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"Novak Djokovic has done it; I don't know how, but he has done it" - ATP physio on the Serb fighting through his muscle tear

Novak Djokovic during his match against Taylor Fritz
Novak Djokovic during his match against Taylor Fritz
Modified 24 Feb 2021

Novak Djokovic suffered an abdominal muscle tear during his third-round match against Taylor Fritz at the Australian Open. The tear, which was initially determined to be 1.7 cm long, expanded to 2.5 cm by the end of the tournament as Djokovic kept playing with his injury.

In that context, Punto de Break contacted an ATP physio to shed some light on how Novak Djokovic managed to win the title despite carrying a significant tear. The unnamed physio expressed surprise at the Serb's performance level, revealing that he had never come across anyone who played as well as Djokovic did with a muscle tear.

The fitness specialist marveled at Novak Djokovic’s resilience, but also entertained the possibility that the tear might not have been a deep one.

"I personally don't know anyone with a tear (who) can hit the ball (like Djokovic)," the ATP physio said. "The Djokovic thing, leads me to think that he is made of something else or that the tear is shallow."

According to the expert, a deep muscular tear makes it 'almost impossible' for you to move well, let alone strike a tennis ball. As such, he was at a loss for words while trying to explain Novak Djokovic’s feat of winning the Australian Open title.

"It should not be very deep because if not, it is almost impossible to move and less, to hit a ball," the physio added. "He (Novak Djokovic) has done it, I don't know how, but he has done it."
Novak Djokovic with his 2021 Australian Open title
Novak Djokovic with his 2021 Australian Open title

The physio then proceeded to elaborate on Novak Djokovic's condition from the anatomical point of view. He explained that abdominal muscle fibers tend to diverge into multiple directions, so for a tear in that area to be relatively easier to deal with, it should have occurred in the same grain of the fibers.

According to the ATP physio, a tear going against the grain of the muscle fibers would have made it impossible for Novak Djokovic to keep playing. He went on to add, however, that even a tear in the same direction would have still been immensely painful for the Serb.

"The first thing to know is that in the abdominal muscle there are fibers pointing in a thousand directions. It is not like other muscles in other areas. Therefore, it is a very delicate area and very difficult to treat," the physio said. "When you have a tear, you have to see in which direction it occurs. If it is against the grain, I would tell you that it is almost impossible to play. If it occurs in the same direction, it could be played, but with a lot of pain."

The ATP doctors probably gave Novak Djokovic some oral analgesic measures to alleviate the pain: ATP Physio

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

During the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic repeatedly mentioned that he had been prescribed the most potent painkillers available for athletes. The ATP physio all but confirmed this, and added that the ideal way to treat such a condition is 'enriched plasma treatment' - a procedure that he claims hasn’t been carried out in professional tennis yet.

"It is probable that the ATP doctors gave him some oral analgesic measures to alleviate the pain," the physio continued. "The normal thing in these cases is an enriched plasma treatment to activate the metabolism of the area, but I don't think this has been done in competition."
Published 24 Feb 2021, 19:06 IST
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