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Novak Djokovic has fuelled further scepticism over his fitness by refusing to confirm details of his mysterious abdominal injury after powering his way into the Australian Open quarter-finals.
The world No. 1 claimed after his third-round match that he had a torn abdominal muscle, putting his chances of snaring a ninth title at Melbourne Park this year in jeopardy.
He underwent an MRI scan and almost two days of treatment from medical staff but moved well in his fourth-round win over 14th seed Milos Raonic, which was completed in the early hours of Monday morning.
After the 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-1 6-4 victory, Djokovic said the only reason he has not already withdrawn from the Open is because it is a grand slam.
The 33-year-old said he is risking further physical damage by playing on and will take time off to recover after his tournament is complete.
But he was not forthcoming when asked about the extent of the injury.
“I understand that you want to know, but I really don’t want to get into it what it is,” Djokovic said.
“Yes, I did an MRI, I did everything.
“I know what it is, but I don’t want to talk about it now. I’m still in the tournament.”
Djokovic claimed his Open title defence was in jeopardy up until “a few hours” before his clash with Raonic, played in front of empty stands at Rod Laver Arena because of Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdown.
“I didn’t hit a tennis ball yesterday … I tried to use every single hour possible to recover and give myself at least a little bit of a chance to step on the court, which I have done,” Djokovic said.
“As I said on the court, if I’m part of any other tournament other than a grand slam, I definitely wouldn’t be playing.
“But it’s a grand slam. It matters a lot to me at this stage of my career, of course.
“I want to do everything possible in this very short amount of time to get on the court.”
The big-serving Raonic blasted 26 aces to Djokovic’s ten and there were some hurdles for the Serbian star to overcome as he let slip the only two break points of the first set and dropped the second.
But Djokovic powered through the third set to become only the second man after Roger Federer to win 300 grand slam matches.
It also continued his dominance in head-to-head battles with Raonic, improving his all-time record against the Canadian to 12-0.
Djokovic said he required “pills and medicaments and treatments and also some willpower” to push through the match.
“The level of the pain was bearable, so I could actually play, and it was kind of going on and off a little bit during the match,” he said.
“Certain stages of the match it was more, certain stages less.
“But I somehow managed to find a way and win, and that’s what matters the most.”
Djokovic will meet German sixth seed Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals as he hunts a second career hat-trick of Open crowns.
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