an image of her training with a heavily strapped thigh on her Instagram soon afterwards.
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"So I have a 3cm tear in my hamstring and I've done some research, I should be good to go tomorrow," was the caption of the post. The World No.302, along with much of the tennis world, couldn't help but be intrigued when an injured Djokovic made a decisive run to the title.
It was reported after the Djokovic's triumph over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final that the Serbian champion had sustained a 3cm tear in his hamstring in the lead-up to the Australian Open. After some wobbly moments in the early rounds, the now World No.1 absolutely dominated in the semi-final and final.
However the post soon took a dark turn, with a follow-up post from Rodionova decrying a barrage of abusive messages she had been sent in the wake of her jab at Djokovic.
"Not sure why I am getting all the death threats from Novak's fans," she wrote. "For some reason people think I was joking about the injury.
"Tears in hamstrings are not a joking matter, people go to the hospital for those, and can't walk for days, you guys. Shame on you for turning this into a joke.
"Some can win slams but the rest of us need to take time off."
Faced with extensive questioning about the true extent of the injury, both Djokovic and his team have defended his run as one that came against the odds. At one point, Djokovic said it was only his injuries that prompted questions of legitimacy when other players were more readily accepted.
“I leave the doubting to those people – let them doubt,” he said. “Only my injuries are questioned. When some other players are injured, then they are the victims, but when it is me, I am faking it.
"It is very interesting. I don’t feel that I need to prove anything to anyone."
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Djokovic also had his defenders in coach Goran Ivanisevic, as well as his former coach Boris Becker. Ivanisevic rated Djokovic's 10th Australian Open title as 'definitely his best' grand slam victory, with the aforementioned injury crucial to why he held it in such esteem.
The coach had been 'scared' during Djokovic's third round victory over Grigor Dimitrov, fearful his tournament run could end at any moment and jeopardise the rest of his season.
“This is definitely the best win for Novak. Not just because of what happened last year, but also because of the last three weeks," he said.
"I thought I’d seen everything when he won here in 2021, but this one was unbelievable. To play like that everyday, better and better, it’s so impressive.
“97% of the players would have pulled out upon the MRI scan. He’s from another planet, the way he works. He gave everything. I didn’t expect this; I was shocked. Against Dimitrov, I was scared, but he came through it all."
However the claims of a tear have left many Australian fans raising an eyebrow, particularly considering the numerous matches won in straight sets in the second week of the tournament. There had been speculation throughout the Australian Open as to whether the injury was actually legitimate, however Tiley insisted he had been shown scans indicating the seriousness of the injury.
Those claims have still had some scepticism associated with them however. Former Socceroos, Cricket Australia and Liverpool team doctor, Dr Peter Brukner, told radio station RSN that it was possible the hamstring tear was on the more manageable side of things.
“There are different types of hamstring tears – without going into great detail, your standard one is a tear in the middle of the hamstring; you stop as if you’re shot. That’s a three to four week sort of hamstring,” he said.
“There is another type that’s a tear on the periphery of the muscle; we call a myofascial tear. We sort of consider that maybe a 10 to 14 day sort of injury. I presume that’s the type of injury that Djokovic had.
“By my calculation there were exactly 10 days from the time he did it until his first game in the Aus Open on the Tuesday.”
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