Australian Open: Djokovic glad to silence critics with trophy, confirms torn oblique

By Sports Desk February 21, 2021

Novak Djokovic believes he silenced his critics by triumphing at the Australian Open after finishing the tournament with a torn oblique muscle. 

Djokovic clinched a record-extending ninth Australian Open title and 18th major overall with a 7-5 6-2 6-2 thrashing of Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev on Sunday. 

The Serbian faced criticism before the tournament over a list of requests for players who were in quarantine due to coronavirus, while also being questioned over the severity of the oblique injury suffered during a third-round win over Taylor Fritz. 

Djokovic felt the backlash was unfair, but believes he answered in the best way possible by winning the title in Melbourne again. 

"Of course, it's not nice to hear that. I mean, it also seems unfair from some people that kind of criticise and judge without really checking before," the world number one told a news conference. 

"But as I said, it's not really the first time. I have so much experience with this because it happened so many times in my life, in my career, that I experience that. It will probably not be the last one. 

"Look, at the end of the day everyone who has the stage has the right to say what they want to say. It's a matter on my side whether I'm going to react or not, in which way I'm going to react. I didn't allow it to hinder my performance. I think winning the trophy is in a way my answer."

After taking a two-sets-to-love lead against Fritz, Djokovic suffered the oblique injury. He was forced to a decider by the American before eventually managing to advance. 

Djokovic said afterwards he had torn a muscle and may need to pull out of the tournament, although was unwilling to give too much away as the event went on. 

The 33-year-old, though, said after his win on Sunday that he had torn his abdominal oblique muscle. 

"It is a tear, a muscle tear, of the abdominal oblique muscle. I felt it right away when it happened against Fritz in the third round. That's what I said in the post-match interview. I was kind of guessing, but I felt just that it's a tear because of the snap and the way I felt after that," Djokovic said. 

"I know there's been a lot of speculation, people questioning whether I'm injured, how can I recover so quickly, it's impossible to do that. I get it. I mean, look, everyone is entitled for their own opinion, and everybody has the freedom and the right to say what they want, criticise others. I just felt like it was a bit unfair at times. But, hey, it's not the first nor the last time. 

"What we have done in the past nine, 10 days, you'll get a chance to see in detail probably at the end of this year when the documentary comes out.   

"I've been filming a lot of things that I've been doing here, but also in the previous months, six months. We're planning to take that documentary out end of this year. You will be able to see more of the routine of recovery, stuff that was going on behind the curtain."

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    Daniil Medvedev is happy to be considered the favourite for the Australian Open title but says Rafael Nadal remains the man to beat at Melbourne Park.

    World number two Medvedev is now the top-seeded player in the competition after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday.

    Competing in his first grand slam since winning the US Open in September, Medvedev made a solid start by seeing off Henri Laaksonen 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-3) on Tuesday.

    The Russian, who lost last year's Australian Open final to Djokovic in straight sets, will now take on either Liam Broady or Nick Kyrgios in round two.

    He is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden Grand Slam title with another in his next major appearance.

    Medvedev is not shying away from the spotlight, but the 25-year-old considers Nadal the real favourite for the trophy because of his incredible record.

    "I like pressure but last year I started well here in Australia in the ATP Cup and I managed to be in the final here," he said.

    "The tournaments in Australia are always really important for me. I like to play in Australia on hard courts. I want to do better here than I did last year but it's not going to be easy.

    "But I always say whoever is the highest ranked is the favourite so this time I will go with Rafa because he has 20 Grand Slams."

    The 20 major singles titles won by Nadal is equal to Djokovic and Roger Federer, who is also absent in Melbourne due to injury, as the most by a men's player.

    Just one of those titles have come at the Australian Open, however, with the Spaniard – who beat Marcos Giron in his opening match on Monday – going all the way in 2009.

    Nadal and Medvedev are in opposite sides of the draw and are on course to meet in the final, but many challengers await between now and then.

    That path became a little clearer on Tuesday as world number eight Casper Ruud withdrew from the tournament due to an injured ankle.

    Ruud had been due to face Alex Molcan in the first round, but his place will be taken by lucky loser Roman Safiullin.

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    The Czech 20th seed, a finalist in Melbourne in 2019, was crushed 6-2 6-2 by Romanian Sorana Cirstea on John Cain Arena.

    Kvitova produced a staggering 39 unforced errors with just seven winners to bow out in 71 minutes.

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    Kvitova has now bowed out of a grand slam in the first round 11 times – with four of those coming at the Australian Open.

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  • Australian Open: Gauff disappointed by 'everything' in early exit while Keys upsets Kenin Australian Open: Gauff disappointed by 'everything' in early exit while Keys upsets Kenin

    Coco Gauff reflected on a hugely disappointing Australian Open defeat as the two leading United States players exited the women's draw on day one in Melbourne.

    Gauff is ranked 16th, closing on top American Sofia Kenin in 13th, but neither advanced to the second round on Monday.

    The 17-year-old was stunned 6-4 6-2 by Wang Qiang in a sloppy display that included 38 unforced errors, with 21 in a second set in which she fell 5-0 behind.

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    After her latest loss, Gauff said: "I think just everything disappointed me about today.

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    "I think there's a lot to learn from. I think I was playing a little bit tighter than normal.

    "So I think next time coming into the first round of a slam, especially after a tough week before, I think I need to just play more free and focus on the moment."

    Keys is playing with that freedom, eager to move on from a dismal 2021 in which she won only 11 matches.

    "I'm not taking it quite as seriously, that's the biggest difference this year," she said.

    Keys already has seven wins in eight matches in 2022, defeating fellow Americans in each of her past three outings.

    Of the win over 2020 champion Kenin, she said: "At this point every first round is tough, but when you have to go up against a grand slam champion it's never easy.

    "I think knowing that she was going to compete so well, I just had a really good mentality and attitude. I had a couple of opportunities I didn't really capitalise upon and I was able to reset and continue to play well.

    "I had my first real run in a slam here, I missed last year, so absolutely ecstatic to be back in Melbourne. It would mean the world to have another run here."

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