Novak Djokovic, who made history on Sunday by winning his ninth Australian Open title, could face an extended time on the sidelines due to his abdominal muscle tear. The Serb picked up the injury in the third round against Taylor Fritz, but fought through the pain to eventually lift the trophy.
Djokovic was in visible discomfort during the match against Fritz, and his movement looked a little labored even in the fourth-round win over Milos Raonic. After the final, the Serb revealed that the tear kept increasing in size as the week progressed.
"It’s bigger than what it was when it happened when I did the first MRI after the third round,” Djokovic said. "It’s not too bad, judging by what the doctors said, but I will have to take some time off to heal."
"The tear is bigger," he added. "It’s 2.5cm ... it started at 1.7[cm]."
To put things into context, Rafael Nadal had a 2.6 cm tear at the 2009 US Open, where he was comprehensively by Juan Martin del Potro in the semis. Nadal recently said that he regrets playing through his injury at that time.
Novak Djokovic was on the verge of withdrawing from the Australian Open
Jelena Ristic, Novak Djokovic's wife, revealed on Sunday that flight tickets for him had been booked after the Fritz game, considering the extent of his injury.
"I was scrolling down my messages from last weekend with Edo and Ele; so strange, we had his ticket booked to fly back home thinking there is no way he can play with such pain," Jelena commented on Twitter.
Novak Djokovic himself reiterated on Sunday that he didn't think it was 'realistic' for him to continue playing the tournament.
"I was quite worried," Djokovic said. "[It] did not look realistic that I could actually play. I didn't know until two hours before the fourth-round match."
But Novak Djokovic kept showing up on the court, heroically winning four matches after the tear. The Serb knew he could worsen the injury by playing on, but he didn't want to give up because it was a Grand Slam.
"Whether I was aware of the fact that I'm going to possibly make more damage and risk more damage to this injury? Yes, I was aware of that,” the 33-year-old said. "If there was any tournament, it's going to be here and it's going to be any major where I would risk worse injuries or damage in order to try to give myself a chance to go far in the tournament."
While Novak Djokovic's decision to play on has led to another trophy in his cabinet, it will likely take him some time to recover from the damage.