Djoker ‘bullying’ Demon despite injury as ‘struggling’ Aussie’s tactics blasted — AO LIVE

Djoker ‘bullying’ Demon despite injury as ‘struggling’ Aussie’s tactics blasted — AO LIVE

Updated: 8 days, 16 hours, 6 minutes, 19 seconds ago

Novak Djokovic is getting a perfect tune-up for the Australian Open quarter-finals, with Alex de Minaur barely making the nine-time champion sweat.

Djokovic won nine consecutive games without showing a sign of his hamstring injury, inching closer to a 38th consecutive win on Aussie soil.

Follow Djokovic v de Minaur in the fourth round of the Australian Open in our live blog below!

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Both men received big cheers as they walked out onto the court - de Minaur getting slightly more support.

“I think he is as relaxed as he ever been walking into one of these matches,” Aussie tennis great Todd Woodbridge said on Nine.

Perhaps that attitude is down to his recent strong performances; de Minaur has won his last two matches against top-five players, beating Rafael Nadal in Sydney earlier this month and Daniil Medvedev in Paris last November.

However in each of his matches against top-five players at slams, de Minaur has won just seven games.

His coach Lleyton Hewitt praised a “great start” as de Minaur held to love for 1-1.

While Djokovic held twice to begin the match he was clearly frustrated on several occasions, with a surprising number of unforced errors - including at 30-30 and 2-1 as he threatened a break chance.

Perhaps that was down to his injury, with Jim Courier suggesting the Serb was playing aggressively to try and end points quickly.

“Alex might be holding back a little bit of his offensive capabilities right now - it doesn’t seem like Novak is. He seems like he is trying to keep these points nice and short,” Courier said on Nine.

Novak Djokovic was frustrated early.

Novak Djokovic was frustrated early.

Source: FOX SPORTS

De Minaur began to try and extend points and force Djokovic to move around the court, but wasn’t doing enough of it according to compatriot John Millman on commentary, calling his play “a little too central”.

Adding to that issue, de Minaur kept making mistakes, and was broken to love allowing Djokovic to lead 4-2. The Serb won 10 consecutive points.

De Minaur’s serving, a problem through the whole tournament, was also an issue as he had gotten just 56 per cent of his first serves in to this point.

He was again broken as Djokovic took 35 minutes to claim the first set 6-2.

De Minaur had to save a break point at 30-40 in his opening service game of the second set, doing so with a wide, unreturnable serve. But Djokovic quickly earned another and converted it for 2-0.

The Aussie was really struggling to force Djokovic into situations that would trigger any issue with his hamstring.

“24-shot rally but it’s still de Minaur that is doing all the work in the rallies,” Woodbridge explained.

“He is the one going corner to corner. And his ball going centrally through the court. Just having trouble with the heaviness (of the ball) that we have talked about.”

Djokovic earned another two break points at 15-40 and 3-0 but missed them both, then was forced into an error by a strong serve on a third, and simply sent a backhand long to miss a fourth.

A fifth opportunity, earned via a picture-perfect down the line return of serve, was finally claimed when de Minaur wobbled in a lengthy rally.

Djokovic soon won his ninth consecutive game for a 5-0 lead, before de Minaur broke the streak and held for 5-1. But it was nowhere close to enough as Djokovic held for a two-set lead.

The end was clearly near as Djokovic broke for 1-0 to begin the third set.

“He’s just relentless on his return of serve,” Lleyton Hewitt said on Nine.

Djokovic downs Dimitrov with ease | 01:06

MATCH PREVIEW

Djokovic has been managing a left hamstring complaint that surfaced en route to his title at the Adelaide International 1.

Throughout his first three matches, Djokovic has looked pained at times, pulling up lame after rallies and receiving treatment at changeovers.

“I am worried, I have reason to be worried,” Djokovic said earlier this week.

“But at the same time I have to accept the circumstances and try to adjust myself with my team. My physio and medical team has been doing everything possible so that I can be able to play every match.

“My situation with my injury is not ideal … I have to take it day by day.”

Tsitsipas survives Sinner comeback | 00:49

Djokovic appeared to struggle with the injury yet again on Saturday against Grigor Dimitrov, but ultimately prevailed in straight sets to set up a clash with de Minaur, who Djokovic dubbed “probably the quickest guy” on the tour.

Australian Open cult favourite and former finalist Marcos Baghdatis told reporters on Monday de Minaur has the right skillset to take advantage of Djokovic’s issues.

“He’s a very tough opponent, he runs for every ball, he has a great weird backhand flat like his coach Lleyton (Hewitt),” Baghdatis said.

“He’s a great fighter, you have to win against him, he will never give you the match, that’s his quality.

“He can cause Novak damage if Novak is a bit injured. He can run him out.”

Lleyton Hewitt with Alex de Minaur training this week. Pic: Michael Klein

Source: News Corp Australia

Aussie great Mark Philippoussis backed de Minaur to bring his best tennis.

“That guy is all heart, he’s an incredible fighter, he’s hitting the ball well, he’s one of the best movers on the court, we’re going to see tonight if there’s any issues on the physical side with Novak,” he said.

“It’s going to be a very physical match, he’s going to keep the rallies going, that’s what he does, he loves to play defence and is also a great counter puncher and he’s going to be up for it tonight.”

The world No.4’s hamstring is likely to be pushed to the maximum by de Minaur, who is renowned for his hustle and defence and is already buoyed by a breakthrough win over world No.2 Rafael Nadal in the lead-up to his home major.

Despite considerable coverage around Djokovic’s health, de Minaur has insisted he’s “not going to read into too much of that injury.”

The Australian has not faced Djokovic since going pro in 2015 and will be aiming his first quarter-final at the Australian Open and his second at a major, with his best result a run to the quarterfinals at the 2020 US Open.

He fell to eventual champion Dominic Thiem in straight sets.

“Ultimately he‘s one of the best players in the world, and I’m just going to have to take it to him and not shy away from the occasion,” de Minaur said of the challenge Djokovic presents.

“I‘m going to make sure to make it as tough as I can and just bring the recent experience I’ve had on court and how I’ve been feeling.

“Just ultimately it‘s not shy away from the opportunity and the occasion. I mean, these are the matches I want.

“It‘s going to be exciting. I will get fired up, get the crowd behind me, and I’ll definitely have a good time.”

Djoker receives message in a bottle? | 00:50

It isn’t the first time Djokovic has dealt with an injury concern at the Australian Open, with his last campaign here in 2021 also fraught with adversity.

Then, Djokovic pulled up lame during a third-round match against Taylor Fritz, with what he later said was a “muscle tear”.

Djokovic won that match against Fritz in five sets and went on to win his ninth Australian Open title and subsequently took an extended break after the tournament to recover.

That the 21-time grand slam champion has braved injury en route to major titles before has some questioning the severity of this year’s hamstring concern.

Such has been the skepticism around Djokovic’s injury that former coach Boris Becker has weighed in on the saga.

“I’ve known him for a long time and I know that he has problems,” Becker told Eurosport.

“Novak can grit his teeth when it comes to important points, but he also lets it go in less important moments.

“Sometimes you think he’s bluffing or can’t finish the game. It’s a bit of heaven and hell. That also makes it difficult for the opponent. But Novak wouldn’t behave like that if he had nothing.”

Despite his battles, Djokovic remains undefeated at Melbourne Park since a third-round loss in 2018, on a 24-match winning streak at the Australian Open and a 36-match winning streak in Australia.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 8 – ORDER OF PLAY (All times AEDT)

Only Singles matches listed

Rod Laver Arena

Night session from 7pm

[22] Alex de Minaur (AUS) v [4] Novak Djokovic (SRB) 2-6 1-6

Follow the Australian Open in the live blog below!

Dokic lowkey grills Novak for a laugh | 01:10

DJOKOVIC’S INJURY HISTORY

US Open Quarterfinal v Andy Roddick - 2008

The medical controversy here actually starts in Djokovic’s fourth-round encounter with Tommy Robredo.

The Serbian at this point in time, prior to his breakout year and turning point in 2011, was a talented but controversial challenger to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s dominance, with his ability often overshadowed by his on and off-court antics, which included impressions of fellow stars who didn’t take too kindly to his re-enactments.

During his win over Robredo, which he won in five sets, Djokovic took two medical timeouts and yet again drew the ire of fellow players.

Roddick, in a press conference before their quarterfinal encounter, jokingly said Djokovic had overcome two hurt ankles as well as a “back (injury), and a rib and a cramp, bird flu, anthrax, SARS, common cough and cold.”

“He’s either quick to call the trainer or he’s the most courageous guy of all time. It’s up for you guys to decide,” Roddick said.

After the match, which Djokovic won in four sets, an equally-entertaining on-court interview saw Djokovic tee off at Roddick for his comments, which the parochial New York audience didn’t take kindly too.

“I know they’re already against me because they think I’m faking everything,” he said as the jeers increased.

“That’s not nice anyhow to say in front of this crowd to say I have 16 injuries and I’m faking. I have nothing against anybody, it’s just that it wasn’t nice.”

Years later, Roddick revealed he put Djokovic up against a locker in a post-match confrontation before backing off after seeing the size of Djokovic’s trainer.

Djokovic triumphed over Tommy Robredo before his controversial clash with Andy Roddick (Pic: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP)

Source: AFP

US Open Final v Rafael Nadal - 2011

After retiring during a US Open lead-in event with an apparent shoulder injury, Djokovic looked fine during the grand slam a week later, continuing his remarkable 2011 campaign and making it to the final to face Rafael Nadal after saving two match points to defeat Roger Federer in the semi-finals.

Having already defeated Nadal in their previous five 2011 encounters, Djokovic pulled out to a two-set lead before Nadal, who defeated Djokovic in the corresponding match the year before, drew on all his might to take a gripping third set in a tiebreaker.

Heading into the fourth set with the momentum squarely in Nadal’s corner, Djokovic called for a medical timeout to receive treatment for a sore lower back, rib pains and leg cramps.

As the ever-raucous New York crowd began jeering Djokovic for the decision, the world number one waved his hands, sarcastically asking for them to pile into him even more.

Like he did against Fritz in his Australian Open encounter last week, the wounded Djokovic came out hitting more aggressively than ever, which in this match powered him to a 6-1 win to take home the US Open trophy and extending his extraordinary season win-loss record to 64-2.

“I knew I’m not physically there,” Djokovic said after the game.

“I had to take chances.”

Shanghai Masters Final v Juan Martin Del Potro, 2013

Up against gentle giant Juan Martin Del Potro, Djokovic came out in irresistible form, racing to take the first set 6-1.

As Djokovic began serving in the second set, however, a baffling game saw him stumble over his own feet during several points, twisting his body as if he’d been reborn as a pantomime.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve never, ever, ever seen a game like this,” commentator Mark Petchey noted.

Djokovic’s bizarre antics led to this episode being dubbed ‘Drunk Novak’ by the tennis fraternity, but he sobered up in record time, rebounding from losing the second set to take the third, and the title, via a dominant performance in the tiebreak.

Djokovic had some bizarre moments in Shanghai in 2013.

Source: Supplied

Australian Open Final v Andy Murray - 2015

After winning the first set in a tiebreak, Djokovic recalled his bizarre stumbling episode of 2013 when he began collapsing after shots and struggled to walk in a straight line on occasions.

One of these games, which came in the second game of the second set, Djokovic only appeared to stumble after losing points.

Djokovic would eventually prevail in four sets to claim his fifth Australian Open crown (7-6 6-7 6-3 6-0) and Murray admitted afterwards Djokovic’s apparent issues had played on his mind.

“The third set was frustrating because I got a bit distracted when he fell on the ground after a couple of shots,” he said.

“It appeared that he was cramping, and then I let that distract me a little bit. That’s what I’m most disappointed about – not so much the fourth set because I think, especially at the end of it, he was just going for everything, and it was going in.”

Asked if Djokovic’s issue was legitimate, the often-candid Murray responded bluntly.

“No, it’s not legitimate. I have no idea what the issue was. He obviously looked like he was in quite a bad way at the beginning of the third set and came back unbelievable at the end of that set,” he said.

“Then, obviously, the way he was hitting the ball in the fourth and moving was impressive ... If it was cramp, that’s a tough thing to recover from and play as well as he did at the end.”

Speaking after the win, Djokovic said he had a physical “crisis”, noting: “I just felt very exhausted and I needed some time to regroup and recharge and get back on track. That’s what I did.”

Djokovic ultimately prevailed against Andy Murray in the 2015 final (Picture:Wayne Ludbey)

Source: News Corp Australia

US Open Final v Stan Wawrinka - 2016

Down two sets to one, Djokovic found himself trailing by a break early in the fourth set when he called for treatment on his toes.

After one medical timeout that lasted around six minutes, he took another before serving to stay in the match at 2-5.

John McEnroe, commentating for ESPN, pointed out that if Djokovic had leg cramps he wasn’t able to request a medical timeout.

While Djokovic would insist after that his toenails were “off and bleeding”, McEnroe’s brother Patrick labelled the timeout (for what he believed to be cramp at the time” a “complete abuse of the rules” ... up to the officials to do something about it, but they don‘t have the guts.”

Djokovic apologised to Wawrinka, who initially complained during one of the timeouts, saying he “couldn’t stand” and would go on to lose the fourth set as Wawrinka claimed his third grand slam title.

Stan Wawrinka defeated Djokovic in the 2016 US Open final (Elsa/Getty Images/AFP)

Source: AFP

Australian Open Final v Dominic Thiem - 2020

After Djokovic took the first set 6-4, Dominic Thiem gradually turned the tide in his favour, drawing on his heavy hitting and crowd support to take the next two sets and put Djokovic on the ropes.

Trailing 1-4 in that third set, Djokovic received treatment and would eventually leave the court for a medical timeout, which left commentators puzzled.

“Every time I threw the ball for my service my head was spinning and I had no more energy,” Djokovic said after his eventual five set victory.

“I tried to recover energy and fortunately I was better afterwards.”

Against Roger Federer in the semi-finals, Djokovic also required treatment between the first and second sets.

French Open quarterfinal v Pablo Carreno Busta - 2020

The most recent of the Djokovic injury oddities prior to his Australian Open incident, the world number one was up against 17th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in a rematch of their now-infamous fourth round US Open battle where the Serb was defaulted for hitting a lineswoman with a ball.

Entering the French Open encounter with bandage on his neck and cradling his left arm on several occasions during the match, Djokovic looked constrained as the world No.18 took the opening set 6-4.

Djokovic called on the trainer to work on his upper arm and had masseur work during changeovers, before eventually coming through to win the next three sets 6-2 6-3 6-4.

Speaking after the loss, Carreno Busta delivered a shot across the bow in his press conference when asked about Djokovic’s medical timeout.

“He didn’t surprise me (asking for the timeout). It’s a good thing. It’s a sign that he is losing and that I was playing well, because he always does that,” he said.

“It’s something that he has been doing for years. When he is down, he asks for the trainer.”

Djokovic said post-game that Carreno Busta played well, bit it took him “about a set and a half to really get comfortable and start really playing the way I should”.

After winning the quarter-final, Djokovic went on to make the final before being soundly beaten by rival Rafael Nadal.

Australian Open third round v Taylor Fritz - 2021

Djokovic appeared to injure himself in the third set of the match against Fritz, with the Serbian losing the third and fourth sets before prevailing in the fifth in a match that lasted three hours and 25 minutes.

Letting out a primal roar as the final ball from Fritz’s racquet sailed long, Djokovic said post-game that it was one of the “most special wins” in his career before casting doubt over whether he’d be able to take to the court against fourth round opponent Milos Raonic.

Fritz said post-game that Djokovic only seemed impaired after he had lost points.

Djokovic continued to progress through the tournament and said after his semi-final win over Aslan Karatsev he “felt great” and that it was “the best match so far” in terms of pain since the injury.

“I am surprised the way I felt tonight. I think it surpassed my greatest wishes,” he said.

“I just have … this pretty good ability to recover fast.

“The way I felt today I like my chances and I’m definitely going to go for a title.”

Djokovic would seal that title - his ninth Australian Open - with a straight sets demolition of Daniil Medvedev.