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Novak Djokovic shows Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal hunger with Australian Open injury claim

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Novak Djokovic admitted he wouldn’t be playing through the pain of his current injury if he wasn’t competing at a Grand Slam as he looks to hunt down Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The Serbian beat Milos Raonic in a little over three hours at the Australian Open on Sunday to book his spot in the quarter-finals.

It wasn’t even certain whether Djokovic would face Raonic at the Rod Laver Arena in the fourth round after he suffered an injury to his side in his third-round win over Taylor Fritz.

The Serbian admitted he seriously considered retiring from that match and said afterwards he thought he had torn a stomach muscle.

But he played through the problem against Raonic, winning 7-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to extend his head-to-head record against the big-serving Canadian to 12-0.

Djokovic now has another period of rest before facing German Alexander Zverev in the last eight in Melbourne in what will be another testing encounter, physically and mentally.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion is looking for a ninth triumph at the Australian Open to move two majors behind Federer and Nadal.

And he admitted that if he wasn’t playing at a Slam he would have withdrawn from the event, the world No 1 clearly displaying his desperation to peg back his two ‘Big Three’ rivals in the pursuit to go down as the greatest male player ever.

Discussing his injury to Eurosport after beating Raonic, Djokovic said: “Well [it’s] good enough to compete, to play. Obviously I wouldn’t be here standing, talking to you guys if I wasn’t in the condition that is sufficient for me to get on the court and give myself the chance to compete and win a match.

“Yeah I mean it’s not ideal. I’ve felt better, that’s for sure. I didn’t have much of a preparation for this match. I didn’t hit a tennis ball since two nights ago, since Fritz and the last match point there.

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“I warmed up a couple of hours before tonight’s match and I really wanted to see how I feel. If I wasn’t in the condition, I would pull out.

“There was a big cloud of doubt over whether I was going to play or not but it’s a Grand Slam and for me, at this stage of my career, this means everything.

“The four events of the year, I give everything I possibly have in me to have a chance to compete. If it wasn’t any other tournament, I probably wouldn’t be playing.”

Djokovic is solely focused on ensuring he is in the best physical shape possible against Zverev, who he is 5-2 against with the pair having only ever met at a Slam once, Djokovic winning in four sets at the French Open two years ago.

He added: “I’m not really sure whether it suited me that we didn’t have long exchanges. It probably did.

“Even though one of the most difficult things for me in the match-up against Fritz in the third set when that happened onwards, was to return, was to have that quick reaction.

“That was something I was concerned a little bit about today knowing I’m playing one of the best servers in the world. That was fine.

“Not getting into long rallies also kind of suited me. I was just also very solid in the crucial moments in the first and fourth set especially, when it mattered the most. I made him play an extra ball and miss a couple of first serves and gave me a chance to win it and I took it.

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“Right now, in my head, it’s all about recovery to be honest. I’m not really thinking about any training. I just really want to try to feel better, better and better as this tournament progresses.

“Because I’m under painkillers for more than 48 hours, very strong ones, I don’t know exactly the damage that has been done.

“There’s always more damage to what it was previously because when you’re playing a match, you can’t control your body, you’re going for it and not thinking about, ‘maybe I shouldn’t play this point or that point.’

“I’m an aggressive player in terms of movement, I slide a lot, so that doesn’t help with this kind of injury!

“I went to sleep around 4am, 4.30am, the other night after the last match [against Fritz]. I don’t think it’s going to be anything different tonight, maybe even longer.

“In the next 48 hours, the number one priority is to recover as much as possible and collect all the possible energy for the next match-up.”



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