Novak Djokovic’s recent abdominal injury has been the source of a great many debates in the tennis fraternity. And now, even Rafael Nadal’s uncle Toni has joined the discussion.
Djokovic seemed to have hurt himself during his match against Taylor Fritz at the Australian Open, but ended up winning the match anyway. He then stirred quite a bit of controversy with his post-match comments, stating that he had suffered a muscular tear - a potentially season-ending injury.
But given that Novak Djokovic recently beat Milos Raonic to make the quarterfinals, many are questioning the extent of his injury. Rafael Nadal’s uncle Toni has now weighed in on the issue, raising a few questions about the Serb's tryst with injuries.
While writing for El Pais, the 59-year-old expressed his surprise that Novak Djokovic once again seemed to have been cured of a potentially severe ailment in an incredibly short period.
"In the case of the Serbian, it is surprising that so repeatedly annoyances (physical ailments) come over him, to the point of sowing doubts about his permanence in the tournament, and then disappear overnight," Toni Nadal wrote.
Novak Djokovic has long been accused of exaggerating his injuries, and of tactically asking for the trainer to buy himself some time. It has been pointed out by some of Djokovic’s peers (and opponents) that the Serb almost always requests for an M.T.O (Medical Time-Out) when trailing in a match.
Toni Nadal doesn't think Novak Djokovic is ever dishonest about having hurt himself, and he explained that injuries are part and parcel of a sportsperson’s life. That said, Uncle Toni also reckons the Serb is more vocal than others about his ailments.
"I will not be the one who questions the veracity, something very common in an elite athlete," Toni added. "He probably hides them less than he should, a normal practice in the circuit."
Why Novak Djokovic's injury isn't as surprising as many believe it to be
While Novak Djokovic may have been wrong about the extent of his injury, there is little doubt that the Serb is suffering physically. Djokovic's heavily-taped abdomen this week, coupled with his frequent grimaces while stretching, can be seen by everyone.
Given his dubious track record when it comes to being truthful about injuries, the criticism was probably to be expected. But considering all the facts, it is not too surprising that the Serb has injured himself.
Spending weeks in quarantine without much practice has done no favors to anyone at this year's Australian Open. Add to that the physically demanding game that Novak Djokovic plays, and it was almost inevitable that he would suffer a niggle or two.
Moreover, the Serb isn't the only one this tournament to have suffered from an abdominal muscle issue.
Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud, Karolina Muchova, Johanna Konta, Alexander Zverev and Pablo Carreno Busta are some of the other players so far to have complained about an abdominal strain. Berrettini was even forced to withdraw from the tournament, handing Stefanos Tsitsipas a walkover into the quarterfinals.
Some experts have opined that such an injury pattern has most likely been caused due to lack of serving to practice during the quarantine.