Australian Open - 'When he was asked the questions, he raised his game' - Henman on Novak Djokovic
The world number one suffered an abdominal injury in his third-round match, but found a way to get past Milos Raonic at the Australian Open on Sunday. Djokovic will now face Sascha Zverev in the quarter-finals on Tuesday as he attempts to win the men's singles title at Melbourne Park for a record ninth time in his career.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia is interviewed after winning his Men's Singles fourth round match against Milos Raonic of Canada during day seven of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park
Tim Henman highlighted how Novak Djokovic “raised his game” during his four-set Australian Open win over Milos Raonic amid doubts over the world number one’s fitness.
Djokovic suffered an abdominal injury in his third-round match against Taylor Fritz, raising questions over whether the 33-year-old would even take to the court again at Melbourne Park.
However, Djokovic overcame fitness issues, and a challenging opponent in Raonic, to secure his place in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the 12th time, dismissing the Canadian 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
“As is so often the case, when he was asked the questions he really raised his game and for me that third set was going to be critical,” Henman explained in the Eurosport Cube afterwards.
“Once he went up two sets to one, you felt he was in the driving seat. He’ll be very, very pleased to finish that off in four sets.”
'When he was asked the questions, he raised his game' - Henman on Djokovic
Djokovic admitted he only pushed himself through the pain barrier because of the prize on offer at the first Grand Slam of the year.
“It’s not ideal,” he told Eurosport. “I have felt better, that’s for sure. I didn’t have much preparation for this match. I didn’t hit a tennis ball since two nights ago and the last match point.
“I have warmed up a couple of hours before tonight’s match and I really wanted to see how I would feel. If I wasn’t in the condition I would pull out. It was a big cloud of doubt over whether I was going to play or not.
'A Grand Slam means everything to me' - Djokovic on why he played through injury
“But it’s a Grand Slam and for me at this stage of my career this means everything. Four events of the year I give everything I possibly have in me to have a chance to compete, so if it was any other tournament I probably wouldn’t be playing.”
Raonic was extremely competitive in the first two sets with Djokovic only breaking the Canadian for the first time in the third set. Henman, however, saw areas for the former Wimbledon finalist to improve on.
“With Raonic’s type of game, he’s got to accept I don’t want to be this all-round perfect player and I’ve just got to go for broke because every other tactic hasn’t worked,” said the former British number one. “Djokovic was able to find those solutions.”
Highlights: Djokovic overcomes injury fears with win over Raonic
Djokovic will now play his 12th Australian Open quarter final against Sascha Zverev on Tuesday with the Serbian aiming to win the men’s singles title at Melbourne Park for a record ninth time.
While Raonic had the potential to be a tricky match-up for Djokovic, Zverev will present a true test of the world number one’s fitness. As impressive as this win was, Djokovic will have to raise his performance levels once more.
On the evidence of Sunday’s match, though, Djokovic’s injury troubles aren’t quite as grave as was feared after his third-round win. With some careful match management, he might still be the tournament favourite.